I’ve noticed recently that a lot of my favourite stories centre around gods or god-like beings, such as more or less all of mythology, Doctor Who, The Sandman. Discworld’s Death books, the RG Veda manga, the Oh My Goddess anime, the Haruhi Suzumiya anime, the Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid anime, Spirited Away, the Okami video game, the Persona series [especially Persona 3/PSP], and even Mary Poppins to some extent [which is one of my only favourite Disney movies, along with The Lion King, Fantasia, The Emperor’s New Groove, and Winnie the Pooh].
What I’m curious to know is: what makes those sorts of characters work in this context, and are there tips to applying it to my own writing without revolting levels of candy?
Creating god characters is pretty much like creating regular characters with superpowers, flavored to be god-like. You’ll be dealing with additional expectations that the characters are powerful enough to be a god, but people understand that gods in polytheistic systems usually have a specific domain and can only do magic related to it. Give their magic limitations, and if it fits your story, give them work to do. In Rise of the Guardians (one of my favorite movies), Guardians only have power if kids believe in them, and they have specific jobs to do to perpetuate those beliefs.
You’ll want to not only give their powers some limits but also give their general existence some rules. You can create rules regarding whether mortals can see or interact with them and to what extent they can influence the mortal world. Maybe they can only change something in answer to a specific prayer. Maybe they can only appear to mortals in their own temples, or if they are a spirit of a tree or river, maybe they must stay close to that item. This will not only help keep their power under wraps but also make them feel more like gods and give you more interesting story situations.