1. MustWrite
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    MustWrite Member

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    Faith as a superpower?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by MustWrite, Sep 16, 2013.

    In a Fantasy based on a Christian spiritual basis, do you think Faith can be used like a super power? [Sorry if I'm not wording this very well] [Should this be in the setting development area?]
    If you have faith you can say to this mountain be removed and cast into the sea- so said Jesus [if I remember correctly]. If I have people who 'have the gift of faith' and they ask for God to do something, it is done 'according to their faith'- I'm just trying to write out what is kinda vague in my mind right now, trying to shape it so it makes sense, sorry. So, perhaps I have a select group of people with this 'gift' and they have differing powers, but they can only ask for something that is according to Gods will, or at least not against it.
    No burning revenge for their enemies, then, or a life time supply of chocolate. What about divine help in battle? That happened a lot in the old testament.
    Any Ideas would be appreciated.
     
  2. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If, in your story, God exists, but he only listens to the "select group of people" with this gift, what does that say about God? What if someone's cause is right, but they don't have the gift? Does God just ignore them? What if one of the select group asks for something God disapproves of? Why, then, is that person a member of the select group?

    Religious beliefs aside, I'm not sure how this works as sound fiction.
     
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  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    In Sharon Shinn's Samaria series, there is a similar (and I'm using similar rather loosely here) concept that is explored. It's a science fiction series if you've not read it. Faith doesn't exactly give the humans or the angels* super powers, but in this series 'god' (and I put it in quotes because there is every reason to believe god is actually a piece of tech in this series) is a very tangibly present authority. Doing or not doing what 'god' wants causes actual, real, right then, undeniable, non-metaphorical consequences that are on a very godlike scale.

    *There are winged people that are called angels in the series. Angels cannot procreate amongst themselves. It must always be with a regular person.
     
  4. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    I think that "faith" that yields constant and verifiable results all the time defies the very definition of the word faith.

    "faith fāTH/ noun: strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof."
     
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  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    "You know, I'm glad that when I pray, the results are basically random. It strengthens my faith in God. If God answered all my prayers, I'd be inclined to think He didn't exist."

    :p
     
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  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    The Christian audience is a specific target market. It's not insignificant as many successful novels/songs are evidence of.

    For an atheist, faith as a superpower makes no sense at all. The concept fails the basic logic test. The value of faith is completely contrived, like clapping for TinkerBell.

    If your market is Christians, go for it. For anyone else, I can't see how faith is anything at all other than a Christian tenet.
     
  7. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Are you saying that Jews don't need faith? Or Muslims? Hindus? I'm a Baha'i and I have faith in God. I don't think faith is exclusive to one religion, and I'm frankly offended that you would think it is.
     
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  8. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Sounds like Bible fanfic, and I mean it in a non-ridicule sense. I think it can be "a superpower", like, if you write some character who's got God "on their side" and He helps him/her do stuff like heal, or part seas or burn bushes, like he worked with those people in the Bible. Perhaps it'd work best for a religious audience as others have suggested. Of course in your story there would be no faith, no believers per se if the God is real. Sure, some may doubt His existence, but the reader would probably know He exists (like some spirit, or like Zeus or Odin etc.) and has actual powers and lends them to some chosen one(s).

    I'm not brimming with ideas right now, but I think I'd market this as a fantasy novel and probably go easy on "the faith" aspect as clearly there's no need for it; either this force exists or it doesn't.
     
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  9. Dean Stride
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    Dean Stride Contributing Member

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    Guys, it's like magic, but with a different label. If an atheist can read Harry Potter, then they can surely read this. Why wouldn't it work? If the writer can present it in the right way, a much larger market would be open to them.

    I, as an atheist, would never read some apologetic fiction rife with preachy dogmatism, but I would immensely enjoy something in the lines of the Priest (2011) movie or an adventure, like the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series. @Jack Asher Adding in faith as a mechanic, and thus redefining it, would make the world a bit more interesting.

    Maybe include more than one god, have them compete for the reverence of their followers? Perhaps people's faith is their source of power and they grant divine aid in return?

    Don't tell me you wouldn't read something like this.
     
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  10. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    But would these other gods be make-believe then? Afaic, Christianity and God of Christians (and Muslims? not sure what's Allah's take on this) is not cool with the believers having other gods, and if God created the universe, he probably didn't create other gods? And OP said this is based on "Christian spiritual basis", of course, than can entail many things.

