This year during the A to Z Challenge I had the Magnificent Seven working with me. One of these bright bunch of ladies who helped me survive from February to April this year is Csenge Virág Zalka. She’s here on Amlokiblogs today to tell us about Mythic Fiction, and how to adapt myths and folks tales into our stories.
Take it away, Csenge!
Last spring, during the A to Z Challenge , I wrote a book about folktales that feature superpowers. It ended up being a collection of 55 stories, and it was the most fun I have ever had with research.
I did it because I work a lot with middle and high school, and superheroes are all the rage these days. At the same time, less and less kids are introduced to the wonderful world of epics, legends, and mythology told in their original form. The silver lining? We can get them interested again. And apart from telling stories about superpowers (which definitely rocks!), is to use some of those old, old stories in our writing.
Mythic fiction and fairy tale adaptations are living a renaissance. As a professional storyteller, I am very, very picky about which ones I read. Here is a quick and dirty list of things that an author needs to pay attention to when attempting to commit mythic fiction:
1. Know. Your. Stuff. These stories have a history, they have layers upon layers of meaning, and they come from cultures other than your own. Do your homework before you start molding them to your own work. Trust me, they will mold easier. (By the way, did you know that Aladdin is Chinese?
2. Be respectful to the original. This does not mean you are not allowed to change it. It only means that you have to be aware of where the tale came from (see the 1st point), and that you should never, ever trivialize something just because you don’t understand it, and it seems weird or funny. Every story makes sense in its own cultural context.
3. Don’t be a cliché. Little Red doesn’t need to wear a red hood to allude to the original fairy tale. Remember, “charming” is NOT the prince’s name. And for heaven’s sake, don’t use the Disney names.
4. Know your fellow writers (and respect them). You are probably not the first or the only one adapting any folktale. Read (watch) the others, and learn from them. Not being the first is okay. Not knowing that you are not the first can get awkward fast.
5. Don’t assume your readers are dumb. There is a good chance people pick up a mythic fiction book because they are interested in mythology and folktales. If you hit them over the head with facts instead of giving them clues, they will lose the enjoyment of discovering the Easter eggs for themselves.
Csenge Virág Zalka is a professional storyteller and author from Hungary, currently working on her PhD in the United States. She blogs about her work as a storyteller on The Multicolored Diary, and about Hungarian cultural curiosities on MopDog. Add her on twitter @TarkabarkaHolgy. You can also find her on Goodreads.
Do you use Myths or Folktales in your stories? Do you have questions for Csenge? Do you want to add some tips? When was the last time you read a fairytale or legend, or a story/ novel that involved one? Want to check out Tales of Superhuman Powers?