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How to Write a Myth


In literature, a myth is a traditional story that expresses a culture's worldview and its own story. All cultures have these ancient stories that were passed down through oral storytelling before written language was developed. Despite cultural differences, myths share some common features. Myths were at one time believed to be true and served to guide human behavior. The settings of myths are ancient, often otherworldly places in which the characters have superhuman and sometimes inhuman features and powers.

Read Examples

Start by reading myths from many cultures to gain knowledge of the elements involved in myth writing. Read for example, a classic Greek myth about the gods or the Chinese myth "Why the Sun Rises When the Rooster Crows," making notes of the mythic elements you encounter as you read. Traditional ancient myths have gods, goddesses and sometimes other supernatural creatures. The plots attempt to explain Earth's creation, an element of the natural world or a particular belief about human behavior. As you read, note the different ways that myths address these elements and use the notes as creative inspiration when writing.

Research Connections

Myths attempt to explain some aspect of the natural world or human behavior. Once you have decided which culture and aspect of the natural world your myth will address, research both elements so you weave facts into the myth. For example, if you write a myth based in the culture of Japan, research beliefs connected to Shinto or Buddhism so the characters behave in believable ways for that culture. You would also read information about Japan's geography so the setting synchronizes with the myth.

Create a Plot and Characters

Next create a plot and characters. Decide what conflict of the natural world or human behavior the myth's plot will resolve. Create a supernatural explanation or solution for the conflict through the use of characters that have superhuman or nonhuman characteristics. For example, a character may have powers to move celestial objects or body parts found in other creatures, such as wings. Create these characters, carefully planning their powers, personality and relationships so they are believable when you begin to write.

Write the Myth

Plan out the myth's entire plot in a graphic organizer before writing. Create the myth's opening scene and plan the ancient and supernatural elements you will introduce the reader to as the plot, conflict and solution unfold. Include scenes in which the character's supernatural elements are featured. Close the myth with a reference to the element of the natural world or human behavior it resolves. Have someone with a critical eye read your first draft and ask clarifying questions that help you improve the mythological and story elements. Write the final draft after revisions and edits are made.

About the Author

Elizabeth Stover, an 18 year veteran teacher and author, has a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of Maryland with a minor in sociology/writing. Stover earned a masters degree in education curriculum and instruction from the University of Texas, Arlington and continues to work on a masters in Educational Leadership from University of North Texas. Stover was published by Creative Teaching Press with the books "Science Tub Topics" and "Math Tub Topics."

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