Scripture Saturday — Easter

crossw-66700_1280“It is finished,” said Jesus as he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

“It is finished,” said the Roman soldiers as they removed the body from the cross.

“It is finished,” said Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus as they laid the body in the tomb.

“It is finished,” said Pontius Pilate as he returned to the business of governing these stubborn Jews.

“It is finished,” said the chief priests and elders as they congratulated themselves on the success of their scheme.

“It is finished,” said the disciples as they huddled together in Jerusalem, hiding from the authorities.

“It is finished,” said the women as they prepared spices to take to the tomb.

“Is it finished?” asked Mary as she turned her tear-stained face to the starry, Saturday night sky.

And on Sunday morning, the stone was rolled away, and Jesus walked out of the tomb, stretched his arms, gazed at the world he loved so much, and shouted with a laugh, “April Fool’s!”

I must thank Max Mitchell for the idea for this post.

Writing Tip — Plot

easterw-1443348_1280Easter contains so many themes to inspire stories. Last year I wrote about how the drama of Holy Week could be adapted for a storyline. This year I wanted to focus on the theme of resurrection which leads to change.

Pretending to kill off a character only to have him return may be the most dramatic plot twist a writer can use. One of my favorite Sherlock Holmes stories is “The Empty House”. In it, Holmes reveals to Watson that he didn’t die battling Professor Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls. In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf the Grey’s resurrection as Gandalf the White is a major plot point.

Survival stories are a good way to use the resurrection theme without it seeming contrived. The extreme demands of a hostile environment on a character provide reasons for the character to reevaluate her life and, if she lives, to return to her old life changed for the better or worse.

I love survival stories, both fiction and nonfiction. In January, I featured the story of  Sir Ernest Shackleton’s expedition to Antarctica, one of history’s epic survival stories. I recently watched a little-known survival movie from 1953 that is a great example of how the struggle to survive changes the main character.

In Infernoa wealthy husband and wife and the husband’s business partner are traveling on horseback in the Mojave desert, looking for a mineral deposits. When the husband falls and breaks his legs, the wife and partner say they will send help. But instead, they mislead the authorities with a false trail, leaving the husband to die. The husband becomes determined to make it back to civilization and exact his revenge.

Because the husband is alone, we learn his thoughts through voice–over narration and can follow the change in his character. The actor portraying husband, Robert Ryan, is so skilled that his expressions and body language perfectly accompany his narration. (It’s also a great visual example of the writing concept “Deep POV” but that’s for another post.)

How can Easter inspire your writing?

 

 

Writing Tip — Character Names

hellow-1502386_1280I love finding just the write names for my characters, and if I need unusual names, myths can offer a gold mine of potential. Below are list of more obscure names from several different mythologies.

But  keep in mind the cardinal rule of character names: Names Must Be Pronounceable. If a name is too difficult to sound out, readers will substitute something familiar or simply bleep over it. I like the name “Koschei”, a villain in a Slavic myth, but have no idea how to pronounce it correctly. If I used it, I would have to adapt it for English readers. Maybe “Koschay”?

Greek and Roman Names
  • Atalanta
  • Meander
  • Dido
  • Alecto
  • Evander
  • Nisus
  • Marsyas
  • Thetis
  • Arion
  • Leander
  • Cadmus
  • Maia
  • Nysa
Norse Names
  • Sif
  • Idun
  • Galar
  • Brokk
  • Alvis
  • Gerd
  • Thiazi
  • Skadi
Celtic Names
  • Balor
  • Bran
  • Branwen
  • Bres
  • Dagda
  • Morrigan
  • Caradoc
  • Finntan
  • Korrigan
  • Mael Duin
  • Nemed
  • Nuada
  • Veleda
Central and Eastern Europe
  • Sadko
  • Morevna
  • Perun
  • Mati Syra
  • Kurent

If you need to create original names for characters, where do you find inspiration?

 

Monday Sparks — Writing Prompts

rabbitw-3249427_1280Since I’ve been writing about myths, an interview with the Easter Bunny seemed appropriate. So what would you ask the Easter Bunny?

Reporter: So what is your exciting announcement about expanding your operations?

Easter Bunny: I have decided to increase my market share by delivering candy on other holidays. Halloween doesn’t really have a mascot. That market is ripe for taking over.

Reporter: The Halloween Bunny?

Easter Bunny: I was thinking more like the Halloween Hare.

