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:~: Thursday, October 12, 2006 :~:

Religion in Your Fiction

I've been reading some paranormals lately and something's really suprised me. Almost every author I've read who writes paranormals makes reference to God in some form or another in their books. It's never an in-your-face religious statement, but rather a passing comment. This doesn't happen in RS's. Not to say there's never mention of God or religion in RS books, but generally, if God comes in to play, it's usually because a character is ticked at God because someone they loved died or something bad happened to them in their past. But this isn't true in paranormals.

Why? I'm guessing it's because a paranormal author has to set up an entire world, and the easiest way to explain the push-pull of good and evil in a paranormal universe is to make reference to something everyone understands - the concept of God and the Devil in our world. In all the paranormals I've read, there's always a realm similar to Heaven and Hell, always characters who are creators and enslavers. And through it all, good triumphing over evil.

So how come we don't see it in RS books? Are people really that sensitive to religion in books? I have a friend who writes for Harlequin and she said she could never use the term "Oh, God" in a sex scene, that the editor of that specific line freaked out and edited such comments right away. She couldn't mix God into her books like that. In ST that doesn't seem to be an issue, but I can't really remember one book where a character's religion or religious beliefs came into play in the book unless it was directly related to the plot (or was an RS Inpirational).

I'm a spiritual person. I go to church. I believe in Heaven and Hell, God and the Devil, demons and angels. I believe in creation and evolution. I believe there are a lot of things in this world that can't be explained and never will be. And I believe all religions are fundamentally the same at the roots - good versus evil, learning to be the best person you can, a higher power and a purpose to our lives. I don't want to read about individual religions in my fiction, and I avoid religious debates like the plague, but a mention here or there about a character going to church (any church), or saying a prayer in an RS would never offend me. (After all, it happens all the time in paranormals. In every paranormal I've recently read there's been chanting and prayer saying, calling on the "creator" and discussions about what happens after life.)

How do you feel about religious comments or references to God in fiction?


Blogger LaDonna said...

Great post, Eli! It doesn't bother me at all reading a reference to God. Unless it's delivered in a preachy way. lol. I reference "spirituality" in my work (paranormal elements here). I don't see what the ruckus is about either. Like politics, it can be discussed, but no one is declared a winner at the end of it. We're all different, and there's many roads. Interesting comment about RS too. Not sure why that is. Unless there's so much going on, there isn't room for it. lol

11:37 AM  
Blogger Lisa Pulliam said...

It took me aback when I first started reading paranormals. I was surpised to see that 90% of sex scenes had someone shouting "oh God." Or that a higher power was involved in the plot somehow.

It's actually something I'm struggling with right now. My book has demons in it, but I don't want to have religious references. So I'm trying to think of ways to make my world different, so there doesn't have to be a God in it. I don't like reading things that have religion or politics in them, too much like real life for me. I read to escape real life.

12:08 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Hmm...interesting take, Ladonna. I hadn't thought of it that way - that maybe there's too much going on in an RS.

I had a scene in my last book that included a minor conversation about God between the hero and heroine, but I ended up cutting it because it was only character building, nothing more. Not what the heroine *believed* in per se, but more what she *didn't believe* in, and it was very vague. I liked the scene, but since I was already over 100K words and I'd already established her character by that point, it wasn't needed.

12:31 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

It'll be interesting to see how you do that, Lisa. I can understand your need to stay away from Religious references, but when adding in demons (evil) there has to be something to counterract that darkness. It's that whole push-pull of good versus evil.

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Michelle said...

As long as it isn't preachy, I'm quite happy to encounter it in any book. A recent crime thriller by Karen Slaughter, FAITHLESS, has quite a few religious references. It is a great read too, so you if you want to see a RS / crime thriller with romantic elements which has some religion in it, check it out.

3:39 PM  
Blogger Edie said...

A very thoughtful post, Eli. I don't see God in hardly any romance books, but I've read the Jan Karon books, also the David Small mystery books about the Rabbi, and I think it was Koestler who wrote the Catholic mysteries. I enjoyed them all.

My last book took place in a small town, and the Lutheran minister is a minor character who has a romance with naother minor character. It was fun writing it, and fit the book. And in my books and real life people say Oh God or Oh Jesus all the time. *shrug* That's one of the reasons I like writing ST, lol.

4:40 PM  
Blogger Paty Jager said...

I find it interesting that I don't go to church regularly and can barely reference the Bible, but at least one of my characters in every book I've written has had a connection with a higher being in some way or another. Be it God or the Creator. Now I don't write RS, I write Historical and Historical with paranormal elements.

When I have read other books with a reference to religion as long as it isn't preachy I don't mind it.

Eli, you've given me to wonder about myself....

5:55 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Michelle. I'll definitely check out Faithless.

7:23 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

LOL, Edie. That's one of the reasons I like ST, too. Real life, real language. ;)

7:24 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Interesting, Paty. Funny how it comes out without your having thought about it.

I've only read a couple historicals - okay, one all the way through - but there was reference to religion in that one. Maybe your inclusion is more because of the genre - because in historical times religion played a much bigger role in people's lives than it does today? (I'm guessing here.)

7:26 PM  
Blogger Christine Keach said...

I'm with Ladonna. I don't mind references to religion in books as long as it's not preaching and telling me that is the ONLY religion or proper spiritual behavior.

Personally, I'm like Paty. I don't go to church but I end up with some reference to a "higher power" in most of my RS manuscripts.

Spirituality is definitely a part of most people's everyday lives. Why not let it into the books if it feels like it belongs?

9:11 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Good point, Christine. :)

10:18 PM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

I always have religion in all my books, I think. In Diary of a Blues Goddess, Nan's wise advice was "If God brings you to it, He'll bring you through it." And I often have characters praying. My latest MIRA, "Invisible Girl" is all about a woman raised by a Buddhist mother and a Catholic father--and it's romantic suspense . . . she's constantly asking the East and West gods to watch over her as she confronts the conspiracy.
I definitely put it in my paranormals. But I don't shy away from it in any of my books. Even in my forensic/criminalist series, book 2 ends with a prayer at a cemetary, and the theme is Achlys, the goddess of despair in Greek mythology.
I don't know if it's because I do a lot of single title, but it never occurred to me NOT to have spiritual elements or religion in my fiction. I'm a Buddhist and it permeates every thing I do--including writing.

5:23 AM  
Blogger Karmela Johnson said...

I actually got warned by a top editor at Harlequin that one of my manuscripts might be a hard sell to the "Walmart Set" (her words, not mine) because my villain is a deviant Catholic priest. At one point, I make you believe that the entire church is the villain. Evidently, that's a big no-no of you're trying to sell to a category house.

But yeah, my paranormal wips are infused with references to God and the Catholic Church because I think of all the supernatural forces out there, God is the scariest.

8:00 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Thanks, Erica. I'll have to go check those books out. :)

8:51 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Karmela, that doesn't surprise me about Harlequin. They know what their readers want and don't deviate from those guidelines. I bet you wouldn't have trouble with that storyline in an ST, though.

Just out of curiosity, did your agent encourage you to move forward with that wip and target it for ST, or move on to something else?

8:53 AM  
Blogger wavybrains said...

I liked this post and the comments immensely. I'm probably a bit too flippant with religion--I have characters "praying"---like praying the someone wouldn't notice something and I have many uses of "Oh, God" beyond the bedroom and other slightly blasemphous uses of "God." I probably need to find other ways of expressing suprise, anger, etc. I'm going push myself to do that in revisions--to see "God" as another cliche to be attacked with my virtual red pen.

1:51 PM  

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