23 July 2013, Writing Ideas - Writing Historical Fiction, part 5 Religion
Announcement: My novels Sister of Light and Sister of Darkness are about to be published. I write this blog about 2 months prior to its publication. I just heard that the proofs will be here soon--likely before the end of the week. My publisher also wants to put the entire set of novels based on Aegypt on contract--that's 5 more novels for 8 total. They also want to put my other novels on contract. The release schedule should be one novel every 2 months. I'll keep you updated.
Introduction: I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. This was my 21st novel and through this blog, I gave you the entire novel in installments that included commentary on the writing. In the commentary, in addition to other general information on writing, I explained, how the novel was constructed, the metaphors and symbols in it, the writing techniques and tricks I used, and the way I built the scenes. You can look back through this blog and read the entire novel beginning with http://www.pilotlion.blogspot.com/2010/10/new-novel-part-3-girl-and-demon.html.
I'm using this novel as an example of how I produce, market, and eventually (we hope) get a novel published. I'll keep you informed along the way.
The four basic rules I employ when writing:
1. Don't confuse your readers.
2. Entertain your readers.
3. Ground your readers in the writing.
4. Don't show (or tell) everything.
I've been writing about historical immersion as a means to prepare to write
historical fiction. The major points I've made have been about the tools to get
historical information (primary and secondary sources) and getting rid of
cultural and social prejudice. I've been using examples mostly from ancient
Greece, and articulated in my book The Second Mission http://www.thesecondmission.com/.
Today, I want to focus on religion. As with all cultural and social mores, we
imagine the world was always the way it is for us today. We imagine our way of
thinking and our ways of doing are the ways everyone lived and existed in the
past. The truth is very far from that. Even today, people think
much differently depending on their culture and society. One of the most
important, if not the most important issue in all cultures is religion.
Religion forms, focuses, and directs a culture. This is especially true in the
ancient world. In a pagan worldview, which includes both animistic and
pantheonic paganism, the culture understands the world and its forces only
through the gods. There is no conception of natural forces or nature. In
animism every thing that has force or life (plants, animals, heavens, clouds,
the sea, bodies of water,...) has a god in it. The god sustains and produces
the forces in nature. The god must be placated lest something bad happen. So
whenever a creature is killed, the god within (or in charge of) the creature
must be placated--thus all killing required sacrifice to appease the gods. With
literacy comes pantheonic paganism. In this form of pagan worldview, the gods
take on new meanings and responsibilities, but are still the focus of all the
power in the world. Everything goes from the gods and the cause of all action
in the universe is due to the gods. The new functions of the gods are related
to civilization itself: wisdom, writing, music, metallurgy, war, love... With
literacy new ideas spring fully armed from the minds of men. In the Greek
worldview, men are fated (pathos) and the gods are fated (chronos), and the
fates or both are not pleasant. The world revolves around the gods and fate.
This is the center of the Greek universe. It is a universe where no one will
make a move without a word from the gods. It is a world where everyone believes
and those who don't, don't live long. The religion is forced and enforced. It
is not coercive, it is obvious to everyone. Even the Greek philosophers did not
disagree on this most basic view in Greek thought. They played on the edges of
the whys and wherefores, but they did not dispute or disagree with any basic
point of the pagan worldview.
Therefore, if you want to understand any
culture well enough to write about it, you must begin to understand its view of
religion. You can't hold a people's religious view in contempt. You can't
judge it from without. You can only look at it within the context of their
culture. It is a foundation and a center point of the entire culture, so you
can't ignore it either. Many modern writers completely ignore the religious
views of the culture they write about. They make their characters like modern
thinkers who ignore religion or who parrot some non religious worldview. Their
characters miraculously understand the world from a modern world view based in
cause and effect. They assume that modern ideas infuse especially the thinking
men and women of the past. This is a completely false and foolish idea about
the past and about history in general. Religion drives the world--it especially
powers the ancient world. The modern wars driven by Islam and secular Communism
should warn us that the modern world is driven by much more religion
than many would like to admit. In your immersion, you must learn much more than
what the people ate (we saw religion played a huge role in Greek food) or what
they did (look at the architecture of the Greeks, based on temples and the
gods). You have to learn how they thought and why their thoughts became the
reality of their culture. Only then can you start to understand enough to write
about their history.
For more information, you can visit my author site www.ldalford.com/, and my individual novel websites: http://www.aegyptnovel.com/, http://www.centurionnovel.com, www.thesecondmission.com/, http://www.theendofhonor.com/, thefoxshonor, aseasonofhonor.