How to Write a Myth

Best Tips for Using Myths as Creative Writing Topics

Know how to write a myth? By teaching kids how to write myths, stories of ancient heroes make excellent creative writing topics. Write into a time before time began, a mythical realm of adventure!

First things first:

Myths and legends are often grouped together, but there are enough differences between the two, that I felt a separate page was necessary. Visit this page for more information on how to write a legend. 

Myths are sometimes compared to American tall tales. Mythical characters do indeed engage in exaggerated exploits, but in an American tall tale , the exaggeration usually overshadows the plot, in a wildly humorous vein.

Myths are also studied with pourquoi tales , in that myths could be considered origin stories as well. But a myth explains the natural world at a deeper level than a pourquoi tale does. 

So what makes a myth?

Quite simply,

  • Myths are rooted in the sacred beliefs of a culture, a belief system known as cosmology.
  • Myths take place in a time before recorded historical time.
  • Deities or semi-deities are the primary characters.
  • Myths represent the ways that ancient cultures sought to explain the origins of the world and of existence itself.

How to Write a Myth: Step-by-Step

First, introduce your class to the genre of myth through a book I highly recommend, One-Hundred-and-One Read-Aloud Myths and Legends, by Joan C. Verniero and Robin Fitzsimmons. This volume is heavy with the mythology of ancient Greece and Rome, ancient Britain, and ancient Scandinavia. The Middle East, Asia, Africa, and the Americas are represented as well.

Next, Literature groups can select cultures of the world and read the corresponding mythology. Libraries and bookstores are filled with richly illustrated editions of these ancient stories, retold for today's students. A thorough background in ancient myths will help your students grasp the basic story structure of these old tales: "stock: characters; repeated themes, plots, and settings; and an aura of fantastical impossibility. Natural appeal for student writers!

Then, read and discuss one of the many young adult novels which brings mythical deities and modern readers together, such as Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. These titles offer an excellent opportunity to understand the characters of the mythical deities of ancient Greece and Rome by placing their personal influence within the lives of a fictional group of twenty-first century students.

Fourthly, design what I call a shuffle deck. Use cardstock to create sets of cards labeled with the names of characters (Zeus, Thor, etc.), places (village, the oceans, etc.), and natural events (a storm, volcanic eruption, etc.), all taken from the myths you've read. Randomly distribute one or more characters, places, and natural events cards to each student. These are the genesis of original myths.

Last, have students create original myths using these basic narrative elements:
  • Characters
  • Settings
  • Natural Events
  • Problem/Solution
  • Key Twist: The divine characters often have a large quest! They must use natural events to achieve their goals.
  • Resolution: How will the outcome of the gods' actions impact us mere mortals?

Once kids have discovered how to write a myth, they'll want to read more of these ancient stories. What a fabulous way to appreciate our multi-cultural world! Now that you know how to write a myth, why not pen one yourself?

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