Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Examining Myths and Legends to Create Back Story

Most of you know that I'm writing a high fantasy series called Dragon Magic (Amazon link for prequel HERE). I've got all the major stuff figured out, and am just fleshing out details as I go along. It's slow going because I'm only writing about a chapter a week. I use the weekdays to work on other projects, but I hope to have book 1 finished by the end of the year.

There is one major part of the overall back story/mythology for the series I was stuck on. Well, not so much stuck on as I just knew it wasn't completely fleshed out and wasn't sure where to go with it.

I'm participating in a Wheel of Time read-along right now. Robert Jordan's epic fantasy is pretty much my favorite series of all time and has been an unending inspiration to me as a writer. Jordan had not only an epic plot, but he fleshed his characters and settings out so well that no one can really compare to him. 

While I've read the series, more than once, I haven't read it beginning to end since book--10? 11? I'm not sure--came out, which is why I'm participating in the read-along. Anyway, we're in book 4, The Shadow Rising, and just read one of the best parts of the series and while the read-along group discussed it, someone told me it was basically an allegory of The Fall in Christianity. That totally filled me with wonder. I'd read that part in the series several times but never thought about it in that way before. Totally opened me up to a whole new way of thinking of things.

It got me started thinking about myths and legends. You always hear it said that there are actually a finite number of stories in the world. All stories conform to one template or another, depending on the genre and plot type you want to have. It's details like character quirks, themes, motifs, and world-building that makes each plot new and exciting. Myths and legends play into that a lot. Many of our story templates come from myths, legends, and stories that have been around for thousands of years.

It occurred to me that if any writer is stuck about how to flesh out a plot--specifically the backs story to a world or character, or a history of any kind--it might behoove them to try and apply basic myths and legends to their world and see what fits.

Not that you should chronicle an allegory of the Fall every time you get stuck, but try to apply all kinds of myths--whether Christian stories, the basic templates of the Greeks (i.e. man vs. nature, man vs. himself, man vs. man) or some other cultural story--to see what sparks in your mind. You might be surprised how easy it becomes to flesh out your story based on these common stories. 

I did this and was able to flesh out the back story for my dragon world. (Yea!)

What myths and legends have you used to help you write your stories?


  1. Myths and legends. I'll have to remember that next time.

  2. Great idea Liesel. I know Lucas drew heavily for this in Star Wars and especially Willow. It worked better for the former than the latter.