Writing with Other Culture’s Mythologies

In this wide open world, there are countless mythologies to explore and draw upon to influence and inspire your writing.  Recently major companies like Disney and Nintendo have been drawing from belief systems and mythologies outside of common Western beliefs, opening new horizons for writers and artists to explore.  Yet on the other hand, ignorant authors in the past have caused the beliefs of other cultures to be seen as evil and destructive.  With access to books becoming easier across the world, the pool of readers suddenly became a lot deeper.  The push for inclusive books has increased as readers want to read about people like them from around the world.

What is Mythology?

Webster Dictionary defines a myth as “a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events”.   While most people often think of this as older religions such as Greek and Roman legends, by definition it also refers to modern religions such as Christianity and Islam.  All religions, including modern ones, are incredibly detailed and have a rich culture behind them and can offer amazing resources to pull from for your next story.

Research Research Research

The key to success with any novel is research.  Just like in school, no one wants to be the person who stands up in front of the class and doesn’t know what they’re talking about.  In the past, many authors misrepresented religions and beliefs that weren’t their own, leading to misconceptions, such as the fear a lot of people have of Voodoo.  As writers we often have to talk about a lot of things we don’t do in everyday life.  J.K. Rowling probably doesn’t ride around on a broomstick every day (we all know she does magic, have you read her books?) and there’s no record of J.R.R. Tolkien traveling to a volcano to destroy a ring.  Just like with other things, if you’re writing about a religion you don’t practice, the key to making your writing a success is to research what you’re talking about first.

Be Respectful

This one’s probably common sense.  No one wants their belief system to be used to cause cheep thrills or wrongly portrayed as an evil religion that causes nothing but bad things to happen.  Horror movies too often fall into this fallacy.  Anything that isn’t Christian (most of the time Catholic) is shown to summon demons or cause horrible things to happen to the people who practice them.  The two belief systems that fall prey to this the most are Voodoo and pagan beliefs.  Often shown as dark religions with the power to curse and summon unholy spirits to attack innocent victims, the bad reputation brought about by these stereotypes still haunt the religions to this day.

So if you’re planning on using a belief system that you don’t follow as inspiration for your story, remember to treat that religion like you’d want yours to be treated.  If authors remember that every culture deserves respect and an open mind, then we can open a world of adventure to generations of readers to come.

~Elyce

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