A friend providing some culture consultation for elements of Novel 02, a ‘side chapter’ in “The Story,” told me that religion appears frequently in Russian media. How steeped in the past should we go when we develop our fiction? How deep should we go to compare our current reality with the fictional world’s non-reality? If the details are window-dressing, then the structural integrity of the window should be fine, otherwise, it’s worthwhile to dig in deep.
Spoilers?: Minor [religion, culture; purpose]
Before I begin writing “The Story,” proper, I would want to study ‘the basics.’
What I mean is that through compulsory education, we are taught enough about the foundation of our world where we can dig deeper if we want or find ourselves in situations where this could be beneficial. This could be a more American-focused perspective, but history was just considered one of many topics, rather than anything with any deep significance. Religion inspires culture, though, so if I want to write about culture, should I know about religion?
“How much should I know?” might be the better question to ask.
Just because I can enjoy music steeped in religious context without knowing much of the religion that inspired it doesn’t mean I can write competently about that music. This might be, then, window dressing rather than window structure. What I mean by that analogy is that if I were to build a house, as I am analogously with novels, I should plan for the number of windows that house would have to make sure the house has enough structural integrity to hold everything up for as long as possible. If I’m not building in that regard, I wouldn’t be demoing a wall to put in a window. I would just be commenting on the window dressings or the drapery and curtains that let in or block light.
How much of “The Story” is window dressing or window building?
I’ve always considered the historical context of “The Story” to be secondary to its present. Events from thousands or hundreds of years ago might have contemporary ramifications, but not significantly. I wonder if some rephrasing would work well here: If John and Trishna were transplanted to our world, or a contemporary world similar to ours, how much of their lives would change? Not much, in that history in “The Story” isn’t a drastic departure. Let’s say they were moved into a world with alternate gravity or physics systems, with maybe double the Earth’s gravity.
In that hypothetical, alternate-physics world, they would need to adapt.
I would consider religion and culture’s purpose within “The Story,” then, to be more commentary or window dressing. If there were stronger arguments, either for or against changing elements within, it would make more sense to have a deeper understanding. That’s not to say that I will completely disregard religion, its impact on culture, or culture as a whole when I write these stories. Many of the characters in these stories are people of color, so it would be rude for me to completely ignore religion and culture.
Let me phrase this differently so I don’t bury a hole for myself.
I haven’t studied much history in-depth yet because even though Sammohini is the main character of Novel 02, a character that would be informed by Indian and Irish histories, her story in Novel 01 was her own interpretation of the value of her name and Novel 02 will explore anxiety. If Novel 03 were to explore, say, race relations, then yes, I should want to have a thorough understanding of race, religion, culture, how these and other factors tie in. Since my novels are more about the characters themselves rather than their societal place, that’s always been my reason for not digging into our history to build alternate histories much.
The more I write of this the more I realize this perspective has flaws.
Just because it’s not apparent doesn’t mean its influences aren’t there. Our present was shaped by all of our past, even if the past has problems or might be generically swappable with the pasts of other cultures. If I were to justify my position at all, I would say that these are character-driven stories, so if a character were particularly religious or interested in cultures, then I would do specific research. Otherwise, until realizing that this sort of argument results in a lacking foundation of fundamental elements of culture, I felt I was fine to proceed as I was.
I’m not sure how much religious or cultural studies will be enough.
There is still much for me to learn, so I feel deeply ignorant – now, it’s more wide-open where my ignorances left me feeling privately ashamed. My intentions are pure with this whole operation. I want to write about these specific characters not out of any sort of wider appeal toward anyone or any group, but because these are the characters that introduced themselves to my imagination and stuck around. I should only seek to do them justice by learning, as I did in compulsory education, the boring details of my own history.
The question, then, becomes how much should I learn before I begin writing Novel 02?
For Novel 02, its scope is more limited, so I can, as I did with Novel 01, get away with incomplete information in certain areas. If my imagination didn’t catch it throughout the month I wrote it, or within my two-week preparation process, then I get a pass. If I were to play it loose like that with “The Story,” which has had a near-twenty-year preparation process, I’m not sure I could be so easily forgiven. The scope of Sammohini’s Arc of “The Story” is much more focused on her experiences and life, rather than “The Story,” which might deal with broader topics affecting not just John and Trishna but everyone as a whole. For that, yes, I should learn more about history, religion, culture, and the interspersions of all these and other factors.
Realizing these shortcomings should help, though.
|Quotes: No direct quote.|
|Sources: The Story’s Imaginarium.|
|Inspirations: My buddy Sol told me about how religion pops up in Russian media and since I was writing about religion, I naturally wondered how it applied to “The Story.” I’m not sure I would say this is positive inspiration, but I want to avoid being as ignorant as J.K. Rowling presents herself on social media, so I’d rather figure out my short-comings in essays like this where I can honestly say “yeah, that argument is flimsy” to myself rather than the world.|
|Related: Essays building “The Story.”|
|Written On: 2020 June 07 [11pm to 11:40pm]|
|Last Edited: 2020 June 07 [First draft; final draft for the Internet.]|