How do you write convincing fiction about things you don't believe in? This is a question that has been weighing on me for a couple of years now. I have a series of stories I wrote years ago that all take place in a remote Pennsylvania town where Lucifer resides and wreaks havoc in the lives of the residents. Sounds like an interesting horror series, right? It was, and for the most part, I had fun writing it, but the problem arose in that my personal beliefs do not include "the devil." In short, I felt at the time like my portrayal of the devil would be unconvincing because I do not believe in him.
Then I got to thinking. Do those who write ghost stories necessarily believe in ghosts, or do they just do their homework very well? Do fantasy writers believe in dragons, or again, do they spend a lot of time researching and exercising their imagination? Does Clive Barker believe in Cenobites? (I dunno, he just might...)
When I told my husband I was blogging this topic, he looked at me and shook his head. "You don't have to believe in something to write about it!" he said. And maybe he's right. Enough research on any topic will definitely add an element of realism as you're writing, but is it the same believability established from genuine belief?
And I'm not just talking about horror here. If you're writing a book or short story about life after death or the existence of angels, do you personally think the book would have more credibility if you were a firm believer in the topic? I'm interested in your thoughts on this. I don't know what I think yet. I'm still thinking about it and can see how belief in something would definitely establish more strength in its portrayal. On the other hand, I think that knowing something inside and out could also provide this type of strength. I'm torn.
Thoughts? And I'd really like to know if Clive Barker believes in Cenobites.
Edited to add:
Apparently Mr. Barker does believe in "evil things" all around us.
Jennifer Melzer spent the majority of her life as a writer denying she actually liked to write romance, only to wake up one morning and discover that every single tale she'd ever written had somehow revolved around the heart. She has since given into the whim, spinning yarns of love and firmly believing that everyone deserves a happy ending.
She lives in Northeast Pennsylvania with her husband and daughter, but dreams nightly she is laying on the beach watching the stars fall over the Atlantic Ocean.