Fantasy: divine trouble

If there’s a tricky aspect of writing fantasy, it’s writing supernatural beings, expecially gods and demigods. Today, I’ll share my thoughts why I see it as troublesome.

The balance of power

One of the main issues – and the tricky aspects – I see is in the very base of what makes a creature a (demi)god: its power. If a divine being is way too powerful, then it might raise the question why it doesn’t use its power to crush the evil. If it’s not powerful enough, then it raises the question of being worthy a worship and/or the title of a (demi)god.

Of course, there are ways the authors can use to limit the power of such a being and/or they way these powers can be used. Thus, to support a powerful being without letting it be too powerful, the world has to have some set of rules to keep the “ordinary” characters relevant, just as it needs to keep the divine being relevant (otherwise, there’s no reason for its presence).

Contact with the world

One of the types of story I’ve seen is the case where the divine beings gradually lose contact with the world they are to safeguard, thus opening the way for mortal heroes.

This, again, has some potential issues. The first of them being the simple question: what caused them to lose touch with the world, and why? And, just as importantly: why did the rise of a major evil/tyrant not rouse them from the apathy?

Religious fanaticism

Let’s put the real-world examples aside. Religious fanatics appear in fiction as well, whether they are aiming to claim the power of a god, to be known as it’s chosen one or incarnation, or any other reason. Positive power can be used for bad purposes and vice versa.

The question then (especially in relation to the previous point) is: why would a god let someone use their power (or their name) in a way the god’s teachings would not approve? If it’s caused by a gray spot, why did the god(s) not act and make sure their will is understood properly? If someone is misusing their power selfishly or against their will, how can they stand for that?

Waning power

Another possible scenario is that the power of those divine beings is becoming weaker with time, thus opening the way for a villain’s rise to power. While this might be a decent case, there are still questions I’d ask and want to have at least a hint of answer: why is their power waning and where is it going? Now, maybe I am too affected by real-world physics and its laws stating that energy can’t be created or lost, merely transformed. Thus, the waning energy is something I’d expect to have some impact – either in the resurgence of something new or being utilized by those able to wield it (which is a possible plot thread if the villan manages to do exactly that).

Do you know a book where the topic of (demi)gods or other powerful beings was approached well – or poorly? Are you using such powers in your writing? Feel free to share your thoughts.

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