Hello everyone! My name is Ms Geraldine and I am an English Teacher and Curriculum Specialist at Lil’ but Mighty. I grew up loving to both read books and write my own stories, and it is my hope to inculcate a similar passion for both hobbies in my students! I bet you’re wanting to find out how can I add a new twist to old myths! Well, let’s dive right in!
In my first “Write for Fun” blogpost, I shared a creative writing exercise on how to rewrite an existing story, especially if you feel it did not do justice to your favourite character. However, what if you don’t have a favourite character or favourite story you feel inspired enough to write about? Fret not, because today we are going to look at how we can introduce our own spin to a type of story we are all familiar with—ancient myths!
Myths are old stories that have been passed down from ancient times and are still retold today. Ancient civilisations created myths unique to their beliefs and traditions, and so they can vary greatly across culture to culture. Nevertheless, there is one similarity: ancient myths all feature non-humans as their main characters, be it gods, goddesses, and other supernatural creatures.
Be it from Greek, Norse, Hindu, or Chinese mythology, I am sure you grew up with some of these ancient tales. Did you know, however, that many people have actually found great fame and success by retelling myths? Take the Marvel Thor movies for example, which feature Thor—the god of thunder—and his estranged brother Loki—the god of mischief—both prominent characters from Norse mythology.
Let me give you another well-known example, Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. For those of you who have yet to read it, I highly encourage you to check it out! The series consists of five books and follows the adventures of Percy Jackson and his friends. The exciting twist of the series is that Percy Jackson is actually a demigod, meaning that while his mother is a human being just like the rest of us, his father is the greek god Poseidon, god of the Sea. As a result, Percy Jackson has some wicked cool water-related powers, which I’ll leave you to find out yourself when you read the books!
What Rick Riordan did in the Percy Jackson series is exactly what you will be learning how to do today—retelling an ancient myth with your own unique spin. There are two main ways you can do this:
1. Think of the modern context!
First of all, try to re-imagine these ancient myths in a modern context. These myths may have been created during ancient times and by old civilisations, but why not introduce elements of the modern world to your retelling? This will definitely make modern readers of the 21st Century interested in these ancient tales from centuries ago!
For example, in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, instead of making the Olympian Gods live in Ancient Greece, he relocates them to New York City, where they reside at the top of the Empire State Building. The Gods also engage with popular culture and trends we are familiar with. Poseidon, for instance, even wears Birkenstocks, khaki Bermuda shorts, and a Hawaiian shirt instead of the ancient toga he usually dons in the original Greek myths. In your own retellings, maybe you can imagine these divine characters chilling out at a Starbucks or pigging out at a McDonalds outlet!
2. Make your characters more relatable
Secondly, besides modernising the main characters from ancient myths, you can also make them more likeable. Most ancient myths portray divine beings as terrifying and harsh rulers, likely because myths served to teach people morals and virtues. In your retelling, why not make these gods and goddesses more relatable?
Take Poseidon in the original Greek mythology for example. Conventionally portrayed as powerful and intimidating, he often metes out extreme punishments to anyone that he feels has wronged him. Once, after Athena became the patron goddess of the city of Athens following a competition with Poseidon, Poseidon sent a monstrous flood to punish the Athenians for not choosing him. Known also by the title “Earth Shaker”, Poseidon was famed for sending out terrible storms and earthquakes as means of punishment. Sounds like a pretty terrifying and upsetting guy for children to be reading about in a story, right?
That was probably what Rick Riordan was thinking too when he decided to make Poseidon —along with his other brothers and sisters—more relatable in his Percy Jackson series. So how did he make these conventionally terrifying gods and goddesses less scary and more accessible to readers? While still retaining their main characteristics from the Greek myths, he portrayed the gods and goddesses as less hateful towards humanity but more benevolent and forgiving. Furthermore, he humanises these gods and goddesses with unique traits. Apollo—the god of healing and poetry—is always reciting cringe-worthy haikus wherever he goes, much to the annoyance of the other gods. Meanwhile, Apollo’s twin sister Artemis—the goddess of the hunt—is revealed to enjoy pulling pranks on him, a mischievous act we would never usually associate with divine beings. In your own retellings, perhaps consider a relatable trait that you want your main character to have, such as a god who loves to dancing to K-pop or a goddess who is addicted to watching Tiktok videos.
So there you have it! Two main steps on how to add your own spin to a myth. If you know of a particular myth that you wish to rewrite or adapt, don’t be afraid to do it, because many writers have done the same. It can be a great way to get yourself in the habit of writing creatively, and may even be the first step you take to becoming a best-selling author in the future! Till my next post, happy writing!