I didn’t set out to use my (mostly) Greek mythology in Bad Blood to justify years spent in Latin class painfully declining verbs. I didn’t really set out to use it at all. I began with a character in my head. I didn’t know much about her at first, just that she was in the wrong place at the wrong time to see something very bad go down. I knew that she was pretty hard-boiled because of her voice, which started out originally in the very noir and self-consciously literary technique of talking to the audience, in this case about the properties of blood—particularly the scent, and the way her hind brain reacted to it.
My novels always seem to start with voice, and the first draft always begins with the character waxing all expository, talking to the audience…or, really, to me. I quickly do away with all that in subsequent drafts, but this is how I always come to know my characters. I knew that Tori Karacis, my heroine in Bad Blood, had to be something special, not because of marketing concerns, but because of the way she responded to the really bad thing—a little too calmly, a little too analytically and a little too credibly. She’d seen weird before, and it didn’t phase her.
I don’t know when I realized about the gorgon blood. Probably about the same time the heroine realized it herself. As soon as I knew, though, it all made perfect sense. Who wouldn’t like a heroine who could literally stop men in their tracks? I knew I totally wanted to be her. That’s the great thing about writing, I could be someone else for awhile and call it writing rather than insanity.
But my blog title says that I’m here to talk about myth, and really I am. I was an anthropology and English/writing double major in college. Now, as any English major knows, any ten people (or more) can look at the same piece of writing, whether it be poetry or prose, and read entirely different things into it. In anthropology there are endless theories about human evolution and no definitive family trees because every scientist wants his or her own find to be the conclusive “missing link.” We’ve created entirely new and subsequently debunked species on the basis of a single molar or lone skull cap.
Let me tell you, nothing, is more bendy than mythology. If you read any five books on the subject, I can almost guarantee you that every one will have a different take on the origins of the god Apollo, for example, or whether Medusa was turned into a monster by Athena in revenge for committing sacrilege in her temple with Poseidon (I’ll leave it to your imagination the form of sacrilege) or whether she and her sisters were already all gorgonic. The thing is that myths and legends were passed along orally for ages…and anyone who ever played telephone as a kid knows just how twisty a tale can get going from point A to point B. Beyond that, myths and worship would spread as places traded and invaded. Local tales and deities would get all tangled up with the outside influences until one would transplant another or become nearly indistinguishable.
Why is this good for readers and writers? Well, for one, chances are that my Greek mythology won’t be just like someone else’s. I can choose the version of the stories that fit best with what it is that I want to do. Someone else’s mileage may vary. It doesn’t mean that mine is right or that someone else’s is wrong. If Zeus or Poseidon came down from Olympus tomorrow to set the records straight—I know, I know, but just ride my crazy train for a moment—I doubt even they’d agree on how everything went down. So, it’s fun and it’s different and ever-changing. I can write-off my mythology books, read about all sorts of ancient scandals and call it work. Best of all, I can twist it all up like a bendy straw, stick it into a nice, modern setting and let you drink a taste-bud tingling concoction through it. Plot, action, hot gods and heavenly heroines.
That’s my hope anyway. You’ll have to let me know how the nice bendy straw works out for you.