Keeping Mythology Fresh in a Modern Setting
by Ally Broadfield
There’s a lot of wonderful mythology-based fiction set in modern times, especially for the middle grade and young adult markets. The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, the Forgive My Fins and Oh My Gods series’ from Tera Lyn Childs, and Aimee Carter’s The Goddess Test series to name a few. How about the re-emergence in popularity of Norse mythology (and Thor and Loki) in the wake of the Avengers movies? The question is, now that mythology-based stories have become so popular, especially those based on Greek and Norse mythology and familiar mythological creatures like dragons and mermaids, how do you make your story stand out from the crowd?
Fresh Concept – Nearly every country and culture in the world, past and present, has its own myths and stories. Consider exploring countries or cultures that readers aren’t so familiar with, perhaps from Native American cultures, Africa, Asia, Central America, even Eastern Europe. There’s a whole world of unfamiliar myths and fairy tales out there waiting to be explored.
Unique Setting – You might be thinking, wait a minute, aren’t we talking about mythology in a modern setting? Yes, we are, but there’s still a lot of room to make it unique. Create a strong sense of place using the details of your location. For example, a story set on a cattle ranch in Texas will be very different than one set in New York City. Regardless of the setting, make it your own using unique clothing, landscapes, locations (local restaurants, shops, schools, businesses, etc.), accents or local dialect, and pretty much anything else that makes your setting stand out from everywhere else. If you get stuck on this one, watch some of your favorite movies and television shows, and really study how the setting sets the mood and tone of the story. Then figure out how to recreate it with words. Easy, right?
Kick-Ass Antagonist – Is anyone else as excited as I am to go watch the Krampus movie? I can’t wait to introduce my kids to him. He’s not entirely unknown, of course, but certainly less popular than, say, dragons or mermaids. Have you read a story staring Camazotz (Mayan mythology), Amarok (Inuit mythology), or Aqrabuamelu (Sumerian mythology)? Go out and find a new antagonist, or even dare to create your own.
Add a New Twist to a Familiar Player – Vampires that can survive in sunlight? Okay, so the sparkly thing was a bit much in Twilight, but the idea of vampires being among us during the day is huge. What about Maggie Stiefvater’s werewolves in the Shiver series? Instead of changing during the full moon, they change when the weather gets cold. Total game-changers.
Believability – The most important element of a mythology-based story is to make it believable. How do you do that? World-building. Imagery. Description. Details. Do you watch The Walking Dead? It stands out from the crowd because it makes the horror of a zombie apocalypse real. Boom. Make your readers live inside your story and they won’t be able to put it down.
What other methods are there to keep mythology fresh in a modern setting? Please leave your suggestions in the comments.
Fright Before Christmas
It’s the most wonderful time of year…or is it?
Christmas Eve is a night of mystery and magic, but not always in ways we expect. Things lurk in the shadows and they’re not the least bit jolly or merry. Let’s just say some presents are better left unopened.
‘Tis the season to be screaming along with our thirteen tales of holiday horrors. Ghosts. Monsters. Demons. And more!
This Christmas, be careful what you wish for…
Ally lives in Texas and is convinced her house is shrinking, possibly because she shares it with her husband, three kids, four rescue dogs, a cat, a rabbit, and assorted reptiles. She likes to curse in Russian because few people know what she’s saying, and spends most of her spare time letting dogs in and out of the house and shuttling kids around. She writes historical romance set in Regency England and Imperial Russia, and middle grade and young adult fantasy as Ally Mathews. Find Ally on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.