P.W. Creighton

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Paranormal Perceptions ~ Folklore and Myth as Inspiration

This post is to be the first of a new series called Paranormal Perceptions. 

The Paranormal Perceptions series was created to gather some of the most interesting authors that are using paranormal elements in their stories. Every author has their own perceptions and provides their own insight on all things paranormal, ranging from urban legends and paranormal research, to myths and inspirations. This week on the guest series is author of Dark Light of Day author Jill Archer (@archer_jill)

Using Folklore and Myth as Inspiration for Your Story

There's been a resurgence of the use of folktales and myths as story inspiration these days. Consider these examples of recent television shows, movies, and novels:

  • Once Upon A Time: ABC's show based, in part, on fairy tales previously depicted by Disney
  • Grimm: NBC's grittier show containing characters inspired by Grimms' Fairy Tales
  • Mirror Mirror: Movie retelling of Snow White tale from step-mother's perspective
  • Thor: Movie based on the superhero inspired by Norse mythology
  • Abandon by Meg Cabot: Novel telling the "myth of Persephone... darkly reimagined"
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer: Novel about a cyborg mechanic caught in a forbidden attraction

Not to mention what's in the pipeline (thanks to ashley_angel, who created the IMDb list [http://www.imdb.com/list/7dmNumkftqQ/] I pulled these from):

  • Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters -- 2013, starring Jeremy Renner
  • Maleficent -- 2014, starring Angelina Jolie
  • Pinocchio -- 2014, starring Danielle Radcliff (voice)
  • Arabian Nights -- 2014, starring Liam Hemsworth

As readers and watchers, it's easy to appreciate the timeless appeal of these stories. But, as novelists, how do we turn old fairy tales and ancient myths into successful stories for today's audiences?

  1. Be cautious of a saturated market. Make sure you're using your inspirational sources for the right reasons. Grabbing an old archetype or well-worn character in the hopes you can quickly shine it up and offer it for a sale will likely result in creative disappointment and financial frustration.
  2. Consider using lesser known characters or myths. Everyone's heard of Cinderella, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel. But who's heard of The Old Woman in the Wood? Or The Seven Ravens? Or Jorinda and Joringel? Those are also fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm, but they haven't been strip mined like the others. (Thanks to The Fairy Tale Cupboard for the suggestions: http://thefairytalecupboard.blogspot.com/2010/06/some-lesser-known-grimms-tales.html).
  3. Use ancient tales and characters only as a spring board. And then jump high and far. For my debut novel, Dark Light of Day, I drew character inspirations from myriad sources: Biblical mythology, Jewish folklore, Celtic fertility goddesses, Egyptian war gods, Babylonian deities, and Greek demons -- just to name a few. Because the book isn't a reimagining, I had even more freedom to pick and choose which traits of the original inspirational sources I wanted my characters to have. Sparking creativity was the primary goal of my research, as opposed to ensuring I was accurately interpreting the myths I used.
  4. Keep in mind, there's likely an element of truth to every folktale, myth, legend, or fairy tale. Speaking of inspiration, where do you think the inspirations for the folktales themselves came from? At some point in the distant past -- before those stories became archetypal -- their inspirations may have been something that really happened. (The legend of Count Dracula was inspired by Vlad Tepes, the 15th century Eastern European prince). Other myths are probably man's early attempt to explain something they didn't fully understand. (Persephone is the personification of the earth's birth, death, and re-birth cycle during its changing seasons). And many fairy tales were likely designed to warn children about real dangers. (Talking to strangers is dangerous, whether you're wearing a red cloak or not). Knowing folklore's purpose, and the reasons for its popularity, will help you to use it more effectively in your own writing.

Want to hear another author talk about she used ancient folklore to inspire her story? Check out this recent post by Lucy Wood, author of Diving Belles here.

Writers, have you used folktales and myths as inspiration for your stories? If so, which ones? How did you go about it? Was your story a reimagining of an original tale? Or did you use mythological characters and settings to create bits and pieces of an entirely new story?

Readers, do you like stories inspired by folktales and myths? If so, what are some of your favorites? Thank you, Phillip, for hosting me here at The Surveillance Report!

Dark Light of Day

Armageddon is over. The demons won. And yet somehow…the world has continued. Survivors worship patron demons under a draconian system of tributes and rules. These laws keep the demons from warring among themselves, the world from slipping back into chaos.

Noon Onyx grew up on the banks of the river Lethe, daughter of a prominent politician, and a descendant of Lucifer’s warlords. Noon has a secret—she was born with waning magic, the dark, destructive, fiery power that is used to control demons and maintain the delicate peace among them. But a woman with waning magic is unheard of and some will consider her an abomination.

Noon is summoned to attend St. Lucifer’s, a school of demon law. She must decide whether to declare her powers there…or attempt to continue hiding them, knowing the price for doing so may be death. And once she meets the forbiddingly powerful Ari Carmine—who suspects Noon is harboring magic as deadly as his own—Noon realizes there may be more at stake than just her life.

Jill Archer writes urban fantasy novels and other fun and/or creepy stuff. Her first novel, DARK LIGHT OF DAY, is being released on September 25, 2012 by Penguin/Ace. Jill lives in rural Maryland with her two children and husband, who is a recreational pilot. Weekends are often spent flying around in the family's small Cessna, visiting tiny un-towered airfields and other local points of interest.

Website: www.jillarcher.com

Twitter: @archer_jill

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