Would you give your readers no sense of how old your character is, or what part of the country they live in, or how they feel about any of their relationships? Then why aren’t you giving any clue about their relationship with God (even if that relationship is nonbelief)? Or with their aunt who’s a nun? Or their next-door neighbor who is an observant Jew? Why are we not exploring religious questions? Or if we are, why in a diffuse May-The-Force-Be-With-You way that’s unconnected to practicing religion?
I think as writers we neglect religion because we’re afraid. Okay, being honest here, I’ll revise that to say that I’m afraid, so I’m wondering if other people are too. I’m mostly afraid I’ll do it wrong, or be cliché, or take shortcuts, or offend somebody, or be labeled, or have the religion be gratuitous. (Anybody else notice that you could easily substitute the word “sex” for religion here? Not a coincidence methinks.)
But I think we lose something when we make an end-run around religion. And that goes for whether you’re writing something with high stakes or issues, or a fun read. If we want characters with some depth and complexity, we might think about exploring just about the most complex subject there is.
Two quick hurrahs: Fellow Rt. 19 blogger Judy Press has a work-in-progress about an elementary-aged kid, Pinky, who is a detective. Pinky is hilarious with dead-on boy humor. He’s also Jewish, and that’s a big part of what makes him hilarious—not because the book is about being Jewish, but because it makes Pinky so real-life and specific. You feel like you really know Pinky. You’ll have to wait to read about Pinky’s exploits until a brilliant editor acquires it, but it will be worth the wait.
Another book you can read right now is Tyger, Tyger by Kersten Hamilton. The story is a fast-paced urban fantasy using Irish mythology and the Christian faith with a nice dose of romance. And great, quirky characters. The main characters are practicing Catholics, and not only does their faith make the characters more interesting, it is key to certain turning points. Given Irish history, it often astounds me when writers have Irish-based stories that completely ignore Catholicism. Tyger, Tyger is so much richer because the author embraced religion. A couple of interviews with the author: Uma Krishnaswami's blog and Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations Blog.
Have a Blessed Passover.
Have a Blessed Triduum.
Have a Joyous Easter.