Thoughts on Writing – Developing a Mythology

Now that I’ve launched Magic’s Stealing, it’s time to get back on task with other writing projects. In this case, the next project is The Multiverse Chronicles. My husband plots the story and writes the rough draft, while I polish and edit each episode. I’m currently sitting on episode 11 (I’ve got a few ideas on how to fix the problems I’ve been having with it, thanks to the critique group I attend.), and once I edit episode 12, I’ll go back through the first twelve episodes and look for continuity errors. I’ll also be looking at the sections at the end of each episode, which detail what’s going on behind the scenes and hopefully adds suspense, along with fixing a few areas I have highlighted as “Elders.”

For example:

Alia kicked a pebble. It skipped across the bricks and clanged against the iron fence. One of the guards, an older man with more physical prowess than she could ever hope to achieve, gave her a knowing, sad smile before returning his attention to the passing motor carriages.

She sighed and sat on the edge of the fountain at the center of the courtyard. Water trickled behind her, courtesy of the fountain’s elder statue. The elder’s copper limbs were buffed and polished of the green tarnish that constantly tried to creep in.

(MAYBE HAVE HER THINK SOMETHING ABOUT A RELEVANT ELDER HERE).

A round of applause and raucous laughter burst forth from the open palace doors, and Alia squeezed her eyes shut.

The engagement had been announced.

The reason I made note of areas like this is to remind me that there is a reference to world-building here that hasn’t been developed. In this case, the mythology that develops in the story’s world in place of traditional Greek/Roman mythology.

A quick run-down regarding Multiverse… it’s a pseudo-steampunk world (more fantasy now than steampunk) that takes place in a different universe during the year of what is our world’s 1953. Unlike our world, their world developed “magic” and their progress with technology slowed and took a different track. A few pre-historic and mythical creatures remained alive and well (pterosaurs and dragons), and several world religions didn’t take hold.

While Isaac and I went with the idea that they still developed the Greek/Roman culture to a large extent, the pantheon is different. We determined there would be five elders (which would tie into the five pendants of a later story), who were each people who had made themselves “immortal” by tying their spirits to an a jeweled artifact. At some point, one of these five elders (a trickster) gets greedy and attacks the others for their power, successfully defeating them until a “hero” rises to defeat the trickster and, despite being able to become a spirit herself, chooses to live to an old age and die along with the rest of the normal mortals.

That’s the gist of the mythology, but that was all we had. No detailed names or personalities, which makes it really hard to reference in a story.

So, today, I daydreamed of possible details for the mythology for the elders.

First, it had been a while since Isaac and I talked about the concept, so I’d forgotten about the hero existing, and instead placed the first Dragon Queen in the hero’s place.

Second, since this was supposed to be set in Greek/Roman times, I figured I’d draw on what I knew of that mythology to create personalities for the elders. I wasn’t too worried about it being exact, however, since this is a very, very alternate timeline. (Though I did do a bit of quick research once I started writing this post).

Third, the mythology of the elders doesn’t need to be exact since a lot of time has passed in the story, and lore naturally splinters with time.

Fourth, the artifacts each is elder is connected to would be probably be something special to them, and thus the people who worship them might swear upon those objects (by Athena’s sword…)

Fifth, this particular world already has ground rules in regards to what can be done with the various powers (such as only being able to have three powers before the human body begins to breaks down) and certain aspects of later lore (such as the jewels their artifacts would hold, since those are tied to the pendants I mentioned earlier).

So, with those things in mind, this is what I came up with.

For the first elder, I chose Athena as the base personality. I decided she would have shapeshifting (thanks to the story about Arachne… and the song “The Goddess and the Weaver” by Spiral Dance that  I now have stuck in my head), life-spirit (possibly… I may change this later), and super intellect (for being the goddess of wisdom). Her artifact would be based on ruby, for power.

For the second elder, I kept thinking of Ares and Hephaestus (Sad to say, I thought one was Greek and the other Roman, not that they were brothers. *Ahem.* Google searches are helpful). I debated making him a fire elemental and having him be a blacksmith, but that seemed too typical (I already have one of those guy’s in Magic’s Stealing, after all). Instead, I gave him a rare extended power… the ability to manipulate the shape of any metal. (Think ‘metal bending’ from Avatar: The Last Airbender). I’m debating on having him be the brother of the first elder. His artifact would be based on sapphire, for creation.

