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Friday, June 11, 2010

Religion

It only occurred to me a year or so ago that religion is crucial to the creation of culture. (Case and point, Elantris by Brandon Sanderson.)

I don’t think a story has to have religion to be good, but it’s something to consider. Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series steers away from religious beliefs—I think Bella mentions in some clause somewhere that she’s never believed in it, and that’s that. The books are successful, no religion necessary. There are a handful of epic and heroic fantasy novels that don’t dwell in religion either. (Call to readers: posts ones you know of in comments for fun-times’ sake.)

Anyway, religion has become larger and larger in my writing as it’s progressed. I remember, in the planning process of TR, coming up with a central plot feature and being surprised that it was entirely religious. (Of course, when you come up with story ideas whilst sitting in church, that’s bound to happen.)

A lot of writers insert their beliefs and moral code into what they write, whether they intend to or not. I don’t. At least, I don’t think I do. For me, fantasy is something entirely different from my actual life. As far as I know, I’ve never preached in my books. But, as I get deeper into TR, I find my characters soul-searching (literally) more than I thought they would. At the end of chapter 13, I think, “Huh, isn’t that interesting. More work for me, as now I have to keep this up.”



Quote a la Day:

“I think . . .” Esrov hesitated, starting up the same path Ranny had, “I think it’s my soul.”
“Soul?” Todorov asked. “Do we have souls?”
“Shouldn’t we?” he countered, staring at his feet. “What else makes us live the way we do, makes us more than just another animal in the woods?”
Todorov shrugged. “Brains, I guess. I don’t know, I guess I never thought about it. I mean, if we have something more than that, then . . .” He paused, rubbing his head. “Goads, I don’t know. I hate this philosophical stuff.”

[…]

Who could know the sorts of things
That make a body whole?
But when I cut into my skin,
I cannot see a soul.

-The Raimos, Chapter 13

2 comments:

  1. Yeah, even if the protagonist isn't religious, there will at least most likely be some religious influence that has shaped the protagonist's culture, so it's a good thing to keep in mind when world-building.
    The amount of religious themes I've used has varied from book to book. I needed to research Hinduism a lot for my one in India, for example. But I'd like to try my hand at creating a fictional religion some time.

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  2. Twilight steered away from religion in the story, but it was just a huge, blatant bastardization of mormon ideals it came through quite clear. Wanting to be bit by Edward to be "married for eternity?" Choosing the boy she could have "forever" verses "until she died?" Meyer didn't exactly have a subtle touch when dabbling mormonism with vampirism.

    As for religion, it is easily my most favorite part of writing a fantasy novel, mostly because nearly every culture in the world has a form of religion permeating through it. Think about it: do you know anywhere in our world where you could go and have there be no religion? It's a cultural, worldwide phenomena. So, when concocting a fantasy story, one of my favorite parts is figuring out exactly how much of an influence the religion has on the society. We have holidays in the United States based on major christian events. We aren't all christian, but that influence is still there. This could apply to a fantasy world too; even a non-believer of whatever deities you as an author concocts has to be influenced by them in some particular way.

    Long story short, making fake religions is fun. Yeah, that pretty much sums up all my previous blathering.

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