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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Faith-Based Initiative: Creating or Including Religion in Fantasy (ConCarolinas Writing Panel)

So, here we are with the second-to-last set of notes from ConCarolinas.

The convention was already winding down, or at least it was for me. Traveling as far as I did from Vancouver, I had to leave before it ended officially. But Sundays always seem shorter, no matter what the event. Probably because it's the last day. 

Something I realized after posting yesterday's notes was that all of the Sunday notes are a shorter than previous sets. Part of that may have been my own happy fatigue; part of it was definitely that there were more off-track conversations between readers and speakers that I didn't log, or noted with a single sentence. This is not a complaint. I'm sure it was more apt to happen because of everyone else's happy fatigue, and frankly, I've found Sundays at a conference or convention to be more low-key, period.

The subtitle is my own. The program read, "Faith-Based Initiative", but it made sense to add a descriptor here. Once again, please feel free to ask for clarification if anything in these notes doesn't make sense.

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Faith-Based Initiative: Creating or Including Religion in Fantasy

Authors: Mason Lavin, Joe Naff, Edmund Schubert, Terry ?, Stephen Zimmer, Glenda C. Finkelstein

- Religion and belief in *something* generally exists in a culture; people lend themselves to belief.
- Creating a religion is a fundamental part of fantasy writing.
- "Miracles are just magic explained in another way."
- Can be fun to play on themes in real life
- Faith has consequences
- Faith is typically prevalent
- Superstitions exist, too
- You can evoke emotional response from readers
- Editors are looking for stories that will be *stories*, not preaching
- Readers don't want to be preached to, therefore, editors are looking for a good *story*.
- Story matters: there must be stakes and characters.
- How characters react based on their beliefs, what's importan to them, can affect the story!
- How the characters look at the world is important.
- A good story drives conflict. Sentient beings have moral codes, whatever that code is; it influences the choices they make.
- Really, it's most important to tell a good story.
- If using real religions, know about what you're writing.
- Know what lines your readers won't corss.
- We're here to entertain readers.
- Self-censorship: don't cross a line that makes *you* uncomfortable.
- What lines are you willing to cross? Could they have implications/consequences in your non-writer's life?
- Be respectful when dealing with other cultures not your own.
- Does your character have free will? (they should)
- What choices do they make?
- What drives the characters?
- Are your deities omnipotent?

Edmund mentioned: Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show, which makes a point of:
1. Respect the rights of writers
2. Not allowed to publish anything strongly conservative - not advocating anything

* * *

My personal summary: Religion is an important facet of the fantasy world you create (even if that world is here on earth). What your characters believe often affects what they do, and the choices they make. And most importantly, the story matters most. (Y'know, in case that wasn't clear by the five times I made a note of it.)

Tomorrow, the finale (and one of my personal highlights from the con!): "Should I Quit My Day Job"? Or, as most of us MW fans called it, the Magical Words Panel #2.

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