Friday, June 5, 2015

Are You Religious? Girl, I Am Tonight!

Were you expecting someone with a smaller chest?
Love it or hate it, religion is a part of life and has been ever since Gorg got scared of lightening and
decided to make a deal with Grik-Grik the God of Bright Lights that Might Kill Me.  It doesn’t matter if Gorg made up Grik-Grik, or if Grik-Grik hisownself came down in a shower of fire and hail of rocks surrounded by a company of armored, busty, spearwomen.

The point is, religion was born!

Writers have the chance to right that wrong, or to wrong that right depending on their take.  J.R.R. Tolkien famously conceived of an entire world and mythology that, to a great degree, was informed by his own faith.  That we readers and movie-goers have benefitted from his creativity bespeaks well of how religion can shape writing.

That’s not to say that the incorporation of religion is the first, best and only path to success as a writer.  There are books available that incorporate, almost to the exclusion of plot, character or other fantasy/science fiction tropes, religion and are the worse for it.

That said, religion should be considered one of the potential tools for a writer to use in world building.  It is entirely possible to reject religion outright in genre fiction.  J.K. Rowling doesn’t have much in the way of an organized faith throughout the Harry Potter series, and no one would contend the story is the worse for it.

Religion can be used in so many ways within the mosaic of a creative world.  As Aristotle wrote in Politics:

A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious.

What this religion really needs is more shield maidens.
Belief, whether the gods be real or not, can make heroes of monsters and monsters of the otherwise heroic.  It can bring together villains and divide lovers.  It can forge peace, break apart allies and throw society into devastating war.  Correctly woven into the tapestry of a writer’s world, religion can become its own supporting character, and provide unique twists and turns for your readers’ enjoyment.

So don’t forget that old, old, really old religion when generating your characters, your kingdom’s history, or the entire creation of your world.  As Gorg found with Lord Grik-Grik, it’s better to lose your best spear, than your life!

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