Monday, June 1, 2009

Dabbling in Religion

Michelangelo's Creation of Man I’m feeling daring today, so I’m going to touch on one of the more difficult topics—religion. (Hope this isn’t one of those things where I wonder later what the heck I was thinking….)

Now, the books I’m writing are very secular in nature. We’re talking murder mysteries here. But I’m a Southern writer, and these books are based in the American South where life and religion are more naturally entwined. So the characters go to church meetings (where they, naturally, discover all kinds of clues to the murderer), attend funerals in churches….and even discover bodies there.

I’ve been reflecting that it seems actually more unnatural to ignore religion or spirituality in books that feature major conflicts. After all, these folks are having a rough time. In murder mysteries, people are dropping like flies and the characters may be endangered, themselves. Isn’t it stranger that they wouldn’t look for a little spiritual guidance? And in most fiction I’ve read, the protagonist is beset by a myriad of problems. But Eat, Pray, Love was the only book that I’ve recently read that included a spiritual quest (and it was nonfiction.)

The trick is to fit religion or spirituality into secular books in a non-preachy way. I usually use humor to make the reader more comfortable. And I try to weave my references in naturally. Because….I’m not writing Christian literature here. The church is the background, not the focal point.

Has anyone else dabbled in religion in their manuscripts? Why or why not?