Writers on Writing: 4 Images of God, Katherine Paterson

Katherine Paterson has been a frequent speaker at Festival of Faith & Writing. I have a special fondness for her because she’s a sister Presbyterian, the daughter of missionaries.

Which is your favorite of her young adult novels? The most famous are perhaps “Bridge to Terabithia” and “The Great Gilly Hopkins.” My personal favorite is Jacob Have I Loved. It has even more resonance with me now that I live near the Chesapeake.

Here are notes from a lecture entitled “Four Images of God in Genesis” that she gave at FFW 2000. Her lecture provided interesting fodder for the writing process. Have you ever considered the fact that writers employ the image of God when exercising the creative function?


1. God as Artist/Creator

God is the majestic one (chap 1) vs. the down to earth one (chap 2). Creation is abundance within boundaries. God creates ex nihilo, out of energy. We create out of the ground from which we came.

2. God as Judge

God is an artist who destroys (chap 3). Judgment is God’s prerogative. Fiction needs a fall. We need to be able to judge good & evil. Novelists must pass moral judgment on the characters they create.

3. God as Wrestler

We have an obligation to question God. In writing we wrestle with angels.

4. God as Maker of Story

From the Joseph narrative: You intended evil/God intended good. Life doesn’t make sense, but stories must, or people wouldn’t put up with them. In the economy of heaven, no one is disposable. Write the book that only you can write.

She ended with the famous quote by G.K. Chesterton: The best advice for writers is to apply the seat of pants to seat of chair.


4 responses to “Writers on Writing: 4 Images of God, Katherine Paterson”

  1. Ooh, hard to pick a favorite. I loved “Bridge to Terabithia” as a child, though it made (and makes) me cry. I think I have to go with “Jacob Have I Loved” too. I’ve used her “Images of God” book for Sunday School, too.

    1. I’m glad you reminded me about the children’s books, I’ll have to check those out.

  2. Her sister is a long-time member of Pilgrims.

    1. What a fun fact! I hope I get the chance to meet her sometime.

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