July 21st, 2008

A Birthday

Why the Gods Should Generally Stay Off Stage

To further develop a point.  0:)

Introducing the gods into a story in proper person is -- generally unwise.

For one thing, gods ought to be powerful, numinous, dreadful, awe-inspiring.  Always hard to pull off.  And a god who can be contained inside a novel is a rather weak god.  The story has to suggest that the god is great than what is presented.  It's just rhetorically tricky.  (The very powerful, apparently grown-up two-year-old doesn't really work except in comic stories.)

For another, once the gods have appeared, they dominate the story.  If you want to write that story, about the characters coping with the gods, and give them some means to cope, you can pull it off.  (I think[info]johncwright pulled it off in the Chaos trilogy.)  But that is the story you are going to write.

Also, it's going to limit the settings you can deal with.  Are Mercury, Thoth, and Odin the same god?  Are they/Is he going to have opinions about this?  There are a lot of possibilities that are forestalled by appearing gods.  You may want that set up -- forestalling options is one way to construct what your world is -- but that will happen.

And if you have the god show up and dicate to your characters:  Do this! and they straightforwardly do this -- you're cheating.  The most convincing god in the world is no substitute for motives.

If you convince me that the gods do show up -- in visions, in the flesh -- in your world, and that this one has a motive, I still won't like it if the carrying out of the action is straightforward.  Nothing to surprise me.