Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games all use elements from established mythological stories. (This is a very different concept than using a monomyth pattern to structure a story.)
The use of a familiar myth helps make the magic more plausible because you already have practice in imagining these fantastic gods and creatures. They already exist in our communal memory, and I think we are just as eager as the YA hero to make the leap and believe that the magic is real.
Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone: Harry meets the myths
Harry meets centaurs in the forbidden forest: “And into the clearing came– was it a man, or a horse? . . . He walked forward and shook the centaur’s hand.” (HP Ch.15)
Harry encounters Fluffy in the forbidden corridor, who is guarding a trap door. This clearly resembles Cerberus, the three-headed guard dog of Hades: “They were looking straight into the eyes of a monstrous dog, a dog that filled the whole space between ceiling and floor. It had three heads.” (HP Ch.9) (Fluffy also appears in Ch.16).
Twilight: Bella discusses the myths
Bella researches mythology when she suspects that Edward is a vampire: “It was a relief, that one small entry, the one myth among hundreds that claimed the existence of good vampires.” (TW Ch.7)
Bella also considers Greek mythology when looking at the vampire family’s collection of art: “I couldn’t tell if it represented Greek mythology, or if the characters floating in the clouds above were meant to be biblical. . . . I examined the grouping carefully and realized, with a startled laugh, that I recognized the gold-haired man.” (TW Ch.16)
The Hunger Games: Katniss fights like a myth
The Hunger Games is based on the myth of the Minotaur. Author Suzanne Collins explains in an interview with School Library Journal: “It’s very much based on the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, which I read when I was eight years old. I was a huge fan of Greek and Roman mythology. As punishment for displeasing Crete, Athens periodically had to send seven youths and seven maidens to Crete, where they were thrown into the labyrinth and devoured by the Minotaur, which is a monster that’s half man and half bull. Even when I was a little kid, the story took my breath away, because it was so cruel, and Crete was so ruthless.”
The tributes fight to the death in an arena for public entertainment, much like the ancient Roman gladiators. Even though this is a historical analogy, I think the idea of enjoying such a spectacle is so foreign to us that it seems like myth now: “The twenty-four tributes will be imprisoned in a vast outdoor arena that could hold anything from a burning desert to a frozen wasteland. Over a period of several weeks, the competitors must fight to the death.” (HG Ch.1)
Additionally, many of the characters have Ancient Roman names, like Caesar, Cato, Brutus, and Octavia in the Hunger Games, and Minerva (Prof. McGonagall) in Harry Potter. However, these names build on the mythical elements already in the story– I doubt that just throwing in some ancient sounding names will add much to the master outline if it does not further other imagery.
Choose 1-2 mythological figures for the Hero to meet or discuss. Place one reference in the middle of the story, and one reference near the end;
OR choose PART of a story to incorporate into the Hero’s obstacles.
With either option:
Let the Hero be in awe/fear of these myths when they appear
Let the Hero use the myths as a stepping stone for comprehending the magic going on all around him now.
P.S. Wondering why I linked the Greek Myth references to Merriam-Webster? Well, besides geeking-out over dictionaries like the writer I am, I like the sparse, succinct answers from a dictionary entry as opposed to the exhaustive crowd-composed Wikipedia articles. A little less distraction is a good thing.