Created religions in fantasy novels. Bad idea? Or great?

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!

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Evil Kingdoms & Food

I get it. Your evil kingdom is suuppper evil. They are just so evil that even where they live is somewhere scary.

I’ve briefly talked about this before, about how often in fantasy novels there is an evil lord taking over the kingdom, and they never really mention what he plans for after the fact.

Is gremlin number  578 going to become a farmer? And gremlin number 382 going to become the royal seamstress?

A lot of the time fantasy novels simply state that he is evil, he is taking over the kingdom, and he is killing everyone and everything as he goes. Not only that, he also lives in some sort of creepy wasteland of ice, volcanic rubble, or endless night. It is somewhere that the average person would not survive in, and it just makes him look even more creepy.

Unfortunately, this is a problem because he has to get his food somewhere. He’s killing everyone and everything, but we are still supposed to believe he is some sort of human-like creature. Hate to break it to you, but humans, animals, and human-like creatures all need to eat.

Both him and his army, are both going to need a food source. A lot of novels try to get around this by having his minions eat people, but eventually, the people are going to run out. If you are not farming the people, the people will run out.

All in all, it’s a major plot hole. This guy wants to take over the kingdom, but once he has it he is going to have nothing left. He wants this power, but once he has the power, he is ruling over…dust? And then he dies.

It is not a sustainable plan.

There are two major ways you can get around this.  The first is think of a food source. Maybe in his icy landscape, they eat seals and fish, or maybe in his volcanic rubble, there is life the manages to survive. Or maybe they are more advanced and have worked out underground gardening with some sort of artificial light source.

A second way to get around the cliche is to rethink your villains’ motives. If he really is living in some sort of area devoid of life, of course, he would want to get out. Maybe the reason why his kingdom is a volcanic wasteland is that a volcano erupted and it used to be a paradise. Now, his people are dying and he is trying to take over the enemy kingdom to save his own people. Now, you have a reason for both your villain and his army to be extremely motivated; if they fail, they are dead anyway. If they win, they have farming grounds again.

Just as an extra, one final, and unpopular way, to get around the cliche is to avoid having your evil villain in an “evil” landscape. It would be an interesting twist to have the villain in a lush green landscape not all that different from the lush green landscape the hero is from.

All in all, please remember one simple rule when coming up with your villain: even evil people need to eat.

6 Ways to Make Your Novel Pubs More Unique

I am guilty of it. I have written a stereotypical pub and looking back on it, I wish I had spent more time on it.

 

Picture this; your character enters a pub. Groups of people crowd tightly around small tables, and many turn to glare at your character as they enter. Your character ignores them and walks up to the bar where a gruff looking man with huge muscles is cleaning off the counter annnndd….how familiar does this sound? This formula is used in more fantasy novels I can count. So how can you fix that?
  1. Serve More than Beer. Nearly every bar in novels boasts of beer. What if the town is known for making wine out of a local berry? What if they like a whiskey made with sea water? Have people drink more than a pint of ale.
  2. Music. This is something video games actually take more advantage of than books. Having a performer singing a mocking song about the king of an enemy royal family can quickly add lore to your novel.
  3. Entertainment. Some bars play pool, others just watch sports on TV. Your pubs shouldn’t be any different. Is there a local game they like to play? do they watch people arm wrestle? Bar fights?
  4. Food. Sure you could have a plate of something placed in front of your character, or you could have this pub known for something special. Maybe there are dozens of pubs in this city, but the one your character is in is known for their secret recipe of wild herb stew.
  5. Bartender. I get it. These are rough men who need a rough barkeep. That being said, wouldn’t it make you wonder how a young man with barely any muscle can run a bar where the customers are too scared to cause trouble? Maybe your bartender is talented at magic, maybe they are talented at gathering information on people who cross them, or maybe, just maybe, the barkeep is an old lady who helped raise all these men as the neighborhood grandma, and they are all still scared she will smack their butts with her left shoe.
  6. Setting. Instead of having the old bar/inn, why not think bigger? Maybe the bar is in a crypt, maybe it is in a cave, or maybe it is in a treehouse. Whereever it is, it certianly does not have to be in an inn.

Why Your Medieval Loner Can’t Live Alone

Imagine a loner character in a medieval-based fantasy novel. I am going to go with a male since they are the most common offender. This guy has a small castle, a house, or even a hole, but this character does not need help from anyone…or does he?

If your character is a true loner, chances are he is going to have to give up the majority of his hobbies if he is in a medieval-like setting. This counts knights; if your character is a loner knight, chances are he will not get any of his knightly duties done if he actually lives alone.

On his own, he will have to…

  • Care for the farm animals/garden
  • Go to town to buy necessities
  • Grind his own flour and make bread
  • Cook every meal
  • Clean dishes, the house.
  • Chop wood
  • Collect water from the well or river.
  • Keep the fire going(even at night)
  • Wash laundry by hand.

