This is # 4 of a 5-part blog series on how to make fantasy and science-fiction world's feel real. It's based off of a science fiction and fantasy world-building prompt session I ran at this year's Ladder Literary Conference.
About this World-Building Series
When we think of a fantastic world, we often think of the broad strokes, but it’s the small details of the world that make it come to life. Those little details are what we’re going to focus on in this blog series.
Gods & Worship in Fantasy & Sci-Fi
Fantasy and Science-Fiction writers have the luxury, or perhaps the burden, of being able to write a faith system and pantheon from the ground up.
In many stories, religion is the focal point of the work, like in Arthur C. Clarke’s short story “The Star” which focuses on the faith crisis of a priest/astronaut who stumbles upon a ruined, alien civilization. In other novels, like the currently popular and maligned Song of Ice and Fire series, religion happens mostly in the background and may change depending on the character’s region and heritage.
Gods may be very involved with mortals – they could even walk among the people or be called upon to physically manifest during a ritual. Deities could have their own holy days and festivals. Or, maybe there are no gods, and characters adulate nature or heroic ancestors. Perhaps the story is set on Earth in the future, and some new theology has taken over.
Religion & Research
Making up a religion can be daunting, but it can also be one of the most fun aspects of world building. The rituals, or religions, practiced by characters can add flavor to a world and make it seem more believable.
How the characters practice their spirituality can unfold throughout the narrative, or it can be a central part of the plot. With pantheon and religion building, research is critical. Look at existing religions, spiritual practices, and ancients myths for clues on how to structure faith in your world.
The Prompt: Who, or what, do the people of your world worship? Write a worship session, it can be a significant religious event, a personal spiritual ritual, or something in between.