Not the most common novel theme out there, I imagine the Character vs. God plot line was most likely inspired by the Old Testament book of Job. This plot has three basic elements: your character comes face-to-face with God, they interact, and your character walks away a changed man.
The most obvious literary example of this plot line is The Shack by William P. Young. In it, Mack Phillips struggles to survive after his youngest daughter is abducted and murdered by a serial killer. Mack doesn’t just struggle with his theology of God, though. He actually encounters God, wrestling with what he believes about God and what he sees in front of him. In this plot line, it’s not enough to have your character mentally question the existence of God. There needs to be a visible encounter.
A less serious take on this theme is the movie Bruce Almighty. Bruce Nolan blames his back luck on God. He finds himself face-to-face with God, where he challenges God’s ability. To show Bruce what it’s really like, God gives his power to Bruce so he can see how easy it is (or isn’t) being God. At first Bruce enjoys the power, but then he realizes it comes with responsibilities. When he starts to take care of those responsibilities, he finally starts to see the world as it is, not simply how he perceives it.
Mack’s and Bruce’s circumstances and theologies are different, but the core components of this plot structure remain:
- Man meets God.
- Man gains a better understanding of God.
- Man is changed.
That last point is key. If your main character encounters God and doesn’t change, you don’t really have a plot (much less a Character vs. God plot).
As you can see by the examples, this plot can take a serious or humorous twist as long as it stays true to the three main points.
I’ll see you back here in three weeks when we look at my second favorite plot – Character vs. Destiny. Until then, if you missed Character vs. Himself, click here!