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Old 01-15-2013, 11:39 AM   #1
MatthewVett
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Religious Characters

I've noticed that I myself tend to write pretty much every character as a secular humanist, and I want to work at expanding beyond such a narrow and familiar range. I was wondering whether other writers here tend to write their characters with a religion in mind, and if so, whether it's one that you don't share.

I suppose if you're placing a story in the distant past, you're almost forced to do so, but so far my only really Christian character was a grumpy, dour Prussian. What have you guys done?
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Old 01-15-2013, 11:52 AM   #2
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I haven't written any characters who were overtly religious. I do have a story in the works that will involve a preacher's wife. She and her husband will be some unspecified Christian denomination. Other than that story (expected to post in June or July) my characters just don't talk about or practice any religion.
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Old 01-15-2013, 12:07 PM   #3
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I had a young gay man in the late seventies who was still religious, despite rejecting the church. He loved god, but refused to believe that god would be so petty to consider his sexuality.

He prayed a few times during the story series.
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Old 01-15-2013, 12:29 PM   #4
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My story Daisy has an angel in it so there are references to religion. Daisy is working through the death of her husband and daughter in a car accident. The angel ended up in her fenced backyard by mistake in the first chapter.

It was an interesting write and kind of a stretch. I think it went rather well and ended nicely in chapter three.
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Old 01-15-2013, 12:29 PM   #5
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I have used some religious characters, but mostly as antagonists with their anti-sexuality stances and actions. Best of luck with your character.
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Old 01-15-2013, 12:49 PM   #6
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MY personal beliefs have weighed heavily in this area.

My SWB series featured characters who were Satanists and during the series they have some unflattering things to say about God.

In a one shot story a woman who is a witch tells of her childhood during which she ran away from home because her father who was a minister was trying to molest her and her mother didn't believe her saying a "man of god" would never do that.

My recurring themes are that "religious" characters are evil hypocrites hiding behind the name of god.

Nothing like real life of course
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Old 01-15-2013, 12:59 PM   #7
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I'm with Bill Maher on religion, as my sig line indicates. When I write a religious character, he/she is either clueless, self-righteously perverted, or a hypocrite sex fiend. Three stories of mine that border on religious satire are: Baptism, Gettin' Any Dirt for Your Worm?, and What Happened to Alice.

Considering that nearly 8 in 10 Americans believe in Angels, you would think there would be an Angel Sex category here at LIT.
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Old 01-15-2013, 01:35 PM   #8
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Quote:
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I'm with Bill Maher on religion, as my sig line indicates. When I write a religious character, he/she is either clueless, self-righteously perverted, or a hypocrite sex fiend. Three stories of mine that border on religious satire are: Baptism, Gettin' Any Dirt for Your Worm?, and What Happened to Alice.

Considering that nearly 8 in 10 Americans believe in Angels, you would think there would be an Angel Sex category here at LIT.
Well, Stacy believes in angels.
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Old 01-15-2013, 01:49 PM   #9
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I don't recall having written anything with religion in mind. I might have incidentally had it as an aspect of a character, but I haven't used it intentionally or as a center of a story.
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Old 01-15-2013, 01:52 PM   #10
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A person can be religious without being a caricature.

I haven't seen much on this site, but I would recommend CWatson's "The First Ninety Days." It's a multi-part story about two young people who are devoted (?) Christians and what happens in the first three months of their marriage. You may not agree with the religion or the portrayals, but it's an example.

I've noted there are a lot of Christian romances available on Amazon for Kindle, and many are free (like so many other books). You often have to read a little deeper into the summary or reviews to see that, but they are there. It doesn't mean they are evangelical or fundamentalist or something.

Also, most Americans (from what I recall reading) identify themselves as spiritual or religious even if they don't belong to a church or attend services.

I was raised Catholic but have gotten away from the Church specifically and religion in general (please, save any attacks on the Church for another thread; it's not that they aren't justified, but this is not what this thread is about). So I don't go to church, and so when I write, my characters don't go to church either. I just leave religion out of it entirely, because it's not particularly relevant, nor what I want to write about.

Several of my neighbors are Catholic and attend the local church and basically, they're just like us except they go to church and have a few more claims on their time, such as sending their kids to CCD. Not every person who is religious or attends church proselytizes about it.

