Saturday, November 08, 2008
Writing Faith-Filled Fiction
One of my pet peeves in reading is characters who lose all common sense when the author needs to further a plot. You know: the brilliant scientist who forgets some basic law of physics; the brilliant military tactician who makes an error even a cadet wouldn't do; the street-tough black belt who doesn't get a punch in when jumped by an unarmed bad guy. These things can work when there's a true motivating reason: the scientist is in an unfamiliar environment and completely panicked; the commander is making an unorthodox move in order to impress his general; the black-belt is drunk.
However, I've sometimes seen religion badly used as an excuse to make characters do illogical and uncharacteristic things. The scientist throws out empirical evidence because his findings contradict his personal (or the author's personal) interpretation of a particular Bible verse; the military man stops fighting or doing a standard duty because it's prayer time and he hasn't received official permission from his superior to miss it; the black belt chooses to be beaten because he might hurt the person if he fought back and "God wants us to love our neighbor." Or, worse yet, the character does something stupid for no other reason than to let the author put him or her into a position where they can preach later.
Another pet peeve of mine is when someone writes about a religion they don't know and makes assumptions they never check out. Thus, you sometimes see Catholic scientists who say evolution is wrong because it's against "the Church's" beliefs. (The Church's official teachings say nothing of the sort.) Or you get Muslim soldiers who simply stop fighting at prayer times.
Sometimes, this is simple ignorance, but sometimes, the writer actually researches a religion he does not know and makes an erroneous conclusion based on misinformation. This is easier than ever because of the Internet.
In order to help writers who want to incorporate religion into their stories, I've started a quarterly newsletter, Faith-Filled Fiction. It's an educational e-zine rather than an entertainment, and contains articles about how to add religion in ways that enhance the story and add depth to the characters rather than use them as mouthpieces for a sermon-as-story or give them a handy excuse to do something stupid and otherwise uncharacteristic. It also has articles written about religions by someone who is a faithful follower of that religion, so you get first-hand information from a believer. These articles usually contain links the writer trusts as accurate for further research. Finally, Faith-Filled Fiction has a guest column where the writer talks about how religion has affected his or her writing.
Faith-Filled Fiction covers all the world religions, and even made-up ones. The goal is to educate rather than evangelize. If you're interested in subscribing, just sign up on the website at www.fabianspace.com. To view an issue, go to http://faithfilledfiction.karinafabian.com.