When you write a story set in a made-up or secondary world, one of the small but significant problems you run into is giving characters a good way to call on their god(s). They could be cursing, invoking a deity as witness, or maybe asking for a god’s help.
This is challenging because in a secondary-world story, the author makes up things like the god(s), the cultural notions of the afterlife, and what kind of supernatural creatures might be around to tempt or help a character. A character can’t say “hell” if the culture doesn’t believe in such a place, or “she looked like an evil cherub” if the world doesn’t have cherubs.
My first novel, Finders Keepers, is a middle-grade book which compounds the problem because people are naturally sensitive about their child being “taught” religious beliefs other than their own. In some ways, secondary world fantasy eases this problem because the made-up world makes it clearer that this is all pretend. Of course, the furor around witchcraft in Harry Potter shows that some folks are particularly guarded, which I completely understand and see as their right, though I know it means they’re unlikely to enjoy a lot fantasy novels, possibly including mine.
Assuming a reader is open to a world with different gods, though, how does the writer deal with how to invoke them? When I was drafting Finders Keepers, I was reading Patrick Rothfuss’s Name of the Wind, a wonderful adult fantasy. One of the characters in that book uses the exclamation “tiny gods.” I found that charming and suggestive of a whole world of beliefs that’s never spelled out.
So I asked myself, what would my characters say about the gods in Finders Keepers? The answer, I thought, depended on what those gods were like. And, not to sound too delusional, it occurred to me that I was the god of this book. I created the world and the characters. I decided what would happen to them. I even made the weather.
And what kind of god am I? I am, I hope, a tricky one. I believe the character who’s walking along thinking today went pretty well should have the fish cart next to her turn over and bury her in mackerel. I think the one who’s waiting to deliver a vital message to the duke should have a spark fly from the fire and set the message ablaze. The banana peels of life should be spread thickly in a character’s path.
Sorry, characters, but good times make bad stories.
So Cade and Roth look with awed disbelief at how the world treats them and breathe, “Tricky gods.”
I take it as a compliment.
Deep as a Tomb
Author: Dorothy A. Winsor
Published October 12th, 2016 by Loose Leaves Publishing
Summary: Sixteen-year-old Myla feels the land in her blood and bones. Royal heir Beran wants revenge for murder. Forest native Kaven wants to protect Myla from every danger.
Like her people, the Westreachers, Myla’s tied to the green world through tombs the forest made when it made the people. So when she finds she can open tombs long thought sealed, she’s thrilled – until her father demands she use her power to help him rebel against the king. Myla would rather mix herbal remedies and spend time with Kaven, whose family is hip deep in debt and secrets.
Prince Beran is sent to impress the people of Westreach so the council will confirm him as King’s Heir. He’s to use his power to forward the king’s goals, but on his first day, an anonymous forester murdered the guard he loved like a father. Stone royal duty, because Beran wants revenge… he’s willing to make enemies everywhere to find the killer.
Thrown together as fosterlings in the same household, Myla, Beran, and Kaven must each decide how far they’re willing to use personal and political power to get what they want.
About the Author: Dorothy A. Winsor is originally from Detroit but moved to Iowa in 1995. She still blinks when she sees a cornfield outside her living room window. For about a dozen years, she taught technical writing at Iowa State University and served as the editor of the Journal of Business and Technical Communication. She’s won six national awards for outstanding research on the communication practices of engineers. She lives with her husband, who engineers tractors, and has one son, the person who first introduced her to the pleasure of reading fantasy. Finders Keepers (Zharmae, 2015), her first novel, was a finalist in the e-book fiction category of the Eric Hoffer Awards. Her young adult fantasy, Deep as a Tomb, was published in October 2016 by Loose Leaves Publishing.
Thank you, Dorothy!