Religion and the Writing Craft

But first an apology. I have been unable to access this account for some time now. I have finally resolved the issue that was preventing my publishing blogs. However, now I have  quite a few back-ups rather than the ones that I had set up for a vacation I was going to take, that now is no longer going to happen. I’m setting them up today to publish in the future. Now, back to the blog.

C.S. Lewis wrote a famous series of novels called the Chronicles of Narnia. Within these novels are some thinly veiled Christian references, and in the most recent movie adaptations these references are hard to miss. He is not, by any means, the only author to mix religion with fantastical elements. Piers Anthony wrote a series called the Incarnations of Immortality that follows the incarnations of Mars, the Fates, Mother Earth, Death and even Good and Evil  (although I have yet to actually read the latter two).

Religious mythologies from around the world have inspired many works. Authors can take two different roads using mythology. They can take parts of the mythologies and then tweak them until they have what they need. Alternatively, they can mask the mythologies completely, as C.S. Lewis does (God and Christ are never overtly mentioned, merely implied).

But why would an author even use religion and/or mythology? And at what point do you draw the line? I suppose part of the answer to this question would be what your genre is. If you are writing for a specific religious market (ie: Christian, Muslim, etc) then one of the main themes in your novel would be the religious elements, it may be the main theme. The rest must lay with how comfortable the author is using the various mythological/religious elements. Most, I would presume, are fairly comfortable applying ancient beliefs in new and different ways than previously thought o (ie: Percy Jackson and the Olympians).

In my case I’m using some…stories, but not doctrines, of a belief system still in place, but not one that I practice. I have submerged myself in research about these stories, and similar ones. I’ve researched everything about this religion I can, having first heard of the subject in passing only. Although my personal resources are limited, with both a public and university library within a short drive of my home my research became much more in-depth.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Religion and the Writing Craft

  1. Regardless of whether I believe the doctrines of a given religion, I treat all religions as mythology, with respect to how I approach them in my writing. Which is to say: the beliefs and stories of any religion are potentially good to mine for ideas.

    I also think that it makes sense for a religion to appear in the context of the story, because it’s a part of real life for people. A realistic world, and realistic characters, are going to have religious beliefs. (And if they don’t, there ought to be a narratively meaningful reason why not.)

  2. That’s an interesting fear or concern. I can honestly say I don’t worry about it too much. Maybe I should. But I enjoy examining religious and mythological beliefs: both my own and others. I don’t feel like I have to be a member of a faith or an expert in it to draw inspiration from those beliefs. What I write is fiction: not polemics and not apologetics. The people aren’t real and any resemblance between those imaginary people and their imaginary beliefs and real people and their real beliefs, living or dead, is “purely coincidental” (as the old disclaimer goes).

    So it’s possible someone will take offense to my use of a particular version of a religious or mythological belief, and how I extrapolate that into my fiction. But I think most people are very reasonable in the way that they treat fiction.

    • You know that concern probably stems from the fact that I’m anal, and I really try to not step on toes too much. Some times I just want to forget it and get on with writing.

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