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Making parallels with myths--question!
Posted: Saturday, April 16, 2011 2:17 PM
Joined: 3/14/2011
Posts: 227

There are lots of stories based on fairy tales and re-imaginings of myths out there. Mine is one of them. Nearly all my historical romances are based on or inspired by the myths of the constellations.

In Fly Me to the Stars, the myth is Andromeda and Perseus (you can read about it here: There's a general damsel in distress trope, and a situation where one of her parents have pissed off the powers that be and have to sacrifice their daughter to the evil monster. 

Now you have the background--here's my question: One critique I got suggested I make that parallel more overt for readers, not by changing the story, per se, but maybe having the MC read the myth at the beginning. Or giving the myth as a prologue. A third suggestion was to write the myth out in my words and include a snippet before each chapter. There is also the option to leave the myth to the author's note at the end and leave the readers to figure it out on their own.

What do you think? As a reader, what would you prefer? 

Michael L Martin Jr
Posted: Sunday, April 17, 2011 11:35 PM
Joined: 4/3/2011
Posts: 23

I don't write historical anything, but I do blend many myths from various cultures into my fantasy stories. If the actual myth itself isn't important to the overall plot of the story, I simply leave it out, tell the story as is and allow the reader to figure it out. But if they don't figure it out, it's no big deal. It's not essential nor should it be a requirement for them to enjoy the story. It only enriches the experience for the lucky few that do make the connection.

Without having read your story though, it seems to me that you're just borrowing some tropes. If that's all you're doing then the Andromeda myth becomes less important merely because things like damsels in distress, people pissing off powerful deities and sacrificing women to monsters are in many other stories as well, not just the Andromeda myth. Is there a reason why the Andromeda myth specifically is important (other than your re-imagning of it)? If there is a specific reason then that reason should be the focus of why you included this particular myth in your story.

The three methods your crit partners suggested feel a little bit too much like info dumps to me. But they could possibly work. Of course, anything can work given the level of an author's skill. It's hard to say.

I like the idea of your character reading the myth the best because it's more active plot-wise. But if you choose this route I think the myth should continue to crop up in the plot. Otherwise, it has the potential to come off as just a throwaway opening scene that has nothing to do with the story that follows other than a loose connection.

Consider blending the myth into the story as one would do with a characters backstory. Make the "real" myth important to your plot somehow. It would probably require some re-writing depending on how far along you are in your draft(s). But I think it could make for a more a powerful inclusion rather than feeling like a casual addition.

But however you handle it all depends on the feel you're going for in the story.
Jessie Kwak
Posted: Saturday, April 23, 2011 7:18 PM
Joined: 3/29/2011
Posts: 27

I think Michael's advice about identifying what specifically about the Andromeda myth is important to your story is spot on. I don't think that you should worry about educating your readers about the myth--a simple reference to it should be all you need to clue them in on the parallels you're drawing, so long as those parallels are strong. You could name the MC's cat Andromeda, for a silly example.

Or, you might try opening your story with a quotation from Ovid's version of the story, or something like that. That way, without banging your readers over the head with the connection, you can let them know exactly what you're trying to do. (I'd steer away from a quote at the beginning of every chapter, though.)

Sounds interesting!
Alexander Hollins
Posted: Monday, April 25, 2011 7:08 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 416

I could have sworn I responded to this thread.

Is the parallel to the myth important? Is there a point where knowing the myth helps the character who sees the similarity? If not, the reviewer is on crack. So many stories parallel myths, on purpose or not. There is NO reason to be obvious about it.
Posted: Monday, April 25, 2011 9:30 PM
Joined: 3/29/2011
Posts: 25

I disagree with your crit partners too. The way I see it, if your readers pick up on the parallel on their own, then great, but knowing the myth shouldn't be a requirement for appreciating the story. It might be neat to drop a few obvious similarities in there for people who are familiar with the myth, but again--your story should stand on it's own. Not everyone is a mythology geek
Posted: Friday, April 29, 2011 12:07 PM
Joined: 3/14/2011
Posts: 51

I wouldn't include an overt reference to it, except maybe in an author's note at the back. If I'm already familiar with the myth, then I'm going to pick up on it as I read, but unless there's some reason it's vital that the reader be familiar with it in order to understand one thing or another about the plot, then I don't see much point in including it.

If you look at Jenny Brown's romance novels (which are all based on signs of the Zodiac), you'll see that she includes information about the Zodiac signs for each character at the end of the book with notes on how they influenced the character throughout the course of the story and afterward. It's a nice way to do it, but you don't need to know anything included there to enjoy the story. It's definitely an approach I like.
Posted: Saturday, April 30, 2011 9:53 PM
Joined: 3/14/2011
Posts: 227

See? That's what I thought, too. I am validated! hehe

Cameron - I don't know if you remember my books on "that other site" but I had the zodiac theme running through my single-titles, too, but from an astronomy perspective instead of astrology. Jenny and I have talked about her books a lot because of the similarities, too. I loved how she included the star charts of each character at the end, and thought of doing something like that. I love reading author's notes for any book, if only for a glimpse of the author's thought processes and, in the case of Dan Brown's or James Rollins' sort of books, I like knowing what was fact and what was fiction.
Posted: Sunday, May 1, 2011 1:40 PM
Joined: 3/14/2011
Posts: 51

I can't remember if I ever read your books on the "other" site. Jenny's Lord Lightning was the first romance book I ever purchased, and she was kind enough to let me beta what will be her third book. I only read the author's note in certain books, mostly if I'm wondering about something not fully explained or explored in the body of the novel itself.

I feel like if things are explained up front (in a foreword or similar), then I'm spending more time thinking about and looking for those references than I am enjoying the story. So I'd rather have it in the back, and if I want to turn to it before I've read the book, then that's fine, but it's not being shoved in my face before I care about what's happening in the story.
S. T. Collier
Posted: Friday, June 20, 2014 4:25 AM
Joined: 6/4/2013
Posts: 35

Hi NoellePierce, would love to read your Andromeda Story as my wife and I shared a deep love for the Greek Myths and are currently working on our own take of the them. feel free to swing by and take a look at our work in progress and we'll do the same for you.
Elizabeth Moon
Posted: Sunday, June 22, 2014 1:46 AM
Joined: 6/14/2012
Posts: 195

I'm with the majority here--you do not need to retell the myth itself to use the myth as inspiration for your story.   If you choose to write myth-based stories, you might want to take a look at how other writers have done that.  A recent example would be Esther Friesner's "princess" group of books--she's chosen mythological/historical figures, imagined the women (Helen of Troy, Nefertiti of Egypt, Himiko of Japan, and Maeve of Ireland) and written books about them as girls, before the events that made them famous.   Mary Renault wrote about historical/legendary figures of ancient Greece (Theseus of Athens in The King Must Die and Bull from the Sea, Alexander the Great in Fire from Heaven and The Persian Boy.)