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  • Novel narrated by God?
    by Steerpike`s sister at 18:23 on 29 June 2012
    (Not sure if this is in the right place, but I'm also trying to post outside PMs when possible).

    I have an idea for a children's novel which is ostensibly narrated by God. It's very weird and probably won't work but what I'm wondering is: do you think I need to be 'saying something' about God to do that? It's not really about religion, though the plot is, it's more about trying to write metafiction for kids (if you've ever read a book called 'That's Life Lily' by a French writer called Valerie Dayre, that's kind of the sort of idea, though totally different plot).
  • Re: Novel narrated by God?
    by SusieL at 19:56 on 29 June 2012
    I would have thought that in some ways it would be a stronger book if you weren't trying to "say something". But then I'm no expert.

    In fact surely it would be more likely to open up minds and discussions if it wasn't?
  • Re: Novel narrated by God?
    by alexhazel at 21:06 on 29 June 2012
    Isn't there a sense in which any novel which uses an identifiable narrator says something about that narrator? The things they choose to narrate, and the way in which they talk about them, will naturally imply something about the narrator. If not, then the narrator wouldn't be an identifiable person but just an omnipresent 'voice' telling the reader something.

    Mind you, 'omnipresent' would certainly suit God's voice.
  • Re: Novel narrated by God?
    by GaiusCoffey at 21:20 on 29 June 2012
    I'm having a similar problem with my current WIP that also has God as a major character.

    It is almost impossible to mention god without people thinking you are saying something about religion and actually impossible to have God as a character without _actually_ saying something about your thoughts on what God may be - a vengeful god character is going to come across as maybe a tad more petulant (what with all the smiting) than a loving god, for example.

    There's a brilliant book (The Case For God) that does a far better job than Dawkins ever did in convincing me of my atheism, but is fascinating in the author's impressive explanations of all things religious, including a chapter where she argues how _any_ characteristic assigned to the infinite, unknowable and undefinable (which is the closest she gets to a definition of the massively important part of her philosophy that is utterly absent from mine...) is tantamount to idolatry and will ultimately lead to the excesses of religious extremism that, so far, every major religion has indulged in.

    Her contemplative world view was intensely attractive, but I still ended the book wondering why so many of the world's greatest thinkers in the Christian world spent the better part of a thousand years engaged in (often bloody) sophistry to explain the importance of ... Um ... Still not clear on _what_ they were explaining...

    But I digress...

    To get to the point; I think you have to be very careful as even mentioning god is likely to categorise your novel in some way. In an adult novel, you can probably get away with more, but I'd be wary from a commercial POV when writing for children as so many new parents seem to inexplicably develop religion and then get sensitive about it because it is so new to them. But then, I am (as clearly stated) slightly partisan on this and also a bit miffed that I can't develop my incredibly funny story idea without being misunderstood.

    Is there maybe an alternative way to achieve the same thing? Douglas Adams had some inventive ideas to explain how the Universe was run and Pratchett got around it by having an entire demographic of gods and godlings.



  • Re: Novel narrated by God?
    by alexhazel at 21:34 on 29 June 2012
    Pratchett got around it by having an entire demographic of gods and godliness

    He's a master of getting around all kinds of potentially divisive issues by inventive characterisation. Many of his Discworld novels touch on racism, and in some cases even tackle it head-on, by moving it away from the real world into the domain of non-human people.
  • Re: Novel narrated by God?
    by Account Closed at 21:46 on 29 June 2012
    I don't know the answer but have you read There is No Dog?
  • Re: Novel narrated by God?
    by Freebird at 09:20 on 30 June 2012
    I think Gaius is right, in that having God as a narrator may bring whole other issues to the buying public than you want. There will be those who will see it as a Christian book and therefore won't buy it (or will buy it especially). There will be those who see it as not portraying the God they believe in and therefore won't buy it. Hopefully there will be enough people who will just say, 'Now that's an interesting idea that you don't see much in children's literature - must have a read of it', and of course a child reader won't mind who the narrator is as long as it's a gripping story!

