Monday, 16 May 2011

G is for Gods

G was going to be ghouls and ghosties, things that go bump in the night, and then the Grim Reaper*. But then I thought of gods.

Gods are full of possibilities.

Whether you take an existing pantheon and re-work it, modernise it, or use it as a basis for a fantasy pantheon, or whether you make up an entirely new mythology.

I'm not going to write about re-worked myth here. So no Marvel Thor or Mr. Wednesday**.

I want to talk about the possibilities of gods in your writing, and mine. A fully worked pantheon and mythology is going to add depth to your writing... What is the relationship between the gods, is a worshipper of one going to look down on/ dislike/ hate someone who worships another, and why? Are there some gods worshipped in different aspects, if the mythology diverges in different regions?

The trick is to work the details in with subtlety. What Tolkien achieved is mind-blowing, but I think sometimes he goes a little too far, dumps the information on us a little too thickly. For the most part, though, he has created one of the richest fantasy worlds to exist in only three books. (I'm ignoring all the additional bumph that was published post-mortem)

I think it would be interesting to look at taking a god as a central character though. Maybe not the main character (although don't rule that out either).

It has a lot of potential. You have to bring him down to a human level, to enable a reader to engage, so... has he been cast down? Is he slumming it (and why)? Does he (she?) remember who they are? Are they hiding, and what would force such a powerful being into hiding? Have they been stripped of their powers?

At what point do you let the reader know the character is a god/ goddess?

If you're familiar with the original Dragonlance trilogy you'll know how great a character a god in disguise can be. And if you're not familiar with it, but love epic quest fantasy, then go find it now, read it. (I actually prefer it to LoTR... ! )

And finally... where do your gods come from? Were they here in the beginning, are they the creators? Are the current gods descendants of the original gods, or usurpers? Are they humans risen in power? Are they from another dimension, another planet, the future? If they are still a presence in the world, what are their motives...?

It's easy to throw generic gods around. But I know you can do better... ;)

The Renegade A to Z. Or find us on Twitter - #RenegadeAtoZ

Click through to the list and check out Reginald Golding's Renegade A to Z. He's actually using the A to Z to build his own pantheon of gods, with some impressive results. =)

*It's difficult now to include the Grim Reaper as a character in any larger sense because Terry Prathett did it so well. His Death is the quintessential Death, with his deadpan (pun-unintended) sense of humour, hollow voice and ongoing struggle with understanding life.

**Mr. Wednesday being Odin in Neil Gaiman's excellent American Gods.


  1. Great consideration of the subject here. Everything I've been writing lately is centered around my central WIP (still under wraps), but all the threads bind back to that core story. One thing I've lacked is the layers to the story that take it past "here's people, and there's technology". Trying to get myself into their shoes, having lived those lives with those things, and tap into the resulting behaviors.
    Piecing together a pantheon is something I never thought of until this month, but it's a huge piece that I'll weave in, and I think it's going to really propel the environment.
    Challenging, but still fun *fingercross*

  2. OOh, interesting. Gods come up in my own work, and the essential question, when do I reveal the truth, has been bugging me for a while.

    Meanwhile, this actually made me think of Douglas Adams' second Dirk Gently book, which is also about hidden gods. Whenever I think of Thor, I think of an aggressive Scandinavian trying to get a ticket at Heathrow.

  3. Thanks Reginald and Isabel. =)

    I've been thinking about my own pantheon recently, and I've also been building a space opera universe, with different races and politics and so on to consider, which is not a dissimilar process.

    I think the other difficulty with a reveal is judging your readers. It should be just when they have an inkling, but before they're sure. I guess a lot of proofreaders is the only way to judge if you've got the balance right or if it needs tweaking.

    And, I suppose, whether there is more story to be had as a result of the reveal, or whether that represents the beginning of the end... a pivot or a culmination...

    I have the Dirk Gentlys, but haven't got round to reading them yet. Didn't know the second was about hidden gods but that makes me want to read it all the more! =D