I’ve posted on here before that I’ve tried to make sure I use enough truth in what I write. Not that I believe that there are huge magical armies out there but that I take well known, and indeed not so well known, tales of mythology from all kinds of places around the world just to give what I write a place to start, if you will.
When you read any kind of story you automatically look around for elements that you recognise to hold onto. Characteristics in people that you have a strong feeling for, parts of a story that you recognise. It’s those things that allow you to then believe all the other bits of fiction that come rushing along out of the blue.
So all you have to do to create any form of engagement from the reader is chuck in a load of references to all kinds of religions, mythology and folklore and you’re sorted, right?
I’ve just been watching a TV show recently which deals in magic and monsters and I’ve noticed that, whereas previously it used the details of already established stories quite sparingly, it had eventually begun throwing all kinds of things together as a whole with an almost insane abandon. As each episode passed and more and more elements were piled upon the altar of story telling, the central narrative began to creak and sway under the accumulating weight.
By adding in nuggets of other stories, sprinkling just a hint of these details throughout any piece of work, you can allow for improvements to the experience but, as every chef will attest, if you add too much of a particular ingredient the overall flavour can be destroyed. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing.
I’ll bet that you’ve read all kinds of stories that have taken some kind of well known mythology as a basis but it’s the ones that either stay honest to the source materials (the Percy Jackson novels I feel fit here) or only use the stories as a starting point which do the business. Mixing too much together often ends up with the baggage which comes with each of the myths getting in the way. You find it hard to believe that elements could link because of the wider histories of each tale.
I need to have fragments of ‘fact’, as it were, in everything I write. It allows me the foundations to build on. But you have to always make sure that you’re using information in the correct way. Less really is more.