Welcome to last week’s Craft Post. Unfortunately, I am way behind on things this week. Not the best way to start 2017, but oh well. This week’s post is going back to our part of gods and religion. Mostly because I just listened to a podcast Writing Excuses that hosts four well-known authors:

  • Wesley Chu
  • Piper J. Drake
  • Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Mary Anne Mohanraj
  • Brandon Sanderson
  • Howard Tayler
  • Dan Wells

The podcast was on Polytheism in Fiction. It was an interesting twenty minutes.  (You can find the episode here.) The idea behind this is that the authors guess Marie Brennan, who says to her that most polytheistic gods in fiction feel too neat and orderly. To the point where it feels tacked on. Another thing was that they felt too human to her.

“Which I think of, and I say this with all due love for role-playing games, but I think of it as the Dungeons & Dragons problem. Where you have these like large pantheons where everybody has their well-defined spheres and it all feels like it’s pasted on [yay?]… I mean, well, a chunk of it’s just that the gods end up feeling like they’re very petty people, which is a perfectly legitimate way of doing things, because especially Greek mythology sometimes…” Marie Brennan

What I found interesting about Marie’s comment’s is that is that it can be true. In my own posts on gods if that you need to know their roles and have lost of order. That raises the question of is that needed? It really depends on what are you trying to do with these gods. Also, do these gods have to have and hierarchy? Just because the are many gods, does not mean they are all part of the same religion. I built it that way, but I also talked about how you need to know how these gods relate and exist together, implying if they are not part of the same religion.

I am not going to comment on the whole podcast, go listen to it, but beyond Marie’s initial thoughts, two other ideas popped up, one Marie had a good take and Dan had used as an example for another. Let’s start with Dan.

Dan’s comment was on this thread that religion is not grounded through every aspect of daily life in most fantasy worlds with many gods.

“That is something that I often see as well, that kind of thing where… It… The religion does not feel woven into the fabric of everyday life. One of the things that I’ve become aware of when I’m writing characters from the South… Granted, this is not a polytheistic religion, but people from the South, one of the things, the opening questions that they will ask someone, what do you do for a living and all of that, what church do you belong to. It’s… People from outside the South, this is an incredibly rude and intrusive question. But it is so much a part of the fabric of the society that people don’t even think about it as being odd. So that’s one of the things that I like to see when I’m looking at a secondary world religion with polytheistic is it’s so present in their… In the way, they speak that it is… It’s full of… It affects everything about the language, the things that… The days of the week…” Mary

“…One of them was a fantasy world that had a polytheistic pantheon of gods that had gone wrong. What I found… Draft after draft, trying to portray this correctly, was that the religion has to be, in order to feel accurate, in order to feel true, it has to be so much a part of their lives that the characters themselves can’t even be aware of how messed up it is. So I had to eventually break down and bring in an outsider in order to notice all the weird things.” Dan.

We have talked about religion, but we haven’t talked about taking that religion and bring it into the world of the people. One, I never thought about it and two it doesn’t have as much to worldbuilding. It has an effect on the world. Maybe someday I will dive into this topic. But it is true if you have a region where a certain religion, it is going to be grounded in that areas everyday life. To make your religions better you need to come up with ways to do this. Not just how these people’s everyday life but how these things change by regions or other parts of the world. That leads to the other part Marie brought up.

“I think having… Making sure that you show a range of beliefs within… A range of devoutness within a religion is important. And also making sure, even when you’ve got the polytheistic religion, it’s not going to be the only religion in the world. Even with gods manifesting, different cultures will interact with them differently and prob… I mean, looking at the way historically our own world works, there’s a lot of different interpretations of… You take one piece of doctrine and a lot of people will interpret it very, very differently. So even if you’ve got gods manifesting, and it’s the same three set of gods, like if you’ve got a pantheon of three, not everybody is going to interpret their commands in the same way. Because there’s going to be not just the gods, but also a power structure built around them. People invested in keeping that power, and people invested in trying to get back to the one true… No, this is really the way.” Marie.

If you have your gods manifesting in the world from time to time, the people of your world will interact with these gods in different ways. Something I never thought about. The more I think about it the more I agree. Some other religions god could pop up in another part of the world and the people in that are could see this god as their own god or when told by this god their religion is wrong, they see it as a false god. Maybe even their god’s enemy. Same goes with teachings. A missionary of your religion goes to a new area and preaches, and the people the missionary is witnessing to accept what the missionary says. However, instead of giving up their religion, they just add what they were taught to their religion. It is something to think about.

I lied, there was one more thought I want to touch on, and I am not going to comment on it, I just want to bring it up and see what everyone thinks about. How do your gods act like?

“I want the numinous. That’s when I’m the most disappointed, frankly, is when the religion, when these gods show up or something and they’re just not numinous at all, they just feel petty. Because even the Greek gods, I would say, they kind of act like people, but they act like larger-than-life people. If they’re going to show up on the page, I want them to feel like they are more than just human. I want that moment where I stop breathing…” Marie.

Do your gods give a sense of wonder?

That’s all I got for last week. On Friday we will start a new Sub-Series, and I have no clue what it will be. Sometime this week I am going to look at other topics that I want to cover and figure that out so I won’t keep happening. Check back Friday and on Monday for this week’s Writing Wrap-up.

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