On writing God in a story

Forums Fiction General Writing Discussions On writing God in a story

This topic contains 15 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  EricaWordsmith 3 weeks, 6 days ago.

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  • #83868

    Lin
    @lin

    As christian writers we all want to share our faith with the world. However, when writing a fantasy novel that’s set in a different world that get’s a little harder. I actually even stopped writing a story I was working on because of the topic started by @daeus-lamb on christian stories. I wanted to honour God with the story but I felt like it wasn’t working at all.

    There’s just one thing that I noticed on here that seemed a little strange to me. Puting a version of God in your fantasy world so that at least you have God in your story. I am not judging anyone on this, because that thought has crossed my mind too. But God is so holy, to be honest, I’m not even sure if we should do this. I don’t think we should be making some kind of religion in a fantasy world because we’re afraid to leave God out. Isn’t that a dangerous thing to do?

    Yes, Jesus told parables, Lewis wrote Aslan, Max Lucado wrote Eli. But that’s very different from trying to put God into a made up religion that should somehow mirror christianity because you’re afraid to leave God out of your story.

    Ofcourse sharing your faith is a lot easier if you wrote historical fiction or anything in the real world. Maybe things are just a little different in America than in Europe.

    Once again, I’m not judging anyone. I’m just a little worried if putting some kind of version of God in your fantasy novel is a good thing to do. I’m very curious about your thoughts on this! Thanks for taking the time to read this! 😊

    Tagging some people: @the-fledgling-artist @ashira @ericawordsmith @h-jones @eden-anderson @sarah-inkdragon @everyone

    “I've loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”

    #83875

    The Fledgling Artist
    @the-fledgling-artist

    @lin Oh wow, this is an excellent question. I really have to think about this.

     

    .. I’m looking forward to everyone else’s thoughts on this but here are mine. (As uninformed as they are.)

    Personally, I think this can be a problem, but it doesn’t have to.  Imo if you are genuinely doing it because you think it’s the BEST way to tell the story, and explore the themes you wanna tell/explore then you should do it. If you’re only twisting it to be a fantasy, or sticking a God-like figure in just for the sake of writing what you want to write/ or making it ‘Christian’ than you should seriously consider adapting your story, or just dropping it altogether for something else (or in some cases, maybe  dropping writing completely.)

    .. That’s a hard thing to do. I won’t act like it’s not. But sometimes, I think serving God to the best of our abilities means dropping what we think we would rather be doing.

    My prayer for this thread and anyone reading through it is that everything said, and every conclusion drawn would be for God’s glory.

    If anyone disagrees with what I’ve said feel free to call me out, or just ask any questions. I don’t wanna come off like I have this all figured out. I’m probably more in Lin’s boat then I sound like.

    "Where there are dreary streets come dance with me"

    #83882

    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    @lin So, in essence, you’re worried writing God in a fantasy story could be idolatrous?

    Yeah, that’ possible. However, I’ve never seen any significant difference between expressing who God is through a story and expressing who he is through a sermon. There’s a chance of idolatry in a sermon too.

    So you need to be careful that whatever you say about God in your story is something you could comfortably say outside of your story.

    I’ve included God as a character in my fantasy world because it’s very theocentric. The theme requires his existence and benefits from his limited screen time.

    However, if God is in a story but he isn’t explored through that story, I would question why he’s there.

     

    😀
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    #83887

    valtmy
    @valtmy

      @lin

      I don’t think there needs to explicitly be a God figure in every story. My goal in my writing is more of to write stories that challenge the many common assumptions people have about life in this world (i.e. that money/romance/science/whatever idol they have will make them happy or solve their problems) to encourage non-believers to think deeper and hopefully realise that there is something greater they are yearning for.

      What is more important to me is that there should be an underlying morality in our writing as Christians (that shows goodness as good and wickedness and wicked) and a sense of meaning and hope in that even though terrible things happen, everything is according to a higher plan (which, since it is our story, refers to our plan so we are the ‘God’ of our story world… but since we as Christian writers who have surrendered our writing to God it actually really refers to God’s plan???) 😛

      Anyway, here are some ways I have come up with to have a ‘God’ in my story. Let me know what you think.

      #1: Have a human character in your story sort-of-but-not-really represent God

      To give an example, I have a lawyer/detective story idea where the main character, as a law enforcer, takes orders from and is answerable to an authority figure. The authority figure is a human character with a personality and backstory and all but for the purpose of the story, whenever my character talks to the authority figure, she is speaking to ‘God’ and because of their supervision, she has to conduct herself properly, perform her duties diligently and make sure she does justice in her work. In a similar way, we have to be obedient to God and we are answerable to Him.