For the third elder, I decided he would be based somewhat on Demeter (for the harvest… and possibly referencing fertility, though a quick search shows that Aphrodite is better suited to that side of things). I also considered having him based on Artemis (which would put him at odds with the fertility reference), and giving him a relation to “the hunt.” Ultimately, I decided that he would have plant manipulation, beast mastery, and life-spirit for his powers. He is the elder of all things related to growth, and he’s the go-to elder if someone wants to request a bountiful harvest. His artifact would be based on an emerald, for growth.

For the fourth elder, I considered giving him time-bending powers, but then I realized that I was going to end up with six elders, and so he got cast aside and is now the “forgotten” elder. Don’t know if I’ll ever reference him or not.

Anyway, I’m thinking of giving this guy the ‘death’ extended power, which allows him to pretty much kill anyone without a second thought. (A very rare power, and obviously dangerous). If I recall, Isaac and I have that power set as being the combination of life-spirit, radiation, and carbon alchemy. (So he’d be a Hades/Thanatos reference, perhaps?) I’m thinking that he and the first elder were business partners when they were still human, and the first elder used her intellect with his alchemy to figure out how to make themselves spirits (and relatively immortal), and thus rise to power. His artifact would be  based on a diamond, for command over life.

For the fifth elder, I went less the way of a trickster, as originally planned, and instead considered referencing Pandora and/or Prometheus. This elder would have a “jack of all trades” power, which meant that she would be able to do minor dealings with all the elements involved, and she would be of the curious sort. Her artifact would be based on amber, for binding/time.

Based on these personalities, I figure that they successfully ruled their subjects for a long time, until “Pandora” got bored and decided to see how far she could take her powers. She steals a powerful artifact from “Demeter,” and goes about trying to create a strange land of her own, which would later be known as the Deep, a weird forest that, once entered, cannot be escaped. However, her experiments wreak havoc on the surrounding land, and the other elders attempt to attack her. However, due to the various magics in the Deep, and “Hades’ ” attempt to use radiation (known to harm spirits) to subdue her, he accidentally transforms her into a wraith-like monster, and she in turn attacks the elders.

I wasn’t satisfied with this.

Instead of wreaking havoc intentionally, what if “Pandora” stole the secret for becoming an elder from the others, and gave this to the regular humans around her (where we get the Prometheus reference)? Seeing that she’s reduced their power, the other elders attempt to contain her by creating the Deep (a labyrinth of sorts), but when “Hades” attempts to do the final containment with his powers over light, he overdoes his power, which then conflicts with the strange magic in the area and transforms “Pandora” into a wraith-like spirit, who must now feed off other spirits to sustain herself. She goes mad, and the first person she attacks upon breaking free is “Hades.” She then proceeds to torment the land in elemental whirlwinds and firestorms as she searches out the other elders to kill them.

(At one point, I considered that the elders would either go into hiding, according to those who might still worship them, or that “Athena” and “Hephaestus” would survive long enough to seek out a promising young woman who could talk to dragons, thus leading into the Dragon Queen lore, but then Isaac reminded me that the main cultures in the Multiverse story at this point didn’t worship them, and that the Hero, not the First Dragon Queen, slayed the trickster.)

She eventually does kill the elders, and continues wreaking havoc until a lone hero rises up to defeat her (we can thank the anime, The Devil is a Part-Timer, for this little bit of story). Once “Pandora” is defeated, the Hero could choose to become immortal herself, but decides instead to end the reign of the spirits over them, and thus ends the time of the elders.

I still like the idea of her stealing Demeter’s artifact, so maybe she does do that, but nothing is set in stone. A lot of this will probably change.

But this version does work well in connection with the pendants, because now a certain alchemist in one of the later stories has research fodder that can be used to achieve his goals. Everything ties together, and there might even be a bit of a cycle from this story which will be relevant to other stories in this universe.

Maybe. We’ll see.

I talked to Isaac about the latest idea for the history of the elders, and he seemed to like it. We still need to come up with names for them, preferably based on Greek or Roman names, but I suspect it would be better not to name them directly since they’re supposed to be characters in their own right.

But, more importantly for now, I have a loose mythology that I can reference in Multiverse. Now that statue Alia sits by can finally have a name. 🙂

I hope you enjoyed this post. How deep do you like to delve into the mythology of your fictional universes?

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