And while he is doing all those, he has to somehow be making money so he can buy things and pay taxes.

There is actually a really smart reason as to why in medieval times a man and a woman would get together and populate the human race like rabbits. One of those reasons is that you can pass down the work to children. One of the children might collect the eggs every day, while another one might chop the wood. Shared work equals less work for all and more time for hobbies.

The most likely way for your character to “live alone” is to have staff. If your character is wealthy, having staff who will do all the chores around the house will leave time for your character to do whatever (likely murderous) hobbies he may have. Better yet, because staff doesn’t count as “real people” to the high society, to everyone’s eyes he is still living alone.

Another common option is to have your character be a traveler of some variety. Have him stay at inns, and he can pay people to do all his chores. He could be completely useless and not even know how to make himself a meal, and no one would ever know.

The last common example is to have him be a street thief. Instead of doing the chores, he will simply steal what he needs.

If you are still deadset on your character being a loner, keep in mind that about 80% of his day will be chores. Making food, getting water, and so on.

As I have said previously, it is a myth that medieval peasants did not have hobbies or free time, however, if your character is, for example, a knight in training, his training will take up most of his day and he will not have time for chores.

If the character has no job, being a loner could work, but with one it will be hard to not depend on other people for at least some of the work daily life takes.

Creating Holidays & August Updates

Special days – or holidays-  in novels are actually surprisingly rare. Very few books take advantage of the summer or winter solstice and other days even though they give you many writing opportunities.

  • Putting in a holiday gives readers an opportunity to see how your character interacts with other people.
  • Since a lot of attention of holidays are on those running it, people of power are normally right in the spotlight so it can show where your character sits in a position of power.
  • Food. There is always food at celebrations, so it gives you a chance to engage the sense of taste and smell for readers, and it also shows what it is the people of your world eats.
  • You could use it to show things to come. For example, perhaps a ghost does not disappear after Halloween. Is that hinting of things to come? Is the veil between the ghost world and our own getting thinner?
  • It gives opportunity to show thoughts on power. For example: the Kings or Queens birthdays, and also what day they became the king or the queen. Perhaps the people just use it as a day off to drink, perhaps they reluctantly celebrate because they have to, or maybe they go all out because they actually love the king or queen. This is a quick opportunity to show the average persons perspective on whoever is in charge.

Need some examples of what holidays you could have?

Perhaps to mark spring, the whole village goes out and plants seeds on the same day. This marks rebirth and the start of a new year, so to amplify this, if a person wants a fresh start, they can burn everything they own and even cut and burn their hair, and from that day on the villagers must accept this person is a new person. They can not hold grudges on them because they are no longer the person they were the day before.

Another example is harvest festivals. Most places in the world celebrate the last day of harvest had have a great feast. Some even give some of the harvest to some sort of spirit or fair folk.

There are many ways to use holidays to your advantage in writing, and they are an often skipped over tool.


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Worldbuilding: Creating Money

It does not matter if you are writing medieval or modern stories, you are going to need some sort of exchange system. If your character wants something from a man, and that man wants something of equal value in return, what does your character get? Is it currency? Or is it a trade (for example, tomatoes for potatoes)?

If it is currency, the first thing you will need to do is come up with a material for the currency to be made out of; such as coins, paper, or jewels.

Today, we use paper for bills, and because of that, we have had to come up with security measures to stop others from making it themselves. We have holograms, hidden ink, raised text, and more and it’s all because our currency is made out of readily available material.

This problem is why so many novels use precious metals like silver, gold, and copper. If someone were to find a hunk of gold, well it is easy to say that the hunk of gold would be worth equal to the weight of gold coins.

Creating a money system for a world can seem overwhelming, but it does not have to be. Technically, all you need is one coin. For example, in America you can buy anything with enough pennies; anything at all.  You want a car? You can do it with enough pennies. It is the lowest increment of money they have, and technically all you need. The only reason why we have coins of higher value is that it is a lot easier to have a dollar than it is to carry around a hundred pennies. So, once you come up with the lowest increment coin, anything else you add is just for convenience.

With money material and increments done, now comes the final step. Make a list of items the average peasant would need(such as bread, clothes, milk), and price them at the lowest value one could buy them for. This will be your base on what things will be worth in your world.

Using the bread as an example, if you say that the absolute lowest price you can buy bread for is 10 gold, then if someone buys bread for 40 gold, you will know that the bread they bought was far higher quality bread than what a poor peasant would buy.

Here are some steps to follow:

  1. Figure out what your currency will be made of.
  2. Figure out what currency increments there are (penny, nickel, dollar…)
  3. Make a list of basic items, and price them at the absolute lowest price they could be purchased for.
  4. Come up with some currency designs (like a gold piece having the king’s head on it)
  5. Come up with currency names. For example, 1 cent is called a penny. Does your money have nicknames?

