To Believe or NOT to Believe

I recently posted a link on Facebook to an article announcing that a haunted mansion was for sale. This kind of story is catnip for writers, but it’s not to everyone’s taste. A good friend immediately replied. He is an adamant non-believer and seemed disturbed by my post. Having grown up in a secular household, in which all things paranormal, supernatural and religious were treated with equal parts amusement and distain, I enjoy this kind of story. But for people brought up in religious homes who then take up a rationalist point-of-view, any indication that I might believe in ghosts is disturbing.


            I often wish I were a believer — in ghosts, spirits, saints, demons, demigods, in Shiva, Zeus… and most of all in the ancient Egyptian cat goddess: Bastet. But I’m not a believer. I’m an amuser, an intriguer, an explorer and, most of all, a writer. I’ve had a love affair with classical mythology since my childhood and never found the stories of Jason and the Argonauts or Leda and the Swan (AKA Zeus as a big, beautiful, sexy bird) to be any less, or more, believable than Moses parting the Red Sea.

          One of the great things about being a writer is that you get to be inside the heads of characters. In order to tell most stories, writers must venture outside their own experiences and belief systems.


            Yes, yes… I hear that objection coming. There are many subgenres out there in which the writer’s job is to reflect back at the reader their shared world view, like an infinite series of mirrors in which nothing breeches the agreed to rules. I’ve tried reading some of these and they make me crazy. The assumption that everyone, or all the good/positive/likeable characters share the same religious, ethical and/or philosophical stance is infuriating.


            I like characters in conflict and I definitely like having friends with whom I can disagree about fundamental questions. These differences contribute to my education and to my work as a storyteller.



  1. Oh dear, try teaching literature in a rural farming community. Peeps out in the country get all riled up when their kids are “forced” to read books that go against whatever belief/brainwashing system they’ve been raised under. So much for critical thinking or reading, but that’s just my grumpy ex-English teacher POV talking.

    • Candy Korman

      I think it’s important to experience being in the minority once in a while. It’s one of the best ways to test the universality of feelings as opposed to belief systems and ideas. Be the only straight person in the room, the only Christian at an event, the only man on a committee, the only…. If you don’t learn something from that experience, you’re not awake. Of course, a lot of people are sleepwalkers! LOL… I loved the story in “Such is Life” (Jeri Walker-Bickett’s short story collection)about the teacher and the short stories she writes that go against the grain of the community.

      Creating characters that don’t share your background or beliefs and are still the Good/Positive personalities in the story is a challenge. Writing about Bad/Negative characters that share your background is also a good one. More than a few times people who know me well are shocked by what my characters do say or think. “It’s not YOU?!” Of course it’s not me. It’s the character. Besides, I write about killers and monsters, that’s not based on my life….

  2. I’m afraid that I’ve started not to follow those who label their blogs “I’m a Christian Writer” or similar. I don’t really know what the term means. You’re a writer or you’re not a writer. I wouldn’t want to read any fundamentalist posts which disapproved of a normal writers skill at stretching a readers imagination in any direction, to any genre they wanted. There have to be writers of fiction suitable for any or all faiths without the reader coming out of it believing in the written word, as long as they were submerged in the possibilities while reading.
    xxx Huge Hugs Candy xxx

    • Candy Korman

      Christian Romance is one of the genres I dipped into to see what it was all about. I was not raised a Christian so, like Oliver Sacks’ ‘Anthropologist on Mars’ I like to venture out and learn about how other people live, think, dream and yes — tell stories. I’ve learned a great deal more from simply talking to people. The need to make all the characters fit into neat believer categories limited the story-telling and for me the story is the goal.

      Oh, well… live and learn and read along the way.

  3. We all invest a little of our own world views into the stories we tell – that’s normal and natural [sic?] but deliberately using a story to push a world view is another thing entirely.To me that smacks of propaganda, not fiction. As writers, we should be able to /see/ the other side, even if we don’t personally accept it.

    • Candy Korman

      You are right. When it’s deliberate it IS propaganda.

      There is also the unconscious or less deliberate but still conscious way some storytellers give good or positive characters a particular world view (religious conviction, ethnicity, race or even appearance). All to many of the storybooks I grew up with described the good characters as beautiful and the bad or negative characters as ugly. Many classic mysteries continued this and assigned the role of the killer to the outsider — the “unmarried” woman, the hunchback, the weird “Gypsy” on the edge of town…

      As storytellers we should be able to write characters with perspectives other than our own. First of all it makes good stories and, on some level, I think it makes us better more interesting people. You’ve certainly achieved the alternative perspective by writing from a completely inhuman POV. Good show!