“The New Hire” is a story inspired by the ridiculous things we’ve all had to do just to make ends mete. When you are desperate, how far is too far?
“Witness” is an attempt at writing something a bit gross with a touch of horror.
“Oneirodynia” is a short story inspired by an assignment from an intro philosophy class I took several years ago. It has been rattling around in my brain for a long time. This daily post is the perfect time to write it down. It was very hard to write, so I’m not entirely satisfied with how it turned out, but I’m glad to finally get it out of my head.
creating religions: part 2
It’s too easy for writers to fall into the trap of building stereotypical, cliched worlds. Creating an entire world from scratch is difficult, but it is also the most rewarding aspect of writing speculative fiction. In particular, religion and philosophy provide opportunities for creating worldviews and histories – two components of rich characters and worlds. Your readers deserve more than a boring, one-dimensional knock-off of a Western religion.
In this post, let’s explore the variation among real-world religions for inspiration.
Monotheism and world religions
Perhaps the most well-known view, monotheism is the belief that there is one – and only one – deity. Typically this deity is transcendent [existing independently of creation], personal [somehow involved in creation and can be related to in human terms], and omnipotent [all-powerful]. Christianity and Islam are quintessential examples of monotheistic religions. Others include Shangdi [ancient Chinese religion], Rastafari, some interpretations of Judaism, Eckenkar, and Zoroastrianism.
As you might deduce from this diverse list of religions, monotheism isn’t a monolith: it contains many different attitudes. Here are some ways to approach monotheism:
Some have argued that ancient Israel practiced monolatry. Exodus 20:3 states
“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
Some interpret this to mean that the Israelites did believe in other gods, but they were worshiped with less intensity.
A related concept is henotheism. This is the worship of one deity while believing that there could be other worthy gods too. Examples of henotheistic religions include the ancient religion of Greece at certain points in time and Hellenistic Judaism. Kathenotheism is closely related and describes the worship of one god at a time.
As you can see, even within the umbrella of monotheism, there is room for great variation. But there is even more to consider, so stay tuned for part 3.
My current project is a color-based conlang.
The jagged shoreline of Rion is covered with caves and hiding within them are many endemic species of flora and fauna. It is no wonder that such mystical and unusual places hold a very high spiritual value among the cultures of the many shore-dwelling peoples who live there.
It is here that a ritual language used only in magical ceremonies is carved on cave walls and never spoken; it is a purely written language. For now, this language is called the Chromatic Cave Language of Rion, and its use is inseparable from the religion of the shore-dwellers.
For these people, colors are shards of their deity made manifest. Pigments are considered sacred, especially in writing and art. Different colors embody different aspects of the deity.
In this way, a colorful hieroglyphic style of writing developed in the caves of Rion. Each aspect of the deity governs a noun class or other type of word:
Here are some words in CCL:
Hieroglyphs are usually contained in a triangle, but some special verbs – such as weather and verbs relating to the body – have a unique shape.
Creating religions part 1
For better or worse, religion is a driving force in our world. From art and philosophy, to war and politics, religion inspires both beauty and ugliness in humanity.
Writers can tap into this potency for their own stories by creating fictional gods and religions. Creating believable religions was difficult for me, so I’ll share the tips I’ve accumulated. This is going to be a multi-part post to keep things short and readable.
Religion is closely tied to at least three things:
Religion is used to justify certain cultural beliefs. Human sacrifice among the Aztecs is well-known. They believed that sacrifice was necessary to perpetuate the existence of the world. What cultural beliefs do your characters have that are rationalized by their religion?
The history of a people contributes to how they view themselves. History here also refers to “mythic” history – tales we tell ourselves that may not actually be true. What is the history of your characters’ culture? Were they invaders, slaves, nomads, outcasts? How do they perceive themselves and what explanation do they give for their history?
The connection between culture, history, and religion is obvious, but remember that the environment also plays a role in how people perceive the divine. The ancient Egyptians saw god in the yearly flooding of the Nile and the much-needed nutrients it brought to the parched landscape. The Norse lived in a harsh realm and their mythology reflected this. How does the environment interact with your characters’ beliefs?
Use the interplay of these three points to create a believable religion with a past that influences the characters’ present – and be on the look out for the next part of this post where I go further into the nuances of creating a religion for your story world.
From the world of Harry Potter to the Marvel cinematic universe, mythology is all around us. No wonder: these ancient tales encompass the whole range of human experience – stories of vengeful deities, epic tales of adventure, terrifying monsters, romance, and plenty of poignancy.
To draw upon this rich well of inspiration, learn about the stories and the characters, then put your own twist on it. Authors frequently use Greek or Roman myth as this is what Western readers would be most familiar with, but the world of mythology is vast. Look for inspiration within other ancient cultures, such as the Egyptians, Hattians, or Norse. You can even find ideas within a modern religion’s ancient mythology: Neon Genesis Evangelion is an example of an anime/manga series that uses a lot of Christian symbolism. To avoid cultural appropriation, it is probably best to steer away from drawing directly from closed religions, and sensitivity is a must if you wish to use ideas from a living religion or culture that is not your own.
There are a few ways you can incorporate mythology into your writing:
Using mythology in your writing is a great way to add realism and depth. They are a rich source of inspiration, just remember to be polite to living cultures that are not your own.
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