For the Theology Building panel, Carol Berg had some great questions for Sharon Shinn, Cynthia Felice and me. Carol said that religion or metaphysics became a way to deepen her characters and world. Sharon commented that in an early novel, she’d had no religion at all and it had been hard to come up with ways for her characters to swear. Cynthia agreed her focus is more on developing the character, and how that person relates to religion reveals much about them. Religion, metaphysics, magic are all sources of tension and conflict, the essence of storytelling.
The dangers? Offending people, of course, but none of us has ended up with a fatwa on our heads. No cult followings either, although Sharon Shinn admitted to trying one of the rituals she’d created just for fun. She did not have a great revelation or see God face to face—or didn’t admit to it, anyway.
I mentioned a concept that I’d heard about at Denvention 3—soft vs. hard fantasy. Similar to soft vs. hard science fiction. Soft being making up your own religion or magic, which is what many people do. Hard being using traditions that exist in the world. Which is the best? That’s like asking if it’s better to plot a book first or use the discovery method. It just depends on what works for you.