How to Write Your Own Creation Story

Several ancient myths talk about land emerging from dark waters.
... Fernando Alvarez Charro/iStock/Getty Images

A creation story is a mythological tale about beginnings. It may describe the beginning of the universe, the world, a nation, creature or way of life. Folklorists, psychologists and novelists see these stories as critical to sustaining the human imagination and fueling our sense of wonder. “After nourishment, shelter and companionship,” said writer Philip Pullman, “stories are the thing we need most in the world.”

1 Outline Your Ideas

Brainstorm possible ideas for your creation myth. Consider religious and political topics you’re passionate about that might serve as subtext for the story to give it thematic focus. For example, some Jewish scholars of the Old Testament believe the creation story in Genesis was written in response to similar Near Eastern creation stories. The writer of Genesis was making a religious and political statement by showing one God conquering chaos through his voice rather than through violence. Consider which aspects of creation you may wish to highlight. The creation myth in J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Silmarillion” features the creation of the cosmos, Earth and Earth’s topography in addition to showing how various fictional races came into being. Another approach is to address the origin of a particular animal, natural phenomenon or social custom. This is the approach Rudyard Kipling took in his famous “Just-So Stories.”

2 Study Mythology

Read from a wide selection of sacred and mythical texts from across history, taking note of their similarities and differences. More than one ancient story depicts Earth being churned out of muddy waters. The Genesis account of creation shows the waters of chaos rolling back to reveal dry land; in one Cherokee creation story, the earth is found by a diver bringing up mud out of the ocean; a Hindu myth portrays the gods churning the ocean until dry land appears. Borrow a few of these basic structural parallels to shape the creation of your story. If you decide to write a creation myth about a single race, nation or culture, read authoritative texts on the subject to ensure your basic facts are accurate and you understand the base conceptual framework in which the authors wrote and thought. Immerse yourself in the culture of a people by studying their holidays, festivals, food, deities, superstitions and folklore.

3 Fall From Perfection

Having described how the cosmos or planet came into being, consider explaining how civilization passed from its primitive origins into the form we know today. Greek and Hindu mythology and the book of Genesis portray the early years of human existence as a time of universal blessedness and prosperity. Inevitably, paradise is lost and humans go forth to build civilization, resulting in warfare, corruption, disease and injustice. Describe how the world fell from its original state of wholeness into the world we know today.

4 Revision and Completion

Having finished your story, share it with another person or several people to gauge their reactions, eliciting honest and constructive feedback about the internal consistency of the world building and whether the narrative is emotionally compelling. Fantasy novelist Rick Riordan shared his early drafts of the “Percy Jackson” books with his young son and other middle-school students. Because this is a creation story, the narrative doesn’t need to be fully realistic. However, others may help you to assess whether it follows its own rules of logic, pointing out continuity errors and plot holes. After the story has been vetted, consider writing a follow-up exploring your world and its mythology in greater detail.

Boze Herrington is a writer and blogger who lives in Kansas City, Mo. His work has been featured in Cracked and "The Atlantic."