Using religion in fiction

Wel it is another Monday and time for my rambling thoughts.  I have been working hard on the next tale set in the Guardians of the Gate City universe.  What I thought was going to be a simple short story is quickly moving into the novellette category and just might end up as a novella.  You never know when you start a tale where it will end up.

Now to go with the title of this blog.  Religion is a hot button issue on a lot of the social networking sites right now.  Who is right, who is wrong and who is being persecuted.   This topic can be a very tricky one to deal with, especially if you are not a part of the majority or even the vocal minority.

As a writer of fantasy, much of it lately in the urban fantasy category I have dabbled in this topic.   I admit as a follower of a nontraditional to the world path that i have lifted some of the villains in my pieces from the real world.  I think most writers have but will not admit to it.  We write what we see and what we know.

Now most people out there, no matter their religious affiliation are really good people who would not harm others just for being of a different faith, or so we hope.  It has become a bit of a trope that the terrorists are all Muslim, the pedophiles are catholic or that the fundamentalist Christians are all gun toting nut jobs.  We KNOW this is not true but modern fiction seems to be writing that over and over.

They are both easy for the reader to recognize and a bit of a trap.  As a follower of Wicca I have come across so many evil witches in fiction that it makes me grind my teeth.  They are portrayed as super sexy women who use their bodies and their magic to get what they want, not realizing that most witches are the same as everyone else, working and living peacefully.

Now I won’t say I haven’t fallen into this trap.  I have a number of stories in the works that have mobs of people who claim to be upright Christians acting just like mobs are expected to react.  Burn the Witch, kill the infidel, etc, etc.  As I sat and worked on my newest tale, Music is My Mistress, I had started out with a new take on a bard and a different take on what they do but I slipped into the same trap that we all due when I brought in the villain.

I brought in what I am calling the Gray Men or the GIGs (guys in gray).  Now you have all probably seen them in your hometowns.  The young men dressed in gray slacks, white shirts, ties and with a gray sweater over top.  They seem to all be tall, with dark hair and walk in pairs.  Before I moved to Canada I thought they were just a oddity of living in NH but to my surprise they are up here in Canada too.

The rational part of my mind said, oh those are the Witnesses, on their way to church or whatever but the wild and crazy author side saw something else.  The fact that these young men all look like twins or near twins, always dressed the same, even on the coldest days I have never seen them wearing heavy coats and they walk everywhere.  The writer in me took that image and mixed it with all the religious rhetoric that I have been dealing with on groups like Facebook or LinkedIn.  Thus the Gray Men were born.

I went along merrily writing the next sequence of my tale and things got dark fast.  The world that the heroine Jessalin walks through is much like our own.  The bright safe daylight world is crumbling under the rising wave of prejudice, hatred and misconception.  In fiction we can take this to what is the logical conclusion.  We can have those elements that are in power and easily influenced be effected by magic taken and twisted to a dark purpose.  Can have religion returning to the dreaded dark days of the inquisition.  Anyone different is rounded up and killed.  In a world with magic that most do not even believe exists the first to be rounded up would of course be those whose very being is magic.

The part of the tale I just finished was both hard to write and a bit enlightening to me.  I was falling into the trap of blaming the religion and not the practitioner of said religion.  It means I will need to do a bit of a rewrite and you readers know how much I hate to do that!  But we have to remember that most of the current religions out there preach peace and understanding.  Yes there are factions of the big religions that are hammering heavy on the opposite but there are still more good people than bad in the big three.  Oh and by the big three I mean Christianity (and yes that includes Catholics!), Muslims and Jews.  They all worship the same single god, no matter what they tell each other.  And no matter the factions in each group it really is the same.  So those from Westboro Baptist worship the same god as the Muslims and the Jews…

So back on track.  If you are going to write fiction with religion in it do your best not to fall into the trap of blaming the whole for the actions of a small group.  I plan on going back and fixing just what I have.  The Grey Men look outwardly like those Jehovah Witnesses you see all over but they are really the magical descendants of every hate mongering religious group using magic to look innocuous.  And that is a great way to make a villain.


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