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Disney Princess Lineup

Disney Princess Lineup

I had a revelation tonight. I was thinking about the