Most Common High-Fantasy Enemy Problems

  1. Killing everyone. The enemy has an evil army and is killing everyone for world domination. But what happens when he wins? They are just killing everyone and taking no slaves, so who will be left to do everything? Will he make his evil goblin bake him cake? Will another one spend his days nurturing a crop of watermelons? Or will he sulk because he clearly didn’t think this plan through?
  2. Evil Creatures. An easy way to make an enemy is to say they are all evil creatures. Now, I love Lord of the Rings as much as the next nerd, but it gets a little old to believe that “oh, they follow him because they are all evil,” and that is that. You can have a war-hungry enemy, but it would make it seem more real if you give the army a reason to be war-hungry. Are they promised better farmland? Will they get power? Riches? What’s motivating them to listen to the king? Why do they care if they win?
  3. The faceless army. Too often writers only concern themselves with the heroes of stories and that makes an entire army of boring look-a-likes and the evil leader who we don’t meet until three books later. Give some of your enemies a name; show us that his army is as passionate as he is.
  4. No clear plan. They are supposed to be a smart enemy, but show us that! Show us them damming up the river upstream to stop water from getting to the good guys. Show us them spying, scouting, and giving false information. There can be more to an enemy army than facing off on in a field.

Did Medieval People Have Hobbies?

I recently came across a forum of a person asking what sort of hobbies medieval people have. Well, all the replies, every single one, went something like this; “Medieval people lived in a more barbaric society and had to think about only survival.”

Well….I have some theories about the opposite of that. You see, I used to be an Air Cadet, and in those cadet’s I took all the survival courses I could. Time and time again during those courses, the officers stressed the importance of camp crafts.  Basically, when your camp is all set up and you have nothing to do, you find something to do to keep your moral up. It does not matter if you make yourself a coconut friend; it is still doing something.

So, if someone in a survival situation can have moments of free time, that makes me wonder about medieval people.

According to this article, medieval people had more time off than the average American today, but it is also common knowledge that games like chess, dice, and shinty, are all deeply rooted in history.

Medieval people were also more nature dependant. If it is winter and you are a farmer, you can not farm. If it is a thunderstorm and you herd sheep, you are not going to want to put them out to pasture just in case it spooks them. If it is night, you can not just go flick on the outside lights, so you are done farming.

This all together leads to more time off. More time off means more people trying to fill the time; aka hobbies.

Now, I am no historian, but I would like to learn, so if you have a argument otherwise, I would love to hear it~!

Medieval Themed Hobbies

These are not to be confused with medieval themed occupations, this one is a list of hobbies your characters might enjoy on free time.  
“But, Cheyanne,” You say, “Medieval people lived in a primitive time and did not have free time.”  Well, according to this article, the average American works more hours than a medieval peasant ever did. Citing the article, “records from 13th century England show many families only worked 150 days a year on their land.” So there were days off work. On top of religious days, medieval peasants also had to build their lives around daylight hours, growing season, and even the weather.
So yes, in short, medieval peasants did indeed have free time. To help fellow writers out, I came up with a quick list. All these just came off the top of my head, so I apologise if a few are not historically accurate.
  • Playing an instrument (Example: Hurdy Gurdy)
  • Acting in village plays
  • Watching plays
  • Listening to music
  • Singing
  • Carving wood
  • Sculpting
  • Embroidery
  • Horseback riding
  • Hunting (Royals/Nobels Only. Example Here)
  • Painting
  • Puppeteering (Example Here)
  • Watching soldiers train
  • Training
  • Gambling
  • Drinking
  • Flirting
  • Board Games (Examples: Chess, Tables/Backgammon, Nine Men’s Morris)
  • Stealing
  • Story telling
  • Song writing
  • Poetry
  • Playing sports (Example: Shinty)
  • Fighting
  • Dancing (Example Here)
  • Swimming
  • Exploring
  • Falconry (For Royals. Example Here)
  • Making/Flying Kites
  • Shopping
  • Doll Making
  • Knitting
  • Sewing
  • Horseshoes (Throwing horseshoes at a target)
  • Archery Contest
  • Watching Jousting

If you can think of more to add, please let me know!

Rich People Brag (Writing About Castles)

Life Updates:

 

I have been doing NaNoWriMo, so apart from writing and working, I have not had much going on at all. Boring, right?


Writers Corner:

Newest Video:

Commonly in movies castle walls are just shown bare. Doing that in a book might not actually put off the feeling you want for your novel…


Featured Writers Resource:
  • Springhole.net a collection of helpful generators; such as a coin description generator, Magic secrets, character motivation, and more.

 

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