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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Writing MYTHology into your novel? It’s not as easy as it sounds.

Please welcome guest blogger Jean Murray

Mythology can be a great source of inspiration, whether it Greek, Roman, Ancient Near East, Celtic, English, Icelandic or Ancient Egyptian ~ my personal favorite. They contain the magic and mystery of history, culture, art and war. It is the perfect playground for the imagination, and ripe with potential for a great novel. So how do you start using mythology in your writing (the abridged version)?

  1. Choosing your myth: This author’s recommendation is that you choose something that interests you, because you will become intimately involved in the subject over the weeks, months, or years you will be writing. It should become a familiar old friend or lover.
  1. Research, research, research: Know your subject and its nuisances. Readers with similar interests will be attracted to your book and have varying degrees of knowledge about the subject (sometimes more than you). The key is to stay true to the myth but also have some fun and creative license. Too much variation may disrupt the foundation of your myth. Too little variation will give the reader the “same old story.” Not only will the writer need to find the balance with which they are comfortable, but also still make it appealing to publishers and agents (never an easy task).
  1. Manipulating your myth: First identify the amount of variability or definition of your chosen myth. The vague myth is easier for the writer to manipulate to meet their needs. The readers will allow more latitude in this area. With more well established or defined myths, the writer should have some level of loyalty to its original form.
    • Be respectful to the cultural history behind the myth. Some have grand and lustrous histories that need to be honored as such (examples Celtic and Egyptian)
    • Try to maintain the historical accuracy of the myth or folklore.
    • Take advantage of vague or loosely defined themes, characters, and or storyline of the myth or legend. Use these to your advantage for your creative license.
    • Give alternative explanations to established myths (one of my favorites). Look outside the box.
    • Place the mythical elements in a variety of settings not normally seen or expected (western, futuristic) / genres (paranormal, urban fantasy) / timelines (bring mythos to life in present day or future).
    • Use the basic elements of the myth to build an entirely new world or recreate the mythological world.
    • Use the myth to generate conflict, build your character profiles and add depth to your character’s quest and romance.
  1. Building character: Mythological characters and creatures provide a richness and depth and can become pivotal players in your novel. How will they interact when provided the technology of present day? Unlikely lovers or interminable enemies?

My novel, Soul Reborn, is based on Ancient Egyptian mythos. I awoke the sleeping gods from their 5,000 year old slumber and threw them into modern day. To stay true to Ancient Egyptian lore, my heroine, Lilly, mistakenly opens a tomb of a malevolent goddess releasing a curse upon humankind. Asar, God of the Underworld and Afterlife, is left soulless by the goddess. His quest for vengeance wages war on earth.

Jean Murray’s novel, Soul Reborn, released in May 2011. She continues the Key to the Cursed series with Soul Awakened. Follow her journey at www.jean-murray.com and www.wickedromance.wordpress.com .

Look for future Mythological Writing Workshops by this author in October at Muse Online Writers Conference. The conference is FREE.

Jean Murray was born and raised in a small town on the east coast. In her pursuit of a nursing degree, she aspired to see the world and joined the Navy. One of the benefits of her membership in the Armed Forces, she has had the opportunity to travel and live in different parts of the world and the United States. Her travels abroad have given her the opportunity to experience different cultures. It inspired her to delve into Ancient Egyptian myths and legends for her debut novel, Soul Reborn, book 1 in the Key to the Cursed series from Crescent Moon Press, now available.
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Key to the Cursed Book 1: Soul Reborn


Asar, the Egyptian God of the Underworld, has been tortured and left soulless by a malevolent goddess, relegating him to consume the very thing he was commissioned to protect. Human souls. Now an empty shell of hatred, Asar vows to kill the goddess and anyone involved in her release, but fate crosses his path with a beautiful blonde huntress who has a soul too sweet to ignore.


Lilly, fearless commander of the Nehebkau huntresses, is the only thing standing in the way of the goddess' undead army unleashing hell on earth. But Lilly has a secret—one she is willing to sell her soul to keep. If the Underworld god discovers her role in the dig that released the goddess, she will lose everything, including his heart.

TAGLINE “Only the strongest love can unlock the souls of the Underworld.”


Marne Ann said...

All very good points to remember, Jean. Thank you for this. I've always been drawn to romances that have a heavy mythological thread. It's one interesting way to twist a story.
I loved your story, by the way, and cannot wait to read the next one.

Gabriella Hewitt said...

Great post. Thank you! I'm going through this myself. My book OUT OF THE SHADOWS coming out with Samhain in August is based on Aztec mythology. Much of what is known is through the Spaniards. They destroyed many of the Aztec original source material believing it to be work of the devil. What we know is mostly through accounts of priests. The research has been fascinating, but walking that line between historical accuracy and fictional license can be a challenge.

Nancy J. Cohen said...

These are good tips. I'm writing a trilogy based on Norse mythology. I like stories with mythological underpinnings. It gives them added depth, and as you say, if we're writing them we can take some creative license from the basic myths or base a character on a lesser known god.

Jean Murray said...

As you have probably found out, even the reference material can differ. My challenge with using Egyptian gods is that as the religion matured, the pharaohs influenced the beliefs to elevate their status as pharaohs. The names of the gods changed overtime as well as their role in the religion. I had to use the primordial gods to allow me to manipulate some characters’ bios. The primordial gods of ancient Egypt were the based in nature and mingled with the people guiding them to their destiny.
I have a fabulous reference for Mythology, religions, folklore and magick. It’s a one stop shop. This resource has the hieroglyphic translations from the Book of the Dead and demonic texts, which I am using the incantations for in Soul Awakened.

Thank you for stopping by...