Like a lot of other fantasy writers, I chose to use prophecy as a plot device to help drive my story, in my aptly named series, The Soulstone Prophecies.
There are many great sources to pull from. I don’t want to detail them, but if your interested, here is a well written article by fantasy writer, Thomas M. D. Brooke, who gives some insight on the benefits and challenges of using prophecy in a story and shares some great examples from stories like George R R Martin’s Game of Thrones and Robert Jordan’s epic, Wheel of Time. Great Fantasy Prophecies.
When I think of Prophecy as a plot device it reminds me of what I was taught in my military days concerning giving a briefing. “Tell them what you are going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them.” But unlike a briefing, where you don’t want any ambiguity, with prophecy, you strive for it.
In book one of The Soulstone Prophecy, Cradle of the Gods, prophecy is first introduced near the end of the book. Here is some details from the series explaining where the prophecy I created came from.
Hjurl was the first dwarf created by Daomur, one of the Primordials. The Primordials are the children of the All Mother, Allwyn, creator of the world in which my story takes place. Daomur chiseled Hjurl from stone and then took a small piece of himself and placed it into Hjurl’s chest. He then breathed over Hjurl, which gave him life.
Hjurl spent many years with Daomur discussing philosophy, life and existence. Like the stone he came from, Hjurl was strong and steadfast. He was also stubborn to a fault. Daomur liked his creation and wanted it to multiply as many of Allwyn’s creations did. So, Daomur created another being, who he called Hafu.
Over time, Hjurl engraved what he wanted his progeny to know into stone tablets, which later became the Book of Hjurl.
When Hjurl was much older and too feeble to hold the hammer and chisel, he sons carved his words. Near the end of his life, his ramblings became prophetic and he spoke of dark things. This portion of the Book of Hjurl is known as The Prophecies. Twenty-seven tablets were engraved with the “Prophecies of Hjurl”. Nine of those tablets detail the “Prophecy of the Vessels”, that portion of The Prophecies that spoke of a mad primordial (Haurtu), his progeny (humans), his imprisonment, and eventual escape. It was this prophecy that drove most of the conflict in my stories.
But, prophecy needs to make enough sense to drive the story, but not so much that the reader knows what is going to happen. If done correctly, there should be an “aha!” moment where things fall into place.
These verses where shared in book one.
Now marked, his chosen must gather,
Where once his progeny thrived.
His hunger compels them to journey,
In his cities they survive.
It was interpreted, at the time, to mean the stonechosen would gather in the now ancient cities of the humans and thrive there. While that was somewhat true, a second meaning for the final line, “In his cities they survice” was introduced in book two, Time of the Stonechosen.
In book three, Tomb of the Fallen, which I’m working on now, another verse is shared.
Torn asunder, his chosen will free him.
Where he fell, once again he shall rise.
In shadows they meet to conceive him
Now mark the stone children’s demise
Hopefully, the complete meaning of these verses will not make sense until more of the story unfolds. This is not only true for the reader, but also for characters, themselves, who look to the Prophecies as an indicator for the direction they should take, both in trying to complete the prophecy and prevent it.