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How Do I Write a Myth?

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  • Written By: Mark Wollacott
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 24 August 2014
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You write a myth in much the same way as you write any story. This means the characters and the setting have to be as important to you, the writer, when you write a myth. Most important, edit and review the myth to make it perfect.

A myth is a story that has no basis in fact, but is presented as such. Myths can be explanation stories and culture-related stories that help give a society a sense of identity. They are also used to explain a group’s origins. They are also stories that are commonly accepted to be true, much in the same way as urban legends.

First, you need to address the function of the myth. Ask yourself, what is your reason for wanting to write a myth or urban legend? There are two main reasons for doing so. The first is to form a background story for a piece of fiction, such as the mythologies of Middle Earth in ‘Lord of the Rings.’ The second is so you can fool all manner of people, across the world, into believing something that is patently not true.

Second, understand how myths and urban legends work. The story needs to have an appeal to the readers, it needs to stir their emotions in some way and it needs to be plausible. One of the major elements to be kept in mind when you write a myth is that they are cautionary tales. Ask yourself, what do the people learn from the myth?

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Write down the objective of the myth and the key elements you have in mind. Write a brief summary of the story and examine its plausibility. Work out the setting. Do you want it to be generic like a restaurant or a hotel, or part of a specific cosmology, such as based in Asgard or Purgatory?

Develop the characters involved in the myth. A good myth, especially one meant to fool people, has a small cast of characters. This is usually around two to three. They are also based on strong archetypes that are understood the world over. Think of the salesman on a conference, the attractive woman at the bar and a ruthless gang and you get the myth of the man whose kidneys were removed.

Keep the urban legend-style myth short. When you write a myth like this, it is important for it to be snappy and generic. People will then adapt it to their own locality, so keep the important details, but do not be too specific.

When you write a myth as part of a mythology, the story can be longer and more complicated. Keep it consistent to the culture setting. Remember that some elements can be taken as understood by the audience, but others will need explaining.

Check the story. Remember that factual mistakes undermine it and make it less believable. Get friends to check it too then present it to the world.

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Discuss this Article

irontoenail
Post 4

@clintflint - I just want to add that you should be careful to be respectful of other cultures when you're doing this. Remember that just because it seems like a cute story to you, doesn't mean it doesn't have meaning to another culture. Many of us would probably be offended if people tried to change biblical stories around without a good understanding of how they work, but we wouldn't hesitate to do the same to someone else's sacred stories.

It's fine to write your own myth, just be respectful about imitating those of other cultures.

clintflint
Post 3

@Ana1234 - It depends on what kind of myth you want to write, I think. Some people might want to know how to write a myth in the style of ancient myths, which are fairly far from urban legends, even if they are also presented as factual and used as explanations for particular events.

I think writing a myth is a good exercise for people who are trying their hand at creative writing. You can think up something that occurs in nature, like maybe a particular bird has an odd shape to its beak and then you can think up a magical explanation for that. Maybe it once had a much longer beak but it stuck its nose where it didn't belong and someone bit it off. Maybe it gave away its beak to another bird who needed it. Maybe it never had a beak to begin with and it made one from a watermelon seed.

Writing a myth is good practice because you usually start with an idea and then you have to flesh it out with characters and an interesting story. Many people will start with an idea and think that's all they need.

Ana1234
Post 2

There are a few places online where people collect little modern urban legends that you can go visit and see how they are written. Creepypasta is one word for them.

I think the most important aspect is to try and make the story plausible. If it isn't plausible, it isn't really an urban legend and the more people feel like it might have actually happened, the more it will affect them emotionally.

Writing modern myths is actually quite difficult for this reason. People tend to know the end of the story before they get there because everything has been done already and that makes it seem less plausible.

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