Please share your ideas in the comments below. Have fun!

Writing Tip — Mythology

king-arthurw-2448042_1280When someone says Zeus or Ares or Thor, most Americans can produced a mental picture because Greek and Norse mythology are fairly well known and have been adapted to popular culture. But many people don’t realize how much Celtic mythology has worked its way into American culture. King Arthur, leprechauns, and banshees are all part of Celtic mythology.

IMG_0275If, like me, you don’t know much about Celtic mythology, The Book of Celtic Myths by Adams Media is a great place to start.  The myths related in the book concern those found in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and Brittany. Because the Celts only used writing after the Romans conquered them, and then not often, historical and archaeological evidence is used to understand the myths.

The books describes origins myths, the major gods and goddesses, heroes, and epic stories. As the Celts converted to Christianity, their gods morphed into the the fairy folk, like banshees, leprechauns, sellkies, and other mischievous or malevolent creatures that people had to be careful to avoid.

Celtic fantasy is already a sub-genre of fantasy, and King Arthur and his knights, originally from Wales, is a sub-sub-genre. But I think aspects of this mythology can be worked into a speculative fiction story set in contemporary times.

The Four Hallows

These four objects possessed unparalleled power in Celtic myths.

  1. The Sword of Light: Belonging to Nuada, an Irish god. None could escape it.
  2. The Invincible Spear: Belonging to the Irish sun god Lugh. It never missed.
  3. The Cauldron of Bounty: Belonging to the Irish god, the Dagda. It was “a source of endless sustenance.”
  4. The Stone of Destiny: This stone “would cry out when walked over by the true king of Tara”, which would make him the high king of Ireland. Some think the Stone of Scone, which now resides in Scotland, was the original Stone of Destiny.

In a speculative fiction story, I could say that these four objects aren’t supernatural but the product of ancient Celtic technology that taps into dark matter. Descendants of the Celts have kept the four objects safe, passing them on to four people, specially chosen from each generation, to use them to serve humanity.

Or a team of archaeologists is looking for them, believing them to be real, and must find the four hallows before an evil billionaire or government spies can locate them.

Fantastic Voyages

“Imram” is the Celtic word for the heroic journey. Three tales of this kind, much like The Odyssey, exist in Celtic myth. The “Voyage of Mael Duin, the Voyage of St. Brendan, and The Voyage of Snedgus and Mac Riagla” qualify as imram stories.

Mael Duin begins his quest to avenge his father’s death. St. Brendan sets out as penance for burning a book. A similar tale could be told in contemporary times of a hero or heroine starting out on a journey with a specific goal, maybe searching for a lost relative. The heroine could travel to a distant country or explore the subcultures of her own country, any place where she would be an outsider. She could acquire and lose companions, meet unusual people and situations, all within a realistic setting.

Which ideas appeal to you, the four hallows or the fantastic voyage? Or is there some other part of Celtic mythology that sparks your imagination?

 

Monday Sparks — Writing Prompts

fantasyw-2925250_1280Since I’ve been writing about mythology, I thought a fantasy prompt would be appropriate. I like this picture because it looks to me like a modern expedition has stumbled onto one of the Titans. Maybe he is Prometheus’s brother, punished by the gods for some crime. The juxtaposition of modern and ancient has so much potential.

I see this story going two ways. The expedition didn’t mean to find or awaken this frozen giant, but they do and they have to fix their blunder. Or the point of the expedition was to find the Titan and awaken him, but Something Goes Horribly Wrong.

What are your ideas? Please share in the comments below.

Writing Tip — Mythology

watersw-3060940_1280If anyone has any doubts that Norse mythology can inspire people in today’s society, she only needs to look to Marvel Comics. Thor is the star of both page and screen, appearing in at least five movies in the Marvel epic so far.

I like Norse mythology better than Greek, maybe because it has more cohesion than the Greek and that appeals to my modern sense of storytelling. Norse mythology has an end, Ragnarok, and a rebirth. No matter what happens in all the other tales concerning the gods and magical beings, it will all end in this epic battle.

Apart from from using the myths to fuel fantasy stories, how else can the Norse myths inspire? Because I’m a character writer, that’s where I am most likely to find inspiration.

Loki

Loki is an intriguing character because he changes over the course of the stories.

Original myth: Loki starts out as trickster, not necessarily an evil character, but one the other gods can’t trust and by whom they are often inconvenienced. But as the stories build to Ragnarok, he becomes the embodiment of evil. That outline makes a compelling arc for a character in any genre.

