Creating stories and myths within your fantasy novel

“And as for this book,” said Hermione, “The Tales of Beedle the Bard…I’ve never even heard of them!”

“You’ve never heard of The Tales of Beedle the Bard?” said Ron incredulously. “You’re kidding right?…All the old kids’ stories are supposed to be Beedles’, aren’t they? ‘The Fountain of Fair Fortune’…’The Wizard and the Hopping Pot’…’Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump’…”

Just as Harry and Hermione are mystified by these titles, Ron is equally mystified by the stories (‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ and ‘Cinderella’) his friends grew up hearing. As this scene from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows shows, it is important for you to create stories and myths within your made-up world. Just think how less believable the wizarding world would be if there weren’t these tales that felt so common to its inhabitants.

I have written numerous posts about creating your own fantasy world. One of my key points has always been that you need to know the details so that the world you create will come across as real to your reader. The mythology and stories you create within your world add another level of depth and believability.

According to the dictionary, a myth is a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or natural explanation, especially one that is concerned with deities or demigods and explains some practice, rite or phenomenon of nature.

The use of myths can provide your characters with a natural direction for their actions, words and feelings. Myths can explain why they rituals and celebrations they do.

Now you can certainly base your myths on existing mythology of our world as long as it fits into the world your created. Or you can create your own myths. Choosing this option allows you to explore your world, its religions and cultures in a deeper way. The myths you create will dictate how your cultures live, breath and interact with each other.

The thing about myths is they are often oral in nature, changing as they are passed from generation to generation or even region to region. This means you can have different versions and interpretations of the same stories.

Not sure what myths to create? There are creation myths, stories to explain natural phenomena like the changing of the seasons, and heroic tales commonly used by bards, poets and musicians to entertain people. And don’t forget the powerful apocalyptic myths.

Used wisely, myths and stories can add a level of realism to your novel. Just don’t get bogged down in developing or incorporating myths so that they overwhelm or distract from your own plot.