Is creating a religion for a fantasy novel a bad idea? I used to think so, but now I’m not so sure…
It’s really become a common advice to keep religion out of your novels. The idea is that by creating a religion, you might accidentally turn away readers. For example, by creating a pagan based religion for your novels, you might unintentionally turn away Christian readers.
For years now, this is a “rule” I have followed. To be honest, a large part of me is still torn. The last thing I would ever want is to unintentionally insult someone, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized just how many creations in the fantasy genre do have religion.
There is the game Skyrim(or any Elderscrolls game, really), Lord of the Rings, and Mistborn, just to name a few, that all feature invented religions.
Although the “safe” advice is to avoid all mentions of religions in novels, looking at it, all the big names in fantasy have a invented religion.
So is the advice good, or isn’t it…?
Honestly, I don’t really know. However, even if it does turn away some readers, there are clearly a massive amount of readers that don’t mind, otherwise the big names in fantasy wouldn’t be big names.
Like it or not, religions are a realistic thing. When people don’t understand something, they turn to religion for answers. That’s why we have so many different religions here on earth. So, to have a world without religion in any part of your world at all isn’t realistic.
My worry is that by keeping out religion in order to please a certain amount of people, I may be making my world-building more flat.
So, with all this in mind, I am seriously thinking of breaking the “rule” and inventing a religion for my current novel. It is a risk, but the world just won’t feel right without it.
For example, in the novel I am currently writing, there is a village in the middle of a monster-filled forest. There, humans are not at the top of the food chain, but they are able to survive because of large stone guardians that somehow repel the monsters, keeping the village safe. I’ve been trying to think of a way of having this happen without some sort of belief system, but anything I think of just doesn’t feel right. It needs a belief system in the village, at the risk of offending some readers.
Adding it could also make my book seem more realistic. These villages in the forests are isolated from the outside world and do not even speak the same language, so it would make sense that they would have different religion then, say, a fishing city on the opposite side of the world.
What do all of you think? Is it best to follow the rule and avoid mentioning anything to do with religion? Or do you think breaking the rule is important for world-building? Please let me know!