I can think of some questions, though. How religious do you want your character? Evangelical? More moderate? What part does religion play in their life? Do they run everything through a "WWJD" filter? Does God only figure in on the big things? Do they talk about it on a regular basis? Say grace before meals? If they are Jewish, are they Orthodox, or just observant? Do they keep kosher?

I've never written a character (well, okay one but he was minor and it was all implied) who wasn't Christian. I'd be careful about that, and if you're going to include any rituals or services or observances, I'd research it.
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Old 01-15-2013, 01:54 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LiquidMatthew View Post
I've noticed that I myself tend to write pretty much every character as a secular humanist, and I want to work at expanding beyond such a narrow and familiar range. I was wondering whether other writers here tend to write their characters with a religion in mind, and if so, whether it's one that you don't share.
I'm an atheist, but religion is a huge part of the human condition and I find it fun and fascinating (and useful!) to write up religious characters. In the very first erotic story I wrote for this site (gay male), my main character gets kicked out by his homophobic, semi-religious family and end up being taken in by a very Christian, but also very pro-gay-rights couple. I thought it both a good twist (the hero is worried about them at first) and a good point to make that there are those who can practice and follow the Christian faith but not buy into the institutionalized bigotry of certain churches.

In another gay story (BDSM), I have a character who is obsessed by sins committed by his ancestors. While he's fully aware that his issues stem from a mix of psychological problems, upbringing, etc., he was raised religious and has put a religious spin on the problem. He is absolutely certain he will go to hell if he can't atone for those sins. He was a a great character to write because he allowed me to explore how people personalize the divine and those they see as conduits for the divine--in this case the man he choses for his Master.

And then there was my holiday story, the "Christmas Lantern," which was all about a family of several views gathering for the holidays. One was a Pagan, one a Christian, two were Jewish and one was an atheist. I wanted to show the commonality of what people are all seeking at this time of year: home, family, acceptance, warmth--and how they can find joy and unity in celebrating it no matter what their religious take on it.

Finally, there was my Valentine's story where I had a romantic who had prayed to gods of love, rejected them, and was, in the tale, rediscovering them again.

Here's a tip, however, about writing up a character who is religious (and perhaps this is obvious)--the character's religion has to serve or be a part of the story, not just an add on. Like my BDSM guy whose fear of going to hell motivates him to approach this other guy. Or the Valentine's story where faith in many gods of love reflected this man's ability to see a potential romance with several different women. If a character is going to be religious, make it a religion apt for the story and part of why the character does what he/she does, and is what he/she is.
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Old 01-15-2013, 02:02 PM   #12
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I don't write religion into my porn.

I have an Angel/Demon novel I've been kicking around for a while with some kind of world-saving/personal redemption theme, but the whole concept is so yucky to me at this time, that I haven't been able to write it. even when I made the demons and angels simply be alien species with lots of superpowers, the idea of saving the world by virtue of someone's special snowflake secret sauce -- just ... too histrionic.
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Old 01-15-2013, 02:12 PM   #13
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"someone's special snowflake secret sauce"

Now there is a turn of phrase that you don't see very often.

Good one, Stella.
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Old 01-15-2013, 02:15 PM   #14
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I forgot to mention nuns.

I'll slink away now.
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Old 01-15-2013, 03:38 PM   #15
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Wow, I've been written into the thread! How flattering!

The biggest problem with writing religious characters is that you need to do a lot of research. "90Days" is a dramatization of my own relationship with my ex, and thus contains a lot of the research my ex made me do whilst trying to convert me. Sure made the writing easier. *heehee*

People have complained that the story ended with the characters meeting in the middle, as opposed to Caitlyn abandoning her faith, which is what those readers would have preferred. Well, good for them, but characters believe what they believe, and The Writer's job as a writer is to make those beliefs sensible, understandable and sympathetic. (Evidently I didn't quite succeed at that, which is my bad.)

The thing is, you have experience with spirituality and faith, even if you don't with religion. You believe the things you do because they resonate with you, because they make sense with the world as you see it. That's how everybody is. The only difference is that the world they see is different from the one you see. To write them, you have to show why they see the world they do, and how their beliefs grow logically and emotionally from that world.

