Please welcome guest author Annie Sullivan to the Once and Future blog! Annie is the author of A Touch of Gold, a new novel both teens and adults can enjoy from Tor Books.
Mythology is not an easy subject to tackle, especially when you’re dealing with Greek mythology, just because of the sheer number of individuals and backstories and myths. When I set out to write my debut young adult novel, A Touch of Gold, which is about the cursed daughter of King Midas, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. However, there are ways to work mythology into your current novel without it feeling heavy-handed, outdated, or overwhelming.
1. Do your research.
Find out what you want to include and why. Is this an all or nothing situation where you have to take the entire mythos, or can you pick and choose a few characters to add to your text.
In A Touch of Gold, I kept quite a bit of the Greek mythos, making mentions to characters like Poseidon and Triton that we never meet. This made the mythology feel more robust without having to add more characters.
2. Are you altering characters?
Decide early on whether your characters will stick exactly to their original stories or if you’re going to add/change elements about them, their histories, or their plots.
Discover who your character is and if you can fit them into your story with small alterations. If you can’t, then you may need to create a new mythos for your world instead of using an existing one. In my book, I took some liberties with characters like Dionysus, making him a darker, more chaotic character because it enhanced the plot.
3. Make it fully-formed.
Make sure your mythology has threads throughout all aspects of the society you create. It’s going to affect what people value, how they worship, their rituals, their sayings, their enemies, and so many more elements in your characters’ lives.
Throughout A Touch of Gold, people uses phrases like, “Triton take us.” These phrases act as a reminder of the world in which the readers find themselves and adds to the mythology. Make sure you include small details to make the world come to life.
4. Be careful with all-powerful beings.
One problem that it’s easy to run into when dealing with mythos and gods is having characters that could easily solve all your characters’ problems with a flick of their wrist. Give your powerful god-like creatures either reasons not to help, don’t have them interact with the characters at all, or find another way to make sure they don’t become a convenient solution to every setback.
In my case, the gods were the ones who created the problems, so they weren’t going to just come along and fix everything. If anything, they added more tension because you never knew when they’d show up and make things worse.
5. Magic must be consistent.
If your mythos has magic, make sure you know who has it, where it came from, who can wield it, and how it can be used. It’s really difficult to have a world where just one person has magic (unless they’re the last of their kind.) Convince the reader your magic system is real by making it be believable and applicable across the entire society you created.
In A Touch of Gold, the gods have power, and they can give powers (usually in the form of a curse) to humans. However, different gods have powers over different things, so their abilities differ.
These are just a few ways to make sure the mythology you’re creating reads well and stays consistent throughout your work. Overall, have fun, don’t be afraid to play with the characters and the world to make things more interesting.
About the author:
Annie Sullivan is the author of A Touch of Gold. She grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana, and received her master’s degree in Creative Writing from Butler University. She loves fairytales, everything Jane Austen, and traveling. Her wanderlust has taken her to every continent, where she’s walked on the Great Wall of China, found four-leaf clovers in Ireland, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, and cage dived with great white sharks in South Africa. You can follow her adventures on Twitter and Instagram (@annsulliva) or on her blog: anniesullivanauthor.wordpress.com.