    In Supernatural, there's basically one god, God, but there're also Norse/Indian/Greek/Egyptian gods. I guess the point was that whoever the people believe in the most, becomes the big boss god or something.
     
  11. Dean Stride
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    Dean Stride Contributing Member

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    Yes. Just because it's based on something, doesn't mean it has to incorporate every aspect. Maybe God didn't create the universe but is part of some large pantheon (which he is, if you know the history behind Jehovah) , and is fighting for supremacy. The main character would just happen to be on His side.
     
  12. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I can see that. Now we're headed into some serious Percy Jackson territory, though. Wrath of the Titans also comes to mind. The way the magicking is mitigated in those two franchises is that the demigods have complex, angsty relationships with their God-daddies and God-mommies. Some of them (Perseus) refuse to use their full abilities because they're pissed at their exalted parents for letting the world be such a toilet. There's trodden but still interesting thematic ground to be covered there.
     
  13. Dean Stride
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    Dean Stride Contributing Member

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    Doesn't need to head to said direction. It could be about cult rivalry, the moral and political landscapes that form and evolve in the face of interventionist gods. Young adult fiction has set up a rigid mindset regarding the issues tackled in such novels for far too long, if you ask me. Look at the Hunger Games: yes, it's not about gods (arguable), but it's also not about some angsty teen relationships, either (be it with parents or with a love interest). There are more approaches to this than the stale staple of this subgenre.
     
  14. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Well, all of this is assuming the OP is taking his/her story in a YA direction. I don't read YA; what I know of the two franchises I've mentioned is from film and from the classic, not YA, literature that gives us the story of Perseus. And teens don't have a monopoly on angst. Teen angst tends toward the diffuse and sourceless, but angst exists all through one's life. It just goes by different names as one ages. Kinda' like the word conceited. No one uses that word after about 10th grade, but the behavior that gives rise to the sentiment is ever present, it just adopts other aliases. :cool:
     
  15. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Right. I'm a Christian, mum's a preacher and dad's a lay preacher and I grew up in a home where my parents led Bible study groups weekly. In my family there's sometimes the joke that I've been "going to church since before I was born" (by virtue of being inside my mother lol).

    In fact, and you as a Christian will probably sympathise with this even if it sounds idiotic to everyone else, I wanted to serve God with my writing and glorify His name with the gift of writing that He's blessed me with, and honour the name of Christ so much, I turned my entire fantasy book Christian (that's not to say my book became sentient and acquired faith and began praying incessantly, no, before anyone objects to the term "Christian" applied to an object.)

    I'll tell you what kinda story line I came up with in the end with this one. I decided to take Jesus' verse of "No one can serve two masters" and make that my core theme. My main character Will was chosen by a an entity in the form of a great tree, which lives in another realm. Why? The tree gives the reply: "Because you know you are unworthy." (to fellow Christian, read: "Because you know you are a sinner and therefore need a saviour") The tree gives him a supernatural power, but it is not Will's own power, but the Tree's through him. Will hears a whisper that comes in the form of a wind (read: the Spirit of the Lord is like the wind, and no one knows where the wind comes and where it goes). He has to trust in the Tree. He's given a choice - whom does he serve? He cannot have two masters, and the religion of his world serves the lord of the Underworld (read: devil). Will chooses the right master. The story ends with Will trading his soul to redeem my villain's (read: Christ analogy - one's death for another's life), and Will dies. But time comes to cremate him, his lover is shocked to find his coffin empty (read: He is Risen!). The woman rushes to the realm where the Tree is, and finds Will well and alive under the tree - you see, because he's entrusted his soul to his master, this Great Tree, and so his soul is safe and the devil (Morvitus) cannot claim it (read: not a single one whom the Father has given to me shall be plucked from my hand). The lover and Will reunite, and the woman looks up and sees things written on the leaves of the Great Tree. She asks, what's written on it?

    As a Christian, can you guess?

    You guessed it - it is names. Names are written on the leaves of the tree. The Great Tree is the tree of life itself.

    Seriously, I managed to insert so many Bible verses into my plot, my friend who read it actually called it "stealth evangelism" lol.

