We’ve just turned five! We’re now old enough that you can trust us with scissors. It’s been a long journey from a fledgling blog to a bustling online space. Allow me to share the highlights.
Top Articles of All Time
You’d think it would be easy to choose the most popular articles in our archive, but it’s like comparing apples to oranges. Our newest posts benefit from much higher traffic on first release, while our oldest posts have had five years to accumulate views. Articles can also go viral long after their original publishing date. Many of these weren’t even in the top ten list for their year. But since I have to choose, here are my picks for top ten.
Storytellers want to have their cake and eat it too, even if the cake is absolute perfection, and the eating is relatable flaws. The inevitable result of trying to have it both ways is a character that defies human nature. These characters have traits that … read more »
You’d think patriarchy would be good for men, but it isn’t. Patriarchy enforces strict standards of masculinity that are impossible to meet. But because masculine traits are glorified, it’s easy to lose sight of how toxic they are to men. As storytellers, we may think we’ve created strong central characters when … read more »
When storytellers are cornered by a tough plot problem, our first instinct is to ignore the problem by making our characters behave irrationally. Then we use character dialogue to handwave it and hope the audience doesn’t notice how unrealistic it is. Just take these six excuses. Read more »
Roleplaying games take us on marvelous adventures. They provide hours and hours of entertainment with our friends. They let us become active parts of our favorite stories instead of passive observers. Unfortunately, they have a dark side as well. Several dark sides, in fact. We’ve … read more »
Let’s face it, fights between pure good and absolute evil are getting old. Black and white morality doesn’t lend itself to nuanced characters, and it rarely feels realistic anymore. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have epic battles that determine the fate of the world. … read more »
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if making a story sexism-free was as easy as not being a misogynist jerk? Unfortunately, living in a patriarchal society means that sexism feels normal to most of us. If you want to prevent sexist tropes from getting into your work, you have to learn about them. Read more »
Tropes get repeated over and over again throughout spec fic, and usually that’s fine. Many tropes are perfectly acceptable. Others are just lazy writing, sacrificing believability for narrative convenience. We’re concerned with the second group today. Fear not, there’s always a way out, no matter … read more »
The internet abounds with exercises to help storytellers develop their characters. These steps are all helpful, but none of them are irreplaceable. What’s important is the end result. But what does that endpoint look like? Here are five signs that you’ve arrived. Read more »
Once in a while, storytellers slip up when crafting a protagonist. A character that was supposed to be an audience favorite becomes the focus of malice and frustration instead. While each person’s taste in characters is unique, some traits are likely to inspire intense dislike. … read more »
Sitting before me is City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, the first book in the bestselling Mortal Instruments series. I don’t know anything about the story, but I can see on the cover there’s a guy thinking, Hello, my eyes are up here! Wait – … read more »
The Landmarks of Our Five Years
Running Mythcreants has involved a lot of trial, error, and slow improvement. Here’s some notable steps along our path to today.
August 2013: Website Launch
Before launch we prepare twelve pieces, including some truly ridiculous posts by me. Jack writes and draws the comic Magic Beans, and Mike decides he’s interested in podcasting. Luckily, Oren runs a podcast where he discusses Star Trek for two hours every week, and he agrees to help us with ours. Soon, I am unwittingly roped into it.
November 2013: First Big Post
Our first “popular” post is published – my Five Unrealistic Characters Traits. I get excited when SF Signal links to us, sending a whopping 60 people to the website. That’s nothing really, but Five Unrealistic Characters Traits continually gets bursts of traffic as it’s discovered by more people.
January 2014: Pinterest Deluge
Mike suggests we make a Pinterest account and start sharing posts there. I’m skeptical. Isn’t that for sharing images rather than articles? But I reluctantly agree. Later that year, Pinterest doubles our traffic.
October 2014: New Leadership
Jack discontinues Magic Beans and departs the leadership team (we’re still on great terms). In his place, we add the blogger, podcaster, and audio editor that we’ve come to rely on: Oren. Around the same time, Oren finally notices that I blog every week. Not to be outdone, he doubles his blogging frequency. Because somehow that’s not enough, he also starts the Roll Dice Already comic with illustrator Lillian Ripley.
On the hunt for additional copy editors, Dash finds Ariel at a party. Ariel sends us a message saying she is a “a creative writer and aspiring editor stuck in the body of a technical writer” and offers her “undying devotion” to Mythcreants. Ariel’s passion for copyediting quickly sets her apart. Satisfied that they are leaving their editing duties in good hands, Dash decides to take a well-earned break from contributing for a little while, and Ariel takes up the position of senior copy editor.
January 2015: Viral Anger
Oren’s Five Destructive Myths Perpetuated by Roleplaying Games goes viral. We get so many toxic comments from tabletop reactionaries (aka grognards) that we start calling it “comment-geddon.” As we celebrate our first viral post, we discuss what our rules for comments should be.
