Tag Archives: setting

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.


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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Thoughts on Writing – The Little Details Count

My husband, Isaac, enjoys creating houses on the XBOX 360 Sims 3 game, and since my parents are coming up to visit, he decided to create a model of my parent’s house. He created the general layout, placed the furniture, and after fussing with the game to find the proper sized lot so he could include the backyard, he handed the controller over to me so I could add in the little details. Funny thing… I hadn’t realized how many “decorations” this game has. I added a boom box on an end table in the corner of the dining room. I added the chair that sits beside the hallway. I added a shelf-organizer-thing over where the piano should be (no piano, though), and a little phone on the table beside my grandma’s chair. Then I added a couple paintings (posters) for my room, appropriate colored walls, and a clock above the bay window… and a lot of other little things to make the Sims house look more real.

The end result was uncanny. Depending on the camera angle and the placement in the room, the model house actually looked like my parent’s house.

Those little details made it feel real.

A little detail, carefully slipped into a story, can make a world of difference.

Details enhance the world, make readers feel like they are actually there, and reveal the tone of the novel. A lot of my favorites books and movies pay careful attention to detail across various senses. The background detail in the Babylon 5 TV series, particularly whenever they went into seedy areas on the station, always captured my attention. The last time I watched Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back on a large screen TV, I was captivated by the snakes and vines in the swamps of Dagobah. Rebekkah Ford’s Beyond the Eyes series always made me feel like I was in a forest, or at a loud dance club, wherever the character happened to be.

Often, you only need a few carefully placed details to inspire a full scene in the reader’s mind.

Take a look at this paragraph from The Multiverse Chronicles draft:

Ten minutes later, the cart topped a hill and revealed a large military camp in the close distance. Trish eyed the rows upon rows of canvas tents, men marching in formation, and packs of wolves running attack drills on wooden manikins.

Of course the reader will see what is directly mentioned within the text.

But what else do they imagine? What else do they see? What do they feel? Do they feel like they’ve been traveling a ways? Do they hear the muffled din of people and wolves interacting, despite not being told how they sound?

Coupled with the rest of the story, a reader’s mind might add other details which were never explicitly mentioned, based on previous experiences with the words involved and the various connotations those words carry.

That’s why choosing to slip in a detail here and there, relevant to the action but never fully stopping the story, can offer a strong boost to your world building. Some stories will use more details than others, but you can choose when you want the reader to “stop and smell the roses” by letting the character say more about the world around them.

Take a look at this section from the intro of Magic’s Stealing:

Toranih kicked off the covers, knife in hand, and hopped out of bed. She waited, just in case the shadow returned, then walked to her dresser, picked up the crystal, and carefully raised the light again.


The dresser was pristine, with only an oil lamp sitting in the dustless corner. A small oak chest at the foot of her bed remained locked with steel. Heavy brocade curtains obscured the window.


No sign of intruders.


So why couldn’t she shake the feeling that someone had been watching her?

We linger on the details of the room as she surveys her surroundings, tension mounting because she thinks someone is there. But how different might it be if she paid only a little attention to these things?

Toranih kicked off the covers, knife in hand, and hopped out of bed. She waited, just in case the shadow returned, then walked to her dresser, picked up the crystal, and carefully raised the light again.


No sign of intruders.


So why couldn’t she shake the feeling that someone had been watching her?

Without the line detailing what she sees (thus “showing” that there are no intruders), we feel like she’s not really putting any effort into her search. She turns on the light, sees no one is there, thinks something’s odd, but moves along. Having extra details, as in the first example, show that she’s not just shrugging her shoulders at the notion. She really is concerned.

However, if you want to do a slow build-up, you might have a character notice something is odd but not pay much attention to why. Then, as they become more and more concerned, they notice more details, which may or may not truly be ominous.

Going back to that Sims house that Isaac created, the downside of that house was that the model wasn’t quite right. There weren’t stairs where there should be. The swings overlooked a creepy ocean instead of another house. The back room looked similar, but not the same. The windows didn’t fit memory, and he used a white bookshelf instead of a bunch of clear storage tubs in the corner for old toys.

As cool as the Sims house was, I didn’t want to look at it from certain angles too long because the house was unsettling.

You can use this mechanic in stories.

For example, a hero coming home after a long time away may find that things have subtly changed. In a horror story, a picture frame that always sits by a lamp may seem a smidgen too far back. In a desolate future, a character may look out over a ruined landscape, able to see a familiar sight here or there, while the rest is in shambles. What remains in place and what does not can affect the tone of the story. Consider the Statue of Liberty in the Planet of the Apes movie.

A little detail in the right spot can make a world of difference.

This can also be used in game creation.

While I haven’t played the game myself, MatPat’s theories on Five Nights at Freddy’s (a popular jump scare game) often references the little details that make the game creepy, such as the fan on the desk. The detail used in these games gives clues into the world’s backstory, all while adding to the nightmarish atmosphere.

When I first played Portal (a puzzle game), I was alone in my dorm room. The empty quietness of walking through the testing chambers had me super jumpy as I expected a turret to shoot me at every turn. And that game isn’t horror.

If you happen on the one detail that gets under a player’s skin, that one detail will have them on the edge of their seat.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Do you have any favorite details that you’ve read in a book or seen in a movie? 🙂



Filed under Gaming, Writing