Generating Ideas for Writing - Myths

Gremlins like to sabotage airplanes, and the world sits on the back of a turtle. The first is a modern myth, the second is an ancient myth. Not all stories are myths, but all myths are stories. Old ones can be retold and re-imagined, new ones can be born. Maybe I can do something with a myth.

There is a great book called Bulfinch's Mythology. It contains many ancient myths, and many slightly more modern legends. I have noticed that many of the stories have pretty good plots, but the style tends to be old, which seems to be a tendency in things that are retold. Those stories are just asking to be renewed. King Arthur is one that is tuned into a new movie or television show every few years, but there are many others that are no less intriguing. I am attracted to the Ancient Greek and Medieval European stories, but I don't feel like retelling one of those stories right now. What about an animal?

Gremlins are more of a "creature" than an animal. The Minotaur and centaurs are half-human half-animal. All three of those sound like they contain many interesting stories yet to be told. What about unicorns? They are definitely a mythical creature, but I don't want it to be the usual unicorns frolicking through fields with rainbows in the background type of children's story. Let's add some excitement to it.

What if unicorns were a real animal in ancient history, but they are all extinct now because . . . they were hunted for the healing properties of their blood, or turning their horns into magical weapons. Those could work. I want to have humans in here, but you could have certain humans trying to protect or save the unicorns from their persecution. It would be a tragic tale, but I started with the thought that there was once an animal that is now extinct, in general it has a slightly tragic theme to it. Kind of a cultural destruction myth rather than a creation myth. There can be heroic stories of triumph in shorter time periods and in certain contexts. Maybe a secret society still has unicorns and they keep them secret. What if the unicorns were really just horses, but horses that had some sort of special magical thing done to them when they were born so that they became unicorns. The great civilization that did this ritual had a war with other civilizations, and even though they were more advanced, they lost against the barbarians. This echoes the idea of taking stories from history article I wrote last week. Rome was taken by barbarians several times, and eventually was completely lost.

Okay, apparently I am building a world here.

An ancient civilization performs secret rituals on horses during their birth that gives them greater speed, grace, and intelligence. A single horn grows from the horse's forehead, and their blood has healing properties. The barbarian hoards surrounding the empire have fought them for centuries, at first to stop the expansion of the empire, and now they want to conquer the empire itself, steal the unicorns, tear down the temples, and destroy everything that has been built through centuries of blood, sweat, and sacrifice.

That is just a tiny glimpse into a world, but a good start. What about the story though? Who is doing what?

Maybe a special battalion is formed to protect the emperor, when the city is conquered they flee with him. They successfully found a new city, but the ancient rituals of unicorns are lost when the priests, temples, and books are destroyed. That is part of the legend of Troy and Rome as found in the Aeneid. There could also be a siege story like Troy in the Iliad. Maybe a journey home like the Odyssey. All of the ancients remade and retold in a new world.

Maybe we could focus on these mysterious rituals. A rogue priest that goes against the religion/church in an attempt to save unicorns. He is trying to save unicorns and is fighting his own church, his own government, and the barbarians to do it. There is definitely a lot of room for conflict.

Maybe we could focus on someone that steals a unicorn. Maybe there is a whole runaway group. Maybe a doctor that needs one to save lives and has to save the unicorn from the barbarians, or has to steal one from the empire or church. Maybe a farmer just happens to have one and leads a resistance movement after the empire is conquered. Let's just pick someone and see if they can be an interesting character.

Without Grey, Juno will die. Juno needs to drink a small amount of unicorns blood everyday to fight off the disease, to keep her alive. Her parents worked for her entire life to pay off the loan they had to take to get Grey; now they are dead, killed by some of the mongrels that invaded the city and burned down her house. A teenage girl and a unicorn on the run in an empire overrun by enemies on all sides. Her parents used to tell her stories of a frozen city across the desert to the north, if they could just get there, everything would be okay. She isn't sure if she can avoid the barbarians, if Grey can carry her that far, if she can make it across the desert; but, what choice does she have?

That seems okay. The setting, character, and plot all seem okay. For some reason I am not super excited about them, but it is interesting. Maybe I will have to look at gremlins more next time. You are welcome to see what happens at


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