April 2015: Podcast Crisis
The audio quality of our podcasts is terrible, and we don’t know why. It’s so bad we have to throw away several podcasts we recorded, and we post others with an apology. We spend an entire day making test recordings in hopes of solving the problem. I even make a blanket fort for us to record in. The tests seem okay, but when we actually record again, it sounds awful once more. I’m ready to pull my hair out when I talk to a sound technician friend. He helps me discover the thing I hadn’t accounted for: the computer. It turns out my laptop makes terrible recordings. We use a different computer, and the crisis is averted.
June 2015: First Critique Post
After trying to read Sword of Shannara, I write an experimental post breaking down how bad it is. The post is popular, so I write more like it. Then Oren writes some. After reading these posts, people start asking if they can hire us to edit their work. We discuss the possibility.
August 2015: Patrons Help Us Out
The exponential increase in traffic is emptying our pocketbooks. Mike works hard to create our Patreon program. Soon, our patrons contribute enough to cover our basic expenses. We still aren’t getting paid for all the work we’re doing, but now we don’t have to dig into our savings just to keep the site running. Thanks, patrons!
Fall 2015 – Summer 2016: Editing Coursework
Ariel and Oren enroll in an editing program at the University of Washington. There Ariel meets Wes, a copy editor who likes speculative fiction writing and roleplaying. He tells me he likes the blog – except he wishes Oren would stop playing DnD instead of criticizing it. Wes joins up anyway, and the rest of the team is awed by his talent for flattery.
March 2016: Social Justice Goes Viral
I write Five Signs Your Story Is Sexist. It goes viral. It also attracts lots of angry commenters, but we’re used to that by now. We start writing more Signs Your Story Is Bigoted posts, and social justice topics become a more regular part of our content production.
Summer 2016: Products & Services Added
We also offer editing services for the first time. Over the next year, I make several large revisions to the editing pages so our services are easy to understand and order.
December 2016: Podcast Change-Up
Mike is so busy with his day job that he has to step down from hosting the podcast. After wowing us in a guest appearance, Wes becomes a regular host. The podcast is now a weekly half-hour affair, instead of an hour every other week. We also now record on three tracks in separate locations. It’s more work for us to edit, but the audio quality is better.
May 2017: Flight to New Webhost
Traffic has continued to rise, and our webhost is eating up more and more of our meager budget. After a big search, we select a new host. But when we try to move there, we find it isn’t compatible with some critical features of our site. We cancel the effort. After some trials and tribulations, we manage to migrate to our second choice. The next year, the old host announces it’s getting even more expensive. Phew.
November 2017 – April 2018: New Content
In 2015, we resolved not to create even more free content lest we burn out. Now our resolve fails. We add fiction and a new actual (role)play podcast. Our last actual play didn’t work out so well, but we’ve learned things since then. Maybe this one will be different? And after answering people’s questions for years, we finally put those answers up on the website. We justify all this new content by saying it’s mostly work we’d be doing anyway, but Oren and I know we have a problem.
The People of Mythcreants
Sometimes I try to imagine what Mythcreants would have been without some of the people who donated their time and talent, but that’s impossible. Mythcreants is the people who contribute to it. So while I’ve already mentioned our key team members, there’s many additional people who deserve thanks.
- As our first copy editor, Dash Buck did loads of work and was instrumental in shaping our editorial conventions.
- Kristin Aline, Brandon Kier, Jessica Lee, and Temi Abdulkareem have all done copyediting for us.
Blog and Podcast Contributions
- Ed Turner, David Mesick, Lillian Ripley, Jessica Lee, Dash Buck, Brandon Kier, and Mythbot have all written many articles for us.
- Thanks to our returning guest bloggers: Mira Singer, Andrew Falconer, Joel Migas, and Devlin Blake.
- Johnathan Preshaw, Ari Ashkenazi, Grace Moore, and Rhys Subitch have each written an article and are also reoccuring guests on our podcast.
- Thanks to everyone else who’s been a podcast guest: Chloe Jandsen, Elise Abramson, Graham Swanson, David Mesick, Sarah Gould, Kristin Aline, Michelle Christine Heiner, Dash Buck, Elly Bangs, and Fay Onyx.
- Lillian Ripley has been a fantastic illustrator for the Roll Dice Already comic. She also illustrated The Voyage.
- Thanks to MJ Carlson, Sarah Gould, Johnathan Preshaw, Kristin Aline, Michelle Christine Heiner, and Dash Buck for narrating our stories.
- Dash Buck has done wonderful audio editing work on our stories.
- Thanks to JEm for helping us with some early setup and paperwork.
While we’ve accomplished a lot for a volunteer blog, we still have big dreams and a long way to go. We’re planning more exciting developments in the years ahead, and we hope you’ll be there with us.