      #2: Present God in god

      This is a more controversial method because it involves the borrowing of the beliefs that other religions/myths/legends have about ‘gods’ (e.g. the Greek gods are very powerful but are heavily flawed and their abilities are limited in some ways and it is possible for humans to outsmart them) and then throwing them under the bus to show that God is so much greater. For example, in one of my stories I have again sort-of-but-not-really presented God as a divine genie that grants ‘wishes’ to people (based on the belief in many Chinese societies that if you have enough good karma/pray long and diligently enough, the gods will answer your prayers) even though He warns many of them that what they ask for is foolish. Various people, thinking themselves as very wise and smart or underestimating the power and danger of the ‘God’ figure, make the wishes anyway or try to destroy the ‘God’ figure to no avail. Through this, I hope to show the might and power of God over man. 😀

      #83897

      Ariel Ashira
      @ashira

      @lin I think you are right on.  This is on of the main reasons I decided to write his-fic instead.  I personally feel making up God in a different way is too dangerous ground for me to walk on.  I dont want to be condemned by God someday because I led people or myself astray by the way I portrayed Him.  There is one WIP I have that is “fantasy” that I am writing with a ten year old boy, but the only reason it is called that is because it is set in a made up kingdom, although it is still in the laws of the real world and in every way is made to be reality.  We just are not writing it historically, although we incorperate a lot of historical elements.  But God is the same God in it, we even quote the Bible – and there is no magic, made up fantasy creatures, things like that.

      But God is so holy, to be honest, I’m not even sure if we should do this. I don’t think we should be making some kind of religion in a fantasy world because we’re afraid to leave God out. Isn’t that a dangerous thing to do?

      I really liked that part!  Its so true.  Thank you for having the guts to just say so.  Sometimes I feel really discouraged because my friends write fantasy, fan over Narnia, and you kind of have to be a loner.  Nice to know these thoughts are not entirely my own.

      And really, there are so many benefits and awesome things about his-fic!  Some seem to look at it as this awful genre you cant have fun with.  Not so! @selah-chelyah

      "In a mask, was he?"

      #83909

      NCStokes
      @ncstokes

      @lin This is a really good question. **incoming ramble, please assume crash positions**

      When I first began writing fantasy, I adamantly believed that incorporating a “God” character in my story was a Bad Idea In All Caps. The reasoning behind this is that I, as a finite human, could never portray God in all His complexity. This thought was only reinforced when I read this book, set in modern times but with a very obvious spiritual battle going on. And “God” was… passive? Favoring the authors favorites with about as much subtlety as the author? Distant? It made me think “ew, if this is what happens when someone tries to write God, leave me out of it.” But I’ve changed my mind in recent years, if only a little bit. You see, while it would be near impossible for me to figure out what God would do and not do on my own, writing anything on my own is Not Good anyway. If God wants me to write Him, He will help me.

      But, here comes the grey area I think we’re all talking about here. When writing his-fic/contemporary fic, those are already places where we know God to be. Even in the Chronicles of Narnia, Narnia is connected to our world, so if God exists here, logically, He exists there. The choice whether or not to overtly include Him is between the author and God.

      So is writing a God character into a story in a different world idolatry? After all that, I still don’t know. I’ll just explain how I deal with this in my own writing. There is an absolute standard of good and evil. This standard exists in my fantasy world. So things that are true here (i.e. forgiveness is a good thing, hate is destructive, even in the darkest times there is still hope.) are true there. So, even without overtly including God, I can include His truth.  But can there be truth without a Truth-giver? Again, I don’t know. I’m no expert, this is just my own reasoning. I’m still learning, or course. 🙂

      *shameless self promotion* https://weridasusual.home.blog/

      #83926

      Lin
      @lin

      @the-fledgling-artist I agree. Sometimes we have to make hard choices but after all it’s all for His glory.

      @daeus-lamb I’m not necessary thinking of idolatry. Though that could be a problem too. I’m more concerned about if we should portray God in a made up world at all. Like Ashira said, to me that would be dangerous ground to walk on. This might be very personal. Some might feel comfortable with this and some not. But how would you portray God in a fantasy world?

      @valtmy Yes, having a clear difference between good and evil is definitely importrant! 😊I agree with your first point. After all, Jesus compared himself to a good shepherd.

      @ashira I agree with everything you just said. I´ve stopped writing fantasy for that same reason. And also because I noticed that every book I read is his-fic haha. So I really want to write historical fiction as well! 😊

      @ncstokes I agree! After all, the book of Esther doesn’t mention God but you can still feel His pressence in it.

      “I've loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”

      #83945

      Daeus Lamb
      @daeus-lamb

      @lin Yes, that’s a good point. I think it’s something that intimidated me until I tried it. And if you don’t want to try it, that’s perfectly fine.

      In my story, I never have characters see God. I think that makes it much easier. They may be aware of his presence, but I work with God’s voice, not his image. In this case, I’m only working with three factors: the words God says, the tone he uses, and the context in which he speaks. Since I view any representation I make of God as a statement that he is that way, I ground myself in scriptures. Sometimes I directly quote God’s words (in parallel contexts — that’s important). For instance, he tells a character roughly similar to Judas in my story, “What you are about to do, do quickly”.

      Otherwise, I’m trying to write God’s words similar to how they appear in scripture — always considering context. What biblical context is closest to what I’m representing in my story and then how can I convey God’s basic tone and message?

