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How I used religion to underpin the world-building of my novel.

S. M. Carter

New Member
I think it's incredible, across all mediums, how often the eventual audience sees only a tiny fraction of this... but how important it is to us, as creators, to have a firm understanding of our stories.

My book is called To Steal the Sun and South Asia inspires the setting... but one of the things I tried to do, was instead of using geography, to use religion as the basis for world-building and then snowflake out from there.

I love on this forum when people explain their worlds and how they built them... its been inspiring to me... so I wanted to return the favor

****Deep breath**** here goes:

The Jeweled Lands, in the beginning, were a series of small city-states that were building a civilization into a varied land of jungle, desert, and river basins—a world where one religion thrived.

The Jaru.

The core of their belief system mimicked a natural order and held animal gods as the arbiters of fate. Three main ones, Kartajani (Rhino), B'sashti (Panther), and Sorasku (Croc), guided humanity away from the three hells, which were webbed together by Chela and her insect hordes.

Animals were seen as avatars of the gods... and many of the culture's oral traditions involved stories of animals assisting, tricking, or aiding humans in miraculous ways.

As the city-states grew, Jaru culture thrived and spread. Architecture tended towards a melding with the organic, buildings were never higher than trees, art tended to focus on animals and nature.

Until a cataclysmic event rocked the world.

A rain of stones fell from the heavens. Thousands died, but the main casualty was the people's faith in the Jaru.

In the west, two sects of monotheistic cults began. One of them managed to entwine itself with the royalty of one of the most powerful city-states. This city swallowed many of the lesser eastern cities (using their religious and military might) and became the Ivory Empire.

In the east, a rejection of the gods and superstition took hold. Instead, a focus turned to sensory evidence... Scholars became rulers and formed a new society and culture that worshipped the chain of reason instead of the protection of animal gods.

(And in the desert, where the highest concentration of the stones had fallen, the sand was stained blue and an entirely new race mutated and emerged.)

The stones, which people called runes, were eventually found to have incredible power. An ability to change the aspects of metals when in contact with them--changing gravity, conductivity, density, and more (read: magic).

And thus, the Age of Runes began.

Across the Jeweled lands, there was a radical shift in art, transportation, and settlements. People harnessed these runes for building massive architectural wonders and, as is often the case, eventually waring with each other.

Two brutal wars were fought between east and west. Like many wars, these were clashes over resources (runes - an unrenewable resource) and ideology (monotheism vs. atheism).

And then a third war when the rune-altered race from the south invaded and was barely repelled with a combined effort and significant loss of life.

This takes us to the current state of the Jeweled Lands:

Two superpowers, built from a common dead religion -- now ideologically opposed and starved for rune resources. With a deadly enemy building to the south.


The last statement is kind of that tip of the iceberg that the audience needs to know... but having all of it thought out and documented let me do so much more in the writing.

The book is a character-driven affair, with the above as the backbone. It's about a group of thieves from the west attempting an insane heist of runes from the east.

If you want to check out the book, see the trailer, and read a sample chapter... it's all here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sheldoncarter/tsts']To Steal the Sun

But honestly, I just wanted to share my process of building the world as it might help yours.

S. M.

p.s. Here's the cover so you can kind of see where an artist went with the info in the book.
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