Writerly Wednesdays

The Oldest Myth: Storytelling Lessons From a 5000-Year-Old Writer

The oldest story that has survived is about 4,725 years old. Yet, despite the passage of nearly five millennia, Gilgamesh still stands as the timeless benchmark for storytelling. Its enduring appeal lies in its ability to cater to the very essence of human storytelling.

As a king, Gilgamesh was wild and untamed. The people, desperate for a change, prayed for help, and the gods responded by sending a man to wrestle with him until he learned to behave. In a twist of fate, they become best friends and embark on a series of adventures. However, tragedy strikes, and Gilgamesh is forced to confront his own mortality, leading him on a profound journey of self-discovery and eventual enlightenment.

The story offers a fantastic array of help for our novels that have instructed writers for thousands of years. Your book should have some of these qualities similar to Gilgamesh to connect with readers.

  1. Never be boring, so add conflict and tension
  2. Plot twists must fit logically
  3. The human condition never changes, even with technology—suffering is awful
  4. Women’s roles in society have long been a point of discussion
  5. Yes, the story discusses the oldest profession, and it’s not basketweaving
  6. Class structures are a great way to add tension
  7. Love is an excellent storyline to add to every novel
  8. Relationships are interesting to read about—not solely about sexual tension
  9. Connecting to a world event is compelling (war, disaster, great people and discoveries—Gilgamesh is connected to The Great Flood)
  10. Humans search for meaning, the characters in novels are searching, and the readers are on their quest who watch characters in hopes of insight

Your book should have some of these qualities to connect with readers, except perhaps the oldest profession. However, some superb Christian Fiction novels deal with the subject brilliantly.

Are you interested in reading Gilgamesh in a book club? Go to Idahope’s Facebook page and comment on the post for this article, and we’ll all plan a time to meet!

Not all views expressed are those of every member of ICW.


  • Peter Leavell

    Peter Leavell, a graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history and a MA in English Literature, was the 2011 winner of the Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author, along with multiple other awards. An author, blogger, teacher, ghostwriter, jogger, biker, husband, and father, Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com

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