      😀
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      #83954

      Selah
      @selah-chelyah

      @lin

      Aw, I admire you for asking! And I agree with you (and Ashira). 😀

      That is one of the most major reasons I do not write fantasy, either. I cannot equate fantasy with the revealed God of the Bible who is so holy, sovereign, and omnipresent. Besides which, I am a Christian writer, and my goal is to glorify my Lord and Father in what I write…how can I do that in a world I make up and then try to insert a partial form of Him into? I couldn’t try to shrink parts of Him into my made-up world. Besides that, I find the world He has made SO much more interesting! 🙂

      ~ 'Every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor.' C.H. Spurgeon ~

      #83961

      EricaWordsmith
      @ericawordsmith

        Great question @lin! I have had to take a lot of time to wrestle through this one…

        In a nutshell (because I really could take a deep breath and let out a very long rant on this one XD) I believe that fantasy is a mirror or reality as the author decides to portray it. Through fantasy, you can explore an idea in a different way and help the reader to see something differently that they might have seen it before, or to become acquainted with a concept or idea. I am so grateful for fantasy writers who understand this and have impacted my life by showing me things through a different perspective.

        So, writing God into the story. I think that in a way, you have to accept that the your world works (depending on the sort of story or point of the story you are working on) will portray a type of reality.

        I view it as if I don’t have a God figure, I am potentially writing a story that portrays witchcraft or humanism that will not help my reader in any way shape or form. I’m not saying that every fantasy story has to have a Jesus figure, etc, etc, but if any power/magic and the like is not explained by “God-given abilities” or the powers he has naturally set up in the world, I might be writing a humanistic or downright messed up story. Without a God figure, who defines right and wrong in my story? Where does everything come from? Where did the world come from? I know not every story goes that deep, but really, in a fantasy story, if you are actually taking it seriously and doing the proper worldbuilding, you have to ask all sorts of questions. I’d say that no matter how much you reference the God-figure in fantasy, whether he’s present or not, I’d say it’s important that in fantasy it’s not religion or this “stick-in-the-allegory” thing. I think it should be the whole foundation of your story.

        I’d say that you are never going to get a perfect picture of God in your story, but if you can expound upon one or more things about him in a new way that will help your reader to think about God in a new light and understand him better, I think that it’s a good thing.

        The biggest thing in my mind, is when you write fantasy, you MUST have something that defines right and wrong. I can’t have this without some sort of God figure, so if I am to write fantasy, I believe I MUST have a God-figure to some extent.

        Those are my personal thoughts on it, but I really do respect your heart for wanting to portray God in a holy and glorifying light. I do too!!! I just believe that I can do this in fantasy. 🙂

        Tek an ohta! Tek an cala!

        #83966

        Eden Anderson
        @eden-anderson

        @lin

        Looks like I’m not really needed here…😄

         

         

        ( @ericawordsmith Hey, girl! 🤗 I feel like I haven’t seen you around here for awhile! How’s life? Did you know me and @evelyn were able to meet up?)

        "But how could you live and have no story to tell?" - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

        #84168

        Ariel Ashira
        @ashira

        @erica-wordsmith Through fantasy, you can explore an idea in a different way and help the reader to see something differently that they might have seen it before, or to become acquainted with a concept or idea.  How can you do this better outside of the context of the real world??  How will people be able  to apply it better?

        "In a mask, was he?"

        #84180

        EricaWordsmith
        @ericawordsmith

          @ashira

          I wouldn’t say you can do it better, it all depends on what you are wanting to talk about. Like, if you’ve ever read The Wingfeather Saga it presented to me the idea of how God can take something broken and make it beautiful. I was able to see redemption in a new and beautiful light. Or The Seventh World Trilogy and Narnia helped me to see Jesus in a different light. I think through fantasy you can take a concept and put it in an entirely new and foreign light that then made sense after you remember the big picture and reality. I think it also has to do with the person who reads it and how they take it. I know for me, I’ve been impacted by fantasy and sometimes when I’m struggled remembering Aslan’s gentleness is what helped me to remember that God loves me even when I feel like he can’t. So, if historical fiction is what has the most impact on you, that’s great! Non-fiction is what impacts my mom, and that’s wonderful that she can be encouraged by that, but I know that it’s not what has the strongest impact on me. I wouldn’t say so much that it’s a matter of what is the best, I think it’s more of what is the most powerful to the person, so we need all different sorts of stories. 🙂

          Tek an ohta! Tek an cala!

          #84198

          Lin
          @lin

          @daeus-lamb For me it’s something I wouldn’t dare to do. But I agree with you on the scripture point. If we were to write God in a story we have to stay close to His word. 😊

          @ericawordsmith I guess that’s why I felt a little stuck writing fantasy. I still enjoy the genre! And The Chronicles of Narnia will ever remain one of my favorite book series. I think Lewis did a wonderful job portraying Aslan. But I myself never felt at ease writing about magic. I agree that without God there would be nothing to define right or wrong. But I wouldn’t be comforatble making up a God that resembles the God of the bible so that my made up world would have an origin. Let’s agree to disagree on that. After all we all want our work to be for His glory! 🙂

          “I've loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”

          #84207

          Lin
          @lin

          @ericawordsmith By the way, I really liked your blogpost about female characters and the difference between characters like Rey and Arwen. We definitely need more feminine heroines!

          “I've loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”

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