I mean, take gun control. The real-life version of "Caitlyn" has an older brother (actually, so does the fictional one), and he (the real one) has been posting on Facebook his disdain for the new measures being suggested. As far as he is concerned, his rights are being violated, and he sees this as an unacceptable compromise. Should he feel that way? Well, to be perfectly honest, that's irrelevant. He does--and, when you treat it as a matter of personal freedoms, you can see why he'd get fired up. We probably would too if someone threatened to infringe our right to, say, free speech. We understand the passion, even if we don't agree on the topic. And boom: you're walking in his shoes.

Again, research, and lots of it. But there's nothing but improvement to be gained in learning to see the world in more than one way.
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Old 01-15-2013, 04:15 PM   #16
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I invented a religious faith in my fantasy romance series. I felt the characters needed some sort of Church institution and religious iconography, particularly so they could have world-appropriate swear-words.

I also sometimes write a Muslim character because I've done a lot of research on Islam in another life and can work it in as CW says.

I'm a bad buddhist myself, by which I mean that's what I am because I was brought up by a Japanese mum but I know very little about it and I just live it in a haphazard and self-serving way - bit like most Christians in the West! So I don't write buddhist characters because I'd get what they were supposed to do wrong. LOL!

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Old 01-15-2013, 04:16 PM   #17
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I've written many stories with the characters religion playing at least a small part. Here in Dallas, I associate with a lot of Non-denominational Christians and Southern Baptists.

Like the old joke about fishing with Baptists.

"Why don't you take 2 Baptists fishing - You can't drink beer."
"Why don't you take 1 Baptist fishing - He'll drink all your beer."

The leading lady in my series Blackmail Tales is a somewhat typical Southern Baptist woman. Prim and proper, always behaved, until you get a few drinks in her to get her alone. The old Angel in public, Devil in the bedroom scenario.

I also notice that MANY of the LW stories have women that come from religious families, and the threat of exposing their behavior to the parents and the church is a common theme.

I'm actually writing (one of maybe 2 dozen unfinished) a story, where a man finds himself creating a religious cult, and is falsifying ancient religious texts including a 'complete' Gospel of Mary. The amount of research I've had to put into this one is mind-numbing. Literally hundreds of hours so far. I don't think I've ever done this much background on anything. I'm having a blast with this one.

I do find it interesting that in so many stories, the only reference to religion is during the sex scene when the women find 'God'. "Oh my GOD!"
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Old 01-15-2013, 04:46 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LiquidMatthew View Post
I've noticed that I myself tend to write pretty much every character as a secular humanist, and I want to work at expanding beyond such a narrow and familiar range. I was wondering whether other writers here tend to write their characters with a religion in mind, and if so, whether it's one that you don't share.

I suppose if you're placing a story in the distant past, you're almost forced to do so, but so far my only really Christian character was a grumpy, dour Prussian. What have you guys done?
I'm atheist and my current story is about a relationship between two women who are either atheist or agnostic, but the girlfriend's grandmother is (Greek) Orthodox. The interaction between same-sex relationship and family ties is a big theme, and obviously religion affects that.

It's important to remember that religion (or lack of it) isn't a cookie-cutter. I met an openly-gay Baptist minister in Louisiana who was a pillar of the local LGBT community. I've known Catholic, Protestant, and Baha'i folk in same-sex polyamorous relationships. And there are plenty of blinkered & bigoted atheists, alas. IMHO, religion usually doesn't change a person too much - if they're an intolerant jerk they'll find some justification for that in scripture.

On the practical side: I ended up creating complications for myself because Orthodox Christianity doesn't have the same dates for religious holidays as Western Christianity, and there are further differences between e.g. Russian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox. So I ended up having to add a note for readers clarifying the distinction between 'Skip Easter' and 'Wog Easter'.

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Old 01-15-2013, 04:58 PM   #19
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I had a secondary character and a few ministers in my Into the Garden Series. They were necessary to the plot and non-sexual.