    Now, do you know how many problems I ran into? For a start, my devil can only be evil - he cannot have any complexity, because any shadow or grey area would be perceived as "Satan is not entirely evil", and that is not true. The tree, if you hadn't guessed, is the God figure. This brings me my biggest headache. I have to ask, why did the Tree choose Will? "Just because" is a stupid answer - I'm sorry. While theologically it is amazing to know I've done nothing to deserve to be loved and saved by Jesus Christ, and I believe this to be true, it makes for an appalling novel. I knew I couldn't tell my readers "just because", but if I had to keep it true to Christian doctrine, then I couldn't have it any other way. There's nothing I can offer Christ - so if Will is the analogy of mankind, then there can be nothing he can offer the Tree either. You might object and say, "No, it's not just because. It's because of His great love!"

    Now how do I explain why a random Tree being loves Will, and only Will, especially when Will didn't even know it existed in the first place?

    The whisper/wind thing is another problem. Will hears a whisper that guides him in how he should use his supernatural power (read: listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and doing his will, using the gifts God's given you to do good works). First of all, if it's a "power", it does not whisper. Second of all, if it's not Will's power but the Tree's, then how's Will apparently controlling this? You see, the problem is, it gets contrived very quickly. Horrific monster attacks Will, Will is weak and cannot defend himself, but behold, he possesses a great gift that the Tree has blessed him with, and obediently he listens to the guidance of the Holy Spirit supernatural wind. This leads him to do great things and, he doesn't know how he did it, but the battle is won! For God has the victory! Oh wait, it's meant to be the Tree, no it's Will. Wait, who?

    The problem I have found with allegories, and that is exactly what I have attempted, is you end up with two-dimensional characters and a contrived plot that barely makes sense. And it's not for lack of trying - I've worked on this stupid plot for 3 years and only in the recent 3 months have I completely scrapped it all and done it again from scratch. I ditched 3 frigging years of work and about 300,000 words because I went down this route.

    My Tree could have no other motive than to love and save people, he has not ulterior motives, no desires of his own besides the welfare of mankind.

    My lord of the Underworld can be nothing other than evil, because he just wants power, he wants to defeat the Great Tree. Why? Because... POWER! Ultimate, infinite POWER!

    Will? Well, he's a lost weakling who needs to simply put his trust in the Tree. Do as the Tree says, and he is sure to win every mighty for God the Tree has already provided him with every spiritual blessings and equipped him for the fight. There could be no reason at all why Will was chosen, why he's special, because that goes against Christian doctrine. We're saved not because of our own goodness but God's great love, after all.

    Anyone who opposes the Tree and his dryads (read: angels/messengers)? Why, they're on the wrong side and evil.

    Anyone who supports the Tree? Why, they're good, of course.

    Seriously, don't go down this route. Now, it is perfectly possible to write allegorical stories and make it fantastic - just look at Narnia and you know it's true. But not everyone is good at writing this kind of story, it adheres very strictly to certain sets of rules and boundaries that if you're not sure how to manoeuvre around it, what you'll end up doing is crash and burn, and I'm not even kidding. Do not think I enjoyed ditching 300,000 words. Unless you're actually good at this sort of thing, or you're a highly experienced writer who is up for the challenge, I'd say, stay away. In my experience, Christian fiction is usually written badly with a bad plot to go with it. Now I see why.

    And since I changed tact? My story's just got a whole lot more interesting. My human societies can actually react to my villain like actual people would, because they no longer have to react in a prescribed way. My Tree is still boring unfortunately, but my main character got a whole lot more complex. The Tree is now recognised as an actual religion parallel to the main one in my world, and while I do still portray one as better than the other, it's not contrived anymore. It actually breathes, because now there's actually room to breathe.

    Now to your question about faith as a superpower, but that only works when you do God's will? My opinion?

    Don't even go there. Does NOT sound like it'll work. You'll run into exactly the same problems as I did. The key problem here is actually your God figure - what does God want and why does He want this? The answer is always going to be "Because it is good/just/loving". Your readers don't even need to think. Super faith power will rain down from heaven and defeat the enemies, and when they lack faith you should despair with them, because God is always good. Unless it's meant for little children, I wouldn't even try. Sorry.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2013
  16. Dean Stride
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    Dean Stride Contributing Member

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    What about people who don't take a side, or pick a third one?

    A star cold enough to touch sounds like it can't be, as well. Yet it is, and it leads a successful existence. It's not so much what you write, it's how you write it that's important. He doesn't need to take extremes or make his superpower that "super" either. There are many ways to make an ability balanced and intriguing.
     
