Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Guest blogger Sapphire Phelan

Can Myths and Legends Be Translated to Paranormal/Urban Fantasy Fiction?

With paranormals and urban fantasy so popular these days, the question is, can a writer take any myth or legend and revision it for a modern urban fantasy or paranormal storyline? Yes, it can be done. It has been said that there are only seven or eight storylines out there. So it’s up to the author to make their story different enough to take notice.

As one who has read countless myths, legends and urban legends over the years, I find my best heroes, heroines, and villains from these. A good example is the Finmen myths from the Orkney Island. There were drowning deaths of local women in the sea and I think the people chose these stories to explain the reasons why. I twisted the drowning women angle and took it from Orkney Island to a beachfront in America, and the story became an erotic and dark male/male urban fantasy with romance at one point in my career. Yes, it did get published.

There are lots of weird and bizarre tales, all which had been told around campfires and hearths. Stories of ancient people’s gods and goddesses were mankind’s first fantasies and horror stories. Years later, writers took what they heard at their mother’s or father’s knee, and turned it into many great works of fiction that we still read today. Think of Dracula, Frankenstein, Edgar Allan Poe’s works, and H. P. Lovecraft’s stories, just to name a few.

But how does a writer of today take something that has already been told over and over and rebirth it for an urban fantasy? By twisting and tweaking the storyline here and there, new characters, updating it to a modern cityscape and you have the story. What better backdrop for fantastical beings and situations than mundane landscape we know every day of our lives? After all, how would a dragon or a unicorn or a vampire react if suddenly dropped into the middle of gang warfare, or a busy shopping day at Wal-Mart’s? What if some man standing in the checkout line at the supermarket has his body rip apart just before closing and some terrifying thing out of Lovecraftian mythos emerges. What would the ordinary cashier of that checkout do to save the customers and his fellow workers? See what I mean? Add romance to it, and a paranormal or fantasy romance is born. Or don’t use romance, it’s all up to the writer and what she/he feels is right for what they’re writing.

Urban fantasy is all about the odds. Mundane human beings becoming heroes or heroines, or maybe some unicorn must become the savior to save the virgin in distress. Especially if the unicorn is female and a shapeshifter and the virgin is a man. It’s all about how you play the urban legend and retool it for the urban fantasy.

So, any author searching for that new story they want to do, should run and not walk to their local library or bookstore and check out the nonfiction section where books on ghost stories, myths, legends and urban legends are shelved. After all, there is no new tale, just how you update it for modern fiction.

Sapphire Phelan

Go beyond the usual, instead take the unusual that stretches the boundaries and find romance with Sapphire Phelan's aliens, werewolves, vampires, fairies, and other supernatural/otherworldly heroes and heroines.

Buy Being Familiar With a Witch:
Buy Just Another Paranormal Monday Halloween Anthology (His Girl by Sapphire Phelan included):
Unwitting Sacrifice (print):


  1. Great post! It reminded me of one of my favorite scenes from one of Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden novels. Harry, a wizard being chased by some immortal evil monster or other, gets trapped doing battle in a suburban Walmart. I've never looked at Walmart garden sections the same!

  2. I love taking the stories that have become a part of the common consensus and mucking them up... Nothing set in stone! Well, maybe that sword, but that could be toyed with, I'm sure of it! ;-)