I've started a story about two couples who live in a sort of Mormonesque community. (Not plural marriage.) It's not intended to be disrespectful, but some of the characters will be hypocritical jerks, which is not a characteristic tied to being either religious or secular. The religious beliefs of the characters will be central to the plot. Of course, that's way down in line behind other planned writing, so who knows when I'll ever get to it. I did a plot sketch and wrote a few pages before I got distracted by another shiny object.
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Old 01-15-2013, 05:38 PM   #20
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Quote:
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Considering that nearly 8 in 10 Americans believe in Angels, you would think there would be an Angel Sex category here at LIT.
They're in Non-human...unless their dark angels then they're in erotic horror.
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Old 01-15-2013, 05:55 PM   #21
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We understand the passion, even if we don't agree on the topic. And boom: you're walking in his shoes.

Again, research, and lots of it. But there's nothing but improvement to be gained in learning to see the world in more than one way.
True, and walking in another's shoes is what we writers have to do. I'm certainly in total agreement with research and with getting into the other person's pov. But that doesn't mean we writers will always find that walk a rational or reasonable one even if we can identify the "passions." We might well take that walk and find ourselves in the shoes of a psychopath.

For example, what if your story about your ex trying to convert you involved pulling you into a cult-like atmosphere where you were slowly cut off from your friends, family, etc. If you were only interacting with other converts trying to get you onboard morning, noon and night. What if your ex and takes you to see the guru of this group often and he impresses the religion on you. What if eventually you're told you have to have sex with him?

Would any such story with a compromise ending have seemed reasonable to you? Understanding the passion of religious fanatic--of any fanatic--doesn't mean forgiving or ignoring when someone is crossing a dangerous line---one that insists you see the world their way, period, rather than attempting on their side, to understand you and be equally compromising.

Perhaps this was why you got such strong reactions to your character compromising --because the ex character did not do the same, and why should a reader forgive a character for not asking for the same that she is giving to the other, especially if the story is a romance rather than a horror story?
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Old 01-15-2013, 05:57 PM   #22
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Quote:
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I do find it interesting that in so many stories, the only reference to religion is during the sex scene when the women find 'God'. "Oh my GOD!"
That's a cultural reference, actually, not a religious one.
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Old 01-16-2013, 01:34 AM   #23
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It's important to remember that religion (or lack of it) isn't a cookie-cutter. I met an openly-gay Baptist minister in Louisiana who was a pillar of the local LGBT community. I've known Catholic, Protestant, and Baha'i folk in same-sex polyamorous relationships. And there are plenty of blinkered & bigoted atheists, alas. IMHO, religion usually doesn't change a person too much - if they're an intolerant jerk they'll find some justification for that in scripture.
In another life I've done research interviewing lgb Muslim people. What was fascinating was not just their own stories but that in many cases their families and members of the wider community were supportive. (Although there were sadly many cases too of violent homophobic abuse.)

One woman had met her girlfriend because her sisters picked her out and insisted she go and dance with her, the women all used to go out together at Eidh, the sisters would lend the girlfriend outfits and the mum said she was another daughter.

After an attempt by fellow students to ban her from the university prayer room, one woman had had a long argument with a religious leader, saying, It says in the Koran that you can tell me what you think is right so many times but if I disagree you have to let me live my life and worship God in the way I think right. The leader said to the other students in the end, She's right, you must let her come and worship and not try to make her change any more.

In many parts of the world principles of Islam are misinterpreted to fit local cultural prejudice but just like Christianity, many people also interpret it in a spirit of liberal thinking and human kindness.

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Old 01-16-2013, 06:42 AM   #24
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Many people here suggest that they are secularists or atheists and I accept that without question. However, with a few exceptions most members of lit were brought up in a culture of Judeo/ Christian ethical values. We would find it hard, for example, to understand a Confucionist's respect for authority, a Moslem's stress on justice or the function and importance of ritual practise to a Hindu.

The faith of the convert always burns brightest because of the need, not only to profess his new religion, but to deny the original props of his moral nature.

I have recently read a book in which a young Chinese commits a crime (in Western eyes) to redeem the mistakes of his ancestors (to whom he owes duty) The conflict for him is religious ethical and cultural.
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Old 01-16-2013, 06:50 AM   #25
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I've noticed that I myself tend to write pretty much every character as a secular humanist, and I want to work at expanding beyond such a narrow and familiar range. I was wondering whether other writers here tend to write their characters with a religion in mind, and if so, whether it's one that you don't share.

I suppose if you're placing a story in the distant past, you're almost forced to do so, but so far my only really Christian character was a grumpy, dour Prussian. What have you guys done?

I do the same thing
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