Use Man vs. God(s) conflict to heighten tension

One type of conflict your characters could engage in is against God or the gods. In this conflict, the main character opposes a supernatural being that claims to be (or even is) the creator of everything.

Such conflicts were common in ancient literature when gods were believed to play a greater role in the day-to-day life. Often the gods tested the main character or the story’s protagonist challenged them to benefit humanity. One of the most popular of such stories is the myth of Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods and against their express wishes gave it to mankind.

Science fiction stories often pit characters against false gods. “Star Trek: The Original Series” is fond of this theme, with Captain Kirk traveling to alien planets and overthrowing an oppressive false god, which usually turns out to be a computer or machine. This most notably occurs in the episodes “The Return of the Archons” and “The Apple.”

Today’s treatment of man vs. God in stories typically is a type of man vs. himself conflict. The main character doesn’t face off against God per se but undergoes an internal struggle in which his faith in God or belief in holy works is questioned. Sometimes this occurs because of contact with alien beings. This occurs in James Blish’s “A Case of Conscience” when a Jesuit priest investigates an alien race with no concept of God or original sin.