Have you considered your faith lately?
Don’t worry, I’m not here to proselytize or anything like that. I’m talking about faith and religion within your stories. You might be wondering if your story particularly needs an element of faith, and that’s fine. I’ve just noticed that, despite my disdain of theme as a necessary element in fiction, I tend to feature a lot of characters grappling with issues of faith, believe and cynicism.
My 2013 NaNoWriMo effort is shaping up to be no different, as at least some religious elements are present in the very logline of the story:
“A dissolute knight is possessed by a century-old sacrificial victim to overthrow a cruel god.”
That’s a set-up that allows the characters to question their ideals of faith and morality. After all, they don’t necessarily know that the deity in question is a “cruel god.” After all, the story isn’t written yet and so details are mutable. In my current outline, the cruel god has already become a goddess, and I don’t know if she’s cruel or not. Some of her followers might be, as we see them practicing human sacrifice in the prologue.
Of course, writing fantasy makes those elements a bit easier as you can create an entire spectrum of faiths and immense polytheistic pantheons of deities from whole cloth. Religious characters don’t solely have to exist within the realm of fantasy though. After all, religion has undergirded politics throughout much of human history. Or at least that’s how it seems to me. Some of that is likely because of the role Catholicism versus Protestantism played in the history of my home country, and I’ve also likely been subconsciously influenced by the “Richard II” episode of the BBC/PBS Hollow Crown show, which is just suffused with Christian iconography, particularly motifs of martyrdom.
I’ve concentrated on the Christian faith here, simply because I’m a Westerner who identifies as a Christian (“write what you know,” and all that) but there are many other faiths that could easily fit into your story world, from the ancient Greek and Norse pantheons, to Eastern religions such as Hinduism or Shinto and through such thing as Islam to modern beliefs such as Scientology, all offer plenty of grist for the story mill.
Even contemporary news and politics show the immense impact of religion on the world we inhabit. Just look at how often Islam and Judaism are mentioned when it comes to the eternal struggle that is the Middle Eastern peace process. Even he in the US, political debates often become framed in the terms of religious vs. secular, despite the very constitution itself granting the freedom of, and therefore freedom from religion.
I don’t see that changing any time soon, so religious and spiritual differences are always going to be available as a plot driver and character development tool. It’s also one that if handled well brings up a lot of publicity and sales. After all, even if you hate it, you have heard of The Da Vinci Code , which Dan Brown did very well out of based off one unusual take on religious history.
So, does faith play a part in your writing?
(Photograph by Dennis Elema of Cologne Cathedral)