5 World Building Tips (Vol 1, #9): The Gods
This is the ninth in a series of world building articles! Today’s theme is the gods. This will get you started, but you can read more about this in Chapter 2, “Creating Gods”, from Creating Life, (The Art of World Building, #1).
Tip #1: “Create a Pantheon”
A group of gods is more work to invent but offers opportunities for conflicts among the deities. These can reflect cultural and moral issues, such as myths about gods struggling in much the same way as people. Pantheons offer a good way to characterize our residents, as everyone might worship someone else.
Tip #2: “Make the Gods Vulnerable”
Beings that can’t be hurt or killed are less interesting. If you decide one is dead or wounded, determine how, who did it, and the impact this had on gods and mortals alike. Do they die from natural causes, too? For ideas, read Creating Life.
Tip #3: “Children”
Make your gods capable of reproducing, whether that creates more gods, demi-gods, or just super humans (or other species). This can give a world heroes like Hercules. It can even make a mortal woman want to seduce a god. Now there’s a story idea!
Tip #4: “How Does Time End?”
Decide how life as everyone knows it will end, even if you never use this in a story beyond someone mentioning your world’s Armageddon. It’s fun deciding how everyone will be destroyed. Find a good reason for it happening, whether it’s moral decay or something more physical. For ideas, read Creating Life.
Tip #5: “Create Myth”
Myths make a world more entertaining, but only invent them if there’s a chance they’ll be used. Self-publishers can use a myth as bonus materials in a newsletter, website, or short story.
Summary of Chapter 2—Creating Gods
Our species will invent gods to believe in even if we don’t invent them, so we may need some deities for people to reference in dialogue, whether praying or swearing. In SF, belief in gods may still exist despite, or even because of, advances in science. In fantasy, priests often call on a god to heal someone, and this requires having invented the gods. Pantheons offer advantages over a lone god, including dynamic relationships between them and the species. Half gods and demigods are other options that help us create myths and legends to enrich our world, especially if gods can be born, die, or be visited in their realm.
Myths about how the gods or species came to exist help people understand the purpose of their lives and what awaits them in death. Symbols, appearance, patronage, and willingness to impact the lives of their species all color a pantheon and world. Gods also create places people can visit or items that can fall into the wrong hands, offering possibilities for stories.