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[GUEST POST] Tracy Barnett on Mythological Manipulation

Tracy Barnett is a new writer who loves fantasy of all types, especially the kinds that mash up genres. He has the temerity to call himself an author and it working on funding his first novel, Sveidsdottir, a Norse fantasy mashed up with giant stompy dwarven automatons and the skeletons of dead giants. Oh, and inclusive as all get out. Tracy got his start writing tabletop RPGs, and has published two of his own. Tracy thinks that typing about himself in the third person is weird as fuck.

Mythological Manipulation

I love mythology. I mean, would-take-it-as-a-second-wife-because-of-course-Mythology-is-female-what-are-you-on-about-yes-this-is-what-I-look-like-without-pants-on.

*ahem*

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated with myths. From Greek legends to fairy tales. Love it all. And I love it the most when people cleverly take mythology and weave it into a story. There’s something divine (PUNS!) about seeing that done. In my current project, I hope to do just that.

I’m working on a novel called Iron Edda: Sveidsdottir (Look, a Kickstarter link!) If you know even the smallest bit about such things, it should be obvious that the novel is heavily influenced by Norse myth. Norse mythology is something that a lot of people are passingly familiar with. I mean, just take The Avengers. Loki, Thor, it’s all there. Even one of the fathers of the Fantasy genre, Tolkien, drew heavily from Norse myth for his work (check out the names of the dwarves from The Hobbit sometime).

So Norse myth in fantasy is no new thing but I wanted to take it and twist it while having it still read as Norse. To start with, I did what I hope any author wanting to tap an outside source will do: research. Norse myth is easy to research. After all, we’re talking about a bunch of public domain texts. You can find creation myths, stories of heroic awesomeness, and even the tale of how the world end. It’s all there. I read. A lot. Myths, Viking culture, even the awesome show on the History Channel. I took it all in.

“That’s great!” you say, “But how do I use it in a story?” Well, that part is trickier. For me, I started with other works that have used such things well. For Norse myth, the first place I looked was Skyrim. If you’re not familiar, Skyrim is the subtitle of the most recent Elder Scrolls game. And it’s set in the land of the, wait for it, Nords. The voice acting, the feel, it all evokes Norse myth. In fact, one of major components of my setting (the dwarves rising up and attacking the humans with great Automatons) was inspired by the “dwarven” ruins from Skyrim. Check out what people have done well and get inspired by it.

By the time you’ve researched the stuff itself and you’ve seen how others have done it, it’s time to start laying your own groundwork. Let the feel of your world seep into your bones. Decide what details are important to keep. For me, it was that fate is already decided and that a true warrior faces their fate head-on. Decide what needs to be ignored. Male-dominated society? Out the door! Then decide what you want to drift or change. Norse/Viking culture didn’t have warrior clans, but I thought such things would be good wheels upon which I could turn setting and character interactions.

Above all, and this is my rule number one no matter what I’m working with, test your ideas out. No matter how much I am able to research Norse myth and Viking culture, there will always be people who know more than me. Talk to such people. Vet your stuff with them. If you choose to ignore what they say is an important aspect, make sure you know why you’re ignoring it and what will go in its place. If you’re just going to cherry-pick your favorite parts, make sure you’re consistent. Be thorough. Be respectful.

Working with myth is a great thing. It can bring life and verisimilitude to your work. Without it, I wouldn’t be working on this project. I will always respect it as a huge source of inspiration.

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