Update: The Loki character belongs to a family that dominates a certain industry–sports, politics, or tech company. Loki doesn’t have the talent for the family industry and feels left out. However, he discovers he does have a talent for manipulation. In the beginning, he uses it for just small gains or to frustrate members of his family. But as he gets better at manipulating, he faces a choice: to use his ability for good or evil.

Baldur

The story of Baldur is both tragic and uplifting, the latter unusual in Norse myths.

Original myth: Baldur, the most beautiful and kindest of the Norse gods, is killed when Loki tricks Baldur’s blind brother Hoder into killing him. Baldur is trapped in the Underworld. Hoder and Baldur are sons of the king of the gods Odin and his wife Frigga. Another of Odin’s sons kills Hoder in revenge for Baldur’s death.

The death of Baldur signals to the gods the coming of Ragnarok. When just about everyone and everything is destroyed in that battle, Baldur and Hoder leave the Underworld and join the few other surviving gods in the renewed world. I find it interesting that in a myth cycle that is depressing, Baldur and Hoder are given a happy ending.

Update: The Hoder and Baldur characters are brothers, and Hoder permanently injures Baldur. In a contemporary story, it could be that Hoder is driving drunk and cripples Baldur. The family shuns or cuts all contact with Hoder. Years later, when the family is facing tragedy, Baldur and Hoder either work together to avert it or are the only ones to survive it.

In the myths, Baldur has a son Forseti, who is the god of reconciliation. In my contemporary story, a child of the Baldur character could be the catalyst for healing the family.

Recommended books

Again, the books I listed under Greek myths also have helpful sections about Norse ones.

  1. Mythology by Edith Hamilton
  2. Bulfinch’s Mythology by Thomas Bulfinch
  3. Myths and Legends: an Illustrated Guide to Their Origins and Meanings by Philip Wilkinson

Have you read the Norse myths? Which stories do you like?

Writing Tip — Mythology

helmetw-2321740_1280In the fall of 2016, I wrote a few posts on finding inspiration in mythology and decided to revisit the subject.

I only became interested in mythology in the last few years. For someone who writes contemporary crime fiction, it might seem strange that I find inspiration in the tales of ancient Greece or Scandinavia. But it isn’t the centaurs and cyclopses I find inspiring. It’s the themes, the plots of loss and revenge, love and hate, the journey, and the quest.

The Original Soap Opera

I had no idea until I looked at the family trees of the characters in Greek mythology that the ancient Greeks invented the soap opera. The same families pop up over and over again, and the stories begin to read like a never-ending afternoon serial. For example, when Odysseus’s son, Telemachus, is searching for his father after the end of the Trojan war, he stops by Sparta, where King Menelaus and his wife Helen of Troy are happily reconciled and celebrating their daughter’s marriage.

The Story of Orestes, Then and Now

All this family drama provides wonderful inspiration for contemporary stories. For example, the tale of Orestes is ripe for updating.

Original myth: There are several versions with different subplots, but here is one basic versions. King Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter Iphigenia to the gods to gain their favor before he heads to Troy to help his brother recapture his errant wife. Agamemnon’s wife Clytemnestra vows revenges. When Agamemnon returns victorious after being away 10 year fighting, Clytemnestra murders him. An oracle directs Orestes, their son, to avenge his father. He kills his mother but feels enormous guilt, and the Furies hound him.

Update: Father is a member of a powerful Hollywood family. Mother, an actress, and Father divorce and remain enemies. Father grooms and pushes Daughter into the family business. The pressure proves too much, and Daughter overdoses and dies. Mother vows to ruin Father and tries to enlist Son, who is angry with Father but doesn’t hold him responsible for hi sister’s death. What will Son do?

At any point in the story, I can diverge from the myth, which is the wonderful quality of myths. I can use what I want from them and add whatever elements I need.

Swapping Genders

Another way to adapt myths is to change the sex of the character. What would a story based on Hercules be like if the character was female? Or the journey of Odysseus if it was a woman struggling to get him after many years away?

Recommended Books

I have found these books helpful when researching myths.

  1. Myths and Legends: an Illustrated Guide to Their Origins and Meanings by Philip Wilkinson
  2. Mythology by Edith Hamilton
  3. Bulfinch’s Mythology by Thomas Bulfinch

Have you turned to myths for inspiration? Which ones?

 

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