I think the most fascinating human invention is mythology. Yeah, the Internet is awesome, but had we not invented mythology, the Internet would be a far more boring place. There wouldn’t be memes, because memes require extrapolation from existing stories – mnemonics borne out of mythologies.
Fictional mythologies are a triumph of the human mind, a testament to our ability to inspire awe with strokes of imagination and creativity. Some of our most beatific experiences as a species – our religions, our Hollywood movies, our bestsellers, our campfire stories, our Renaissance art – owe their existence to our ability to create our own mythologies.
Ahead of tomorrow’s illuminating Asian Festival of Children’s Content panel with the brilliant Zed Yeo and Lin Xueling about creating mythologies, I’d like to share my simple three-step process in conceiving your own fantastical, fictional mythos. Hopefully, you can apply it to your storytelling endeavours.
The three steps are:
- Realize your characters and their journeys
- Realize the world they live in
- Realize their higher powers
This three-step process has been applied to your favourite stories. Think of Star Wars. The characters are fully realized – in Luke Skywalker, you have the farmboy who dreams of a bigger galaxy, who journeys from the known comfort of Uncle Owen’s farmstead to the unknown wonders of intergalactic travel; in Han Solo, the morally ambiguous scoundrel; in Leia Organa, you have the planetary leader and activist fighting oppression in the galaxy. Their journey takes them to the heart of the struggle between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance, culminating in the destruction of the Death Star. The worlds are fully realized – Tatooine is a desert world with an economy based on moisture farming. Yavin 4 is a lush jungle planet with evidence of an ancient civilization, mainly abandoned because of its location in the outer rim of the galaxy. You understand the higher powers manipulating the events of this mythology – the evil Empire and the plucky Rebel Alliance, the sinister Sith and the sage Jedi. From a spiritual standpoint, the higher power in question is the Force, an ethereal energy that serves both dark and light.
You can apply it to religious epics. For example, take the ancient Mesopotamian epic of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh is the king of Uruk, an ancient city in present-day in Iraq. He is regal, civilized, but also oppressive – a fully realized character. He later befriends Enkidu, his antithesis – a wild man from the forest, uneducated, dirty, unshackled, some would say, from the demands of society or the need to control it. Their adventures take them to the Cedar Forest, where they defeat its guardian, the giant Humbaba. Their transgressions forces the goddess Ishtar to send the Bull of Heaven after them, and they slay the legendary creature with ease. Eventually, the gods conceive a better way to punish Gilgamesh – by killing his friend Enkidu. Gilgamesh’s grief puts him on the path to transcend his human weaknesses, towards wisdom. You can see that this is a fully realized world – full of fantastic beasts (and where to find them). The higher powers are also fully realized – the gods are mercurial deities, doling superhuman punishment for Gilgamesh’s very human faults.
It’s simple: fully realized characters, fully realized worlds, fully realized higher powers.
For more on the topic of creating mythologies, come down for tomorrow’s panel! Further information below.
Come hang with me at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content as I discuss the creation of fictional mythologies with Zed Yeo and Lin Xueling. Moderating will be the ever-lovely Maisarah Abu Samah.
Asian Festival of Children’s Content Panel
Creating Mythology Singapore-Style (with Zed Yeo and Lin Xueling)
Moderator: Maisarah Abu Samah
8th September 2018, 9am
National Library, Imagination Room L5
For more information, visit https://afcc.com.sg/