  17. ddavidv
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    ddavidv Contributing Member

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    The OP doesn't seem to have returned as yet, and I'm wondering if we aren't straying somewhat from the original question. Jack Asher makes an excellent observation:
    One of the questions I have regarding this is, does the book rely on the Bible/Christianity for it's facts and rules? Here's why I ask...

    My current novel is about the existence of heaven (it does exist) and what it is really like (nothing as the Bible describes). I created a premise where heaven and hell exist as most people accept them (good people go one place, bad people go elsewhere) but the participants in my story have learned that the Bible is wrong, at least in it's details, but perhaps not in it's overall message. Hardcore Christians and militant atheists will probably both hate the book, but most people in-between who accept Stephen King's bizarre worlds can certainly wander through mine. My point being, if you do not find yourself forced to follow the Bible ver batim (like most people who believe in it, actually), it will open you up to writing your story "based on" whatever aspect of religion you decide.

    Not sure if that helps, but there it is. :)
     
  18. Dean Stride
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    Dean Stride Contributing Member

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    If you hold the overall premise of the Bible's Heaven and Hell true, then you should know that it's not those who are good, but those who accept Christ into their lives that are allowed to go through the pearly gates; those who don't can go to Hell, literally.
     
  19. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Most (all) religions have elements of faith, but the Christian religion has faith as a critical tenet, profess belief despite having no evidence or having your evidence challenged. Believers in non-Christian religions would be an unlikely part of the market for Faith/Biblical based fiction. Whereas in the US, anyway, a big market (aka readers if 'market' has the wrong connotation for anyone) exists for this genre of fiction. I doubt many non-Christians read the genre. I've skimmed a couple LaHaye, "Left Behind" books out of curiosity. They are best sellers and might have a little wider cross section of readers.

    I haven't read or seen "Life of Pi". Maybe someone who has can better comment on the role faith had in the story. While the MC combines belief in 3 religions, the 'faith in God' theme nonetheless equates to faith in the essential Christian god. A book like "Life of Pi" may appeal to a broader readership, but it's a rare book in the genre where faith is a major theme which does so.
     
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  20. GingerCoffee
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    I think this interpretation of the concept makes sense and is broader than my tunnel vision impression of the OP question was. So if this is more along the lines of what MustWrite intends for his story, I agree with you, Dean.
     
  21. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Actually, Pi applies a very Hindu frame of mind to his acceptance of three different aspects of knowing Braman.

    My words from a different conversation I had elsewhere on a similar theme:

    For Pi, Christ and Allah and Vishnu are all just facets of a greater "all thing" called Braman, all of which fit perfectly in the Hindu way of seeing things.
     
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  22. GingerCoffee
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    I can see there is a wealth of material in the Bible if one were to change to different symbolism to tell Bible stories. It's an interesting premise, I like it. It's not a genre I would read, but it's a creative idea.
     
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  23. EdFromNY
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    As with all things in fiction, if you can make it work, yes. But the primary challenge if you are trying to reach a wide audience (and I don't know if you are or not) will be to reach those who may not accept the underlying dogma.

    I think it's important to remember that most of what is written in both Testaments is allegory, hence the need for ministers of various kinds to provide interpretation. And that interpretation is highly subjective. An outnumbered force prays for victory. Through brilliant tactics they win. Ergo, God answered their prayers? Or they're commander was just smarter?
     
  24. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I'm reminded of a story from the 1967 war in the middle east, wherein a small Israeli force faced an overwhelming opposing force in open ground; but the open ground was a field of grain, so the Israeli commander ordered flamethrowers to set it afire. Impending disaster was turned to great victory.
     
  25. Aled James Taylor
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    Aled James Taylor Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would say that Faith cannot be a superpower because it is to do with belief and trust, both of which are entirely passive.

    I think any kind fiction that is labelled 'Christian' is dangerous ground. Many religious believers seem to have great difficulty separating fact from fiction and although the work would be clearly labelled 'fiction' it could be taken far more seriously. Many believers will have an over-positive attitude to anything labelled 'Christian' and an over negative attitude to anything that has a label that seems to oppose Christianity (such as the Harry Potter books).

    Ultimately God is mysterious, works in mysterious ways, does things that people don't expect and all in accordance with the laws of probability (just as if there was no god).

    You could always write a comedy about an ignorant, deluded person who thinks he can direct the power of God. But I think this has already happened many times in real life.
     
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