MYTHS, LEGENDS, AND GODS – Terrible Writing Advice


MYSTERIOUS FIGURE: This video is sponsored
by Skillshare, but maybe it’s not too late. In the beginning, for the first six days the
author rested. Then on the seventh day he realized his deadline
was upon him so he rushed the mythology of his world out the door before it was ready. Um… let’s just lasso ancient Greek and
Norse mythology, change a few names then copy, and then paste! Wow. That was faster than you can say “it’s
not cultural appropriation when no members of that culture are left alive to sue me”. Now that leaves me plenty of time to instruct
other writers on how to construct their very own myths, legends, and entire pantheons of
gods and goddesses for their own writing projects. Now the thing that most writers need to consider
about writing a constructed mythology for a story is that background information, or
as most people call it these days ‘the lore’, can be thought of as a potent spice that is
sprinkled onto the story to add flavor. And much like cayenne pepper, lore should
just be heaped on, overpowering the whole thing until it is just unpalatable to all
but the most die hard lore junkies. The best way to start this process is by front
loading the creation myth at the start of the story! A long-winded prologue about how the world
came to be, who’s who among the gods, and a how the story’s macguffin was forged will
go great with the infodump of the world’s history in chapter 2. Who is telling this prologue creation myth? Why the author of course. No reason to have a creation myth told by
an in universe character, allowing that character’s unique perspective color the story. Nor should an author considering compacting
that myth into a short poem or phrase that can be use as a reoccurring motif. Does the creation myth need to be in the prologue
or in the story at all? What purpose does it serve? Well the purpose is that I think it’s cool
therefore it goes in the story. Not include my precious creation myth? Why don’t I just murder my darlings while
I’m at it, you monster! This bit of world building is like my baby. I could never just, eh I’m bored now. Ooh. I wanna add some gods and goddesses to my
story! But I can’t decide what my gods and goddesses
should be like. Thankfully Terrible Writing Advice has provided
all writers with this handy list of commonly used templates. The God of War, Battle, and mentioning honor
every other word. Odds are he will look like a Greek hoplite
even if in a fantasy world devoid of ancient Greeks. Common weapons include a spear, sword, or
axe. If the classic Greek look doesn’t suit your
taste, then this template can also sport a standard issue Dark Lord armor set. Medium odds of being the story’s antagonist
especially if no god of evil or death is around. The Goddess of fertility, birth, cultivation,
and ladiness. Mentioned offhand in the story, but never
given much focus because her dominion doesn’t involve stabbing people with magic weapons
or other things most writers consider cool. However, if the setting’s deities grant
magic powers, her bestowed magic would be absolutely game breaking in terms of usefulness
and utility to an ancient or medieval society and would have far reaching military applications
that I will, of course, completely ignore. The god of fire, forges, cool magical weapons,
and macguffin creation. Macguffin screwing up the world? Well this is the guy to blame. Don’t complain too much though because he
will also make the chosen one’s anti-dark lord sword. Even in fantasy there is no escaping the military
industrial complex. The god of death, decay, evil, demons, and
dark color palettes with an optional side of necromancy. If not outright the story’s main antagonist
then expect him to at least be worshiped by bad guys. This god being evil is essential so I can
lump all of the aspects of nature I don’t like onto him so my nature god or goddess
can be good. Routinely abuses and sacrifices his own followers,
betrays everyone he enters a deal with, and will bring about the destruction of the universe
should he ever win so naturally anyone can see why scores of cults flock to worship him. I mean they so much get out of it. Despite being a god of chaos and destruction
he is sure good at creating the logistics and infrastructure needed to maintained his
highly advanced and organized empire and military forces. Same as the previous entry, but a goddess
instead and with both seduction and corruption as an added domain of influence. Always has dark hair, copious amounts of cleavage. Will 100% want the hero for herself, but thankfully
the hero is immune to her godly charisma, supernatural attractiveness, far more interesting
personality, and plethora of interesting story possibilities to instead choose the far more
conventional love interest the story has saddled him with. The god of a single element and one other
random trait to make them stand out a little more. Usually come in clusters to represent various
classical elements with maybe a few extras like light, dark, life, death, or some other
more esoteric ‘element’. We can’t have the gods of hydrogen or chlorine
wandering about because a pantheon of the periodic table of elements would be way too
big. The trickster god of pranks, trolling, and
advancing the plot when things get too stale. Even if the gods are never characters in the
story, expect the trickster god to still nudge things along. High odds of ending up on the team good guy
eventually even if their initial loyalty is in question. The nature god that is basically a giant tree
and not like a billion other things found in nature. Sometimes alternatively represented as an
older, motherly woman. Nature gods and goddesses tend to emphasize
the good parts of nature like sunshine, trees, running streams, and other such things found
on a park brochures and not the less savory aspects of nature like storms, disease, and
parasitic wasps that instead fall under the domain of the god of evil. The god of magic that has the essential role
of allowing magic to exist. Otherwise this god has no discernible personality,
motive, or anything else and is there solely for the setting to justify its magic powers. When pressed for more details a writer can
just say the god of magic looks like Odin. The god of justice who exists mostly so the
Dungeon Master has a justification to take away the paladin’s powers when the player
role-playing him gets too uppity. Now the important thing to remember when filling
out one or more pantheons is to just create the gods, not flesh out the world’s major
religions that would be built around them. The ceremonies and rituals that make up much
of a culture’s daily routine and allow a people to contextualize the world around them
by viewing it through a religious lens is not needed when we have an entire pantheon
of Mary Sues at our disposal. Competing pantheons of wildly different styles
of gods being used to generate conflict? A complex web of animistic spirits that make
up a spiritual ecosystem? Competing religious perspectives among characters
to add another layer of conflict? Thoughtful critique of organized religion
through a fantasy setting so an author doesn’t have to offend real world religious readers? I mean we could do those, or we put three
of the gods into a love triangle,… or two,… or three, not counting all of the mortals
they are wooing on the side. The point isn’t to add depth to the worldbuilding,
but to add in a bunch of cool god characters that take over the story and turn the previously
established cast of mortals into glorified background extras. Well that, and also so the characters can
use setting specific swear words. By Thor’s hangnail is that fun to do. And just like real life curse words, they
should be strung together and used so often that they loose all meaning, start to become
unintentionally funny, or eventually fade into annoying background noise. Speaking of background noise, a setting’s
legends can be safely reduced down to the level of a simple plot hook for a fetch quest. Many have searched for the legendary Lore
Stones whose magical properties are so mysterious and infamous that the characters have just
now heard of them halfway through the story. The Lore Stones, um… let’s see. They… Uh. I got it! The Lore Stones hold the secret to magic itself. As it turns out, the dark secret of magic
I’ve alluded to since chapter one will be revealed now! What is the secret nature of the setting’s
magic? Aliens did it I guess with like science stuff
or whatever. Hey look, the mystery box already did its
job with marketing. It’s way too hard to actually put something
cool in it. Deities and myths for a setting should always
be carelessly thrown in based on the author’s capricious whims, and never used to explore
and reflect the setting’s cultural ideals or values. Nor should the setting’s myths and legends
be used to reinforce the theme of a work or prop up a central design pillar of the worldbuilding. The setting’s lore need not earn its place
within the narrative, rather the narrative should bend to the will of the lore. Think of the setting’s lore as a baseball
bat that can be used to mercilessly beat new audience members with until they finally give
up and go enjoy a work that doesn’t have an impenetrable shell of proper nouns to stop
them from getting into the story. At least until someone invents a ‘skip lore’
button. DARK LORD: Who is that again? It’s getting increasing difficult to keep
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Writing Advice expanded universe will end! DARK LORD: Wait, I thought it was the cinematic
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I’m pretty sure ads had something to do it. Ads even invented capitalism so they can propagate. And now ads threaten the entire Terrible Writing
Advice universe. DARK LORD: Oh great. I know an oncoming info dump when I see one. KNIGHT COMMANDER: You see, uncounted eons
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