For some reason here at Dancing Bear Books, we cannot get enough of #FolkloreThursday! It's safe to say it's when our social feeds are at their most positive. This week, we've decided to do something a little bit special for FolkloreThursday. Instead of sharing real folklore, we've decided to do a small blog post on Folklore in writing, why it's important to build your own and how to build your own. Here goes! HAPPY FOLKLORE THURSDAY EVERYONE!
Folklore is amazing, here's why you should reference it in your writing, even if you aren't writing fantasy fiction!
As you can tell we're fans of folklore - that's something that's hard for us to hide. We spend every waking minute just basking in it as much of it as we can. Folklore was the first kind of story and a way for our kind to explain the mysteries of the universe. If that's not interesting then I don't know what is. There are many links between folklore and the metaphors of life and that's comforting because sometimes you just need to be told it's going to be okay. That's what folklore is at its heart - it's a big hug.
You should reference folklore in your work because it references you. It references real life in a way that our psychology can manage when things get too dark for us to see. Folklore can also be a great tool while exploring in writing, granted be subtle, but there are some really great parallels you can pull from folklore to tell your story. Be introspective, be imaginative and use the tools around you to make beautiful writing.
I've found some of the most profound writing I've read by searching for folklore related work. That's not to say that these stories are direct retellings either. Susan Hill's The Woman in Black heavily symbolises The Banshee in the way the Woman in Black is described. After reading Hill's work it was clear to me that the character of Jennet, in all her malevolence screamed because her child was dead and so in her death, she became the symbol of grief, much like the banshee.
This is just one example of subtly using folklore archetypes in mainstream work. In summary, don't be scared to explore humanities roots and look into the beliefs of some of the most imaginative people that lived and died. They didn't have science to explain some of the great natural wonders of the world and that made them the greatest storytellers of all.
There's lots of folklore to choose from, but that shouldn't stop you from building your own!
While the folklore we have is incredible and vast, don't let that stop you from getting inspired and building your own. Writing is all about how you can take a concept and make it original, so be inspired and build your own. Some of the greatest writers said 'Sod the rules' and have created some of the greatest works in living memory.
A great example of formidable world building is actually Dungeons and Dragons (which myself and my business partner as super prone to playing weekly). The imagination, story and character that goes into LARP (live action role play) is just out of this world. You have to be super creative and able to really get inside the minds of your characters. We've both used our D&D characters as case studies for characters in our actual work and having them in a fantasy setting where anything is possible is priceless for your development.
Build you own worlds, but make sure to be aware of the line between inspiration and stealing. I've worked a lot with (for example) the D&D universe, but that doesn't belong to me. It's okay to be inspired by it, but I can't take patented content and use it for myself. It's my belief anyway that we should put on our creative thinking caps and let the world inside our head run free on the page. Which brings me to...
World building Basics
Do not copy world building from anywhere else, immediately (and rather obviously) it becomes less original when it's stolen. Why would you steal from someone else when your imagination has never been more valuable. Never underestimate yourself, your mind is goldmine for world building because the world you see is different to everyone because of your life and the path you have walked.
Use that to your advantage, let the reader see life through your lens, or your character's lens.
Use your work to explore the political state of the world or use it as a metaphor for your character's journey.
Be original and be inspired. Experiment with unique concepts and outlandish science. Let water flow up instead of down, make islands float in the sky, change the way gravity works. This is your world, anything is possible and that is the first step to designing beautiful, imaginative and memorable world.
And finally, just to prove my point! Here is a bunch of amazing authors who experiment with folklore and world building...
J R R Tolkien
Hans Christian Anderson
And literally thousands more....