    But you could be setting yourself up for aggro that you don't want. On the other hand, it would be such a talking point that you would probably get loads of publicity so it could go the other way!

  • Re: Novel narrated by God?
    by EmmaD at 11:07 on 30 June 2012
    Yes, I agree with others that the problem is that God as a narrator is never going to have a neutral effect on people (except possibly on writers, who will know what you're up to).

  • Re: Novel narrated by God?
    by alexhazel at 12:33 on 30 June 2012
    Yes, some atheists can positively explode with outrage, if you even mention religion, let alone God. I once remarked on the fact that, in TV quizzes, it's the topic that's most likely to stump even the most knowledgeable contestants. The bloke I said it to immediately went off on a tirade against religion, despite the fact that the context of my remark was neutral (i.e. I wasn't picking the side of religion; just commenting on the apparent black-hole in people's general knowledge).
  • Re: Novel narrated by God?
    by Steerpike`s sister at 12:40 on 30 June 2012
    Alex, this is true. A narrator is a character in the novel too. I think though if the novel were narrated by (e.g.) Bob Jones, scuba diver, or Mary Smith, Avon lady, readers would accept Bob and Mary as being fictional characters, not as some kind of statement. Whereas if you have a novel narrated by God, I wonder if people will take it as being a religious book, somehow. Which it isn't intended to be. I'm agnostic, personally - but does/ should that stop me from

    Is there maybe an alternative way to achieve the same thing?

    Maybe. I may not have to explicitly call the narrator God - I have been thinking about this. He can just be the narrator, who one of the characters is assuming is God, since that character doesn't know they are fictional.


    I know, commercially it's probably a suicide mission! But I think it would be such an interesting book to write.

    Flora, no, not read that - I read Godless by Pete Hautzig, which tbh I found a bit disappointing - I wanted a bit more from it somehow. Will look up that book.


    oops, just noticed a sentence got cut off. 'stop me from putting God as a character in a novel?'
  • Re: Novel narrated by God?
    by GaiusCoffey at 12:55 on 30 June 2012
    I may not have to explicitly call the narrator God

    Actually, I think that could work rather well.
    It creates an aspect of guessing on your reader's part that circumvents preconceptions, but still allows you to write the story you want.
  • Re: Novel narrated by God?
    by Steerpike`s sister at 13:09 on 30 June 2012
    Just bought There Is No Dog.
    Another good book for YAs with God in it - which is very much making a point and has upset a lot of Christians (admittedly, American Christians so it doesn't take much ), going by the Amazon reviews - is The Garden by Elsie V Aidinoff.
  • Re: Novel narrated by God?
    by GaiusCoffey at 14:12 on 30 June 2012
    The Garden by Elsie V Aidinoff

    Just skimmed some of the reviews, also for the dog book.
    Amazing some of the things people can come up with when they _decide_ to get offended.
    Not humanity at its best, methinks.
  • Re: Novel narrated by God?
    by Manusha at 17:10 on 30 June 2012
    My first thought is why not? The character of God is known to everyone whether they believe in Him or not. Why shouldn't someone that famous be used as a character in a story? Especially in a children's book. I think that children have an innate affinity with the idea of God because for the early part of their lives they see their parents as God-like figures. Parents provide everything and seem to know everything! (Amazing how quickly they realise the latter ain't true! Sigh.)

    I think you have an interesting idea, it would be a shame to not at least explore it. I guess the trick would be to present God in a non-religious way, with the character not representing any particular religion. I think it would be possible if certain terms that could be attributed to a particular religion could be avoided. If He could be presented firstly as a person, but one who just happens to be God as well, maybe it could work.
  • Re: Novel narrated by God?
    by Steerpike`s sister at 18:37 on 30 June 2012
    Yes, Manusha, I think you're right. And that's a very good point about parent = God, I hadn't thought of that in this context but you're right.
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