How to write Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
There are two steps to writing a self-fulfilling prophecy:
- First, come up with a prophecy that would make a good ending to your story.
It may be a happy ending or a tragic one, but it should be compelling and at least somewhat surprising.
- Now the hard part: come up with a way that the prophecy might cause itself to become true.
This could be immediate, as in the example from the Matrix (the simple act of hearing the prophecy causes Neo to flinch and break the vase), or it could be long and indirect, as in a long chain of events that ultimately cause the prophecy to come true. One of the best ways to bring this about is to let characters’ fears or ambitions drive the plot. If we’re afraid of something, we often behave in a way that causes it to come true, whereas if we simply faced it head-on, we might actually conquer the fear. The bank run story is an example of a self-fulfilling prophecy driven by fear.
- Once you know what your self-fulfilling prophecy will look like, the key is to create “bookends” – take the language that you used to describe the prophecy, and use it when you show that the prophecy is coming true. This way there is unison throughout the narrative, and readers can see clearly how you’ve brought them full-circle.
When to use Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
A self-fulfilling prophecy is a device of creative writing, especially fiction and narrative non-fiction. In fiction, it’s often a central feature of the plot. The characters’ fears about the prophecy, for example, might be the main source of narrative tension.
In narrative non-fiction, of course, you can’t simply make up the self-fulfilling prophecy (then it would be fiction). But if you look hard enough into your sources, you may find a self-fulfilling prophecy waiting, and by drawing out this element in your writing, you can help make the story more compelling.