In developing my story world, I found myself in a position to incorporate my love of symbolism through the monasteries. They’re placed in directions relatively cardinal to the city they surround. Each monastery reflects the color most commonly associated with its given direction. Each monastery also reflects the element most commonly associated with its given direction.
Then, I started working on the monastery that had been giving me the most trouble, and I realized I have a huge opportunity to indulge in one of my favorite hobbies: comparative religions. At first, I hadn’t really thought to give any of the monasteries much depth, and then it became obvious that to tell the kinds of stories I want to tell in New Glory those monasteries have to be more than city limit markers.
To that end, each monastery still has its symbolic associations related to its direction, but I’m scouring world religions and trying to develop world-specific belief system practiced by each of these monasteries. (I’m also starting to realize what monastery most of the non-monk characters currently in existence would most likely attend if he or she worships at all.) Yes, it’s more research to hide behind, but it’s also a chance to remember just how beautiful the major world religions are and to think about how a religion develops and is practiced.
Whether or not you personally believe anything, faith is all around us in all sizes, shapes, and colors. You can bet it’s going to permeate your own story world, too, so be ready to explore the forms it takes and how it affects people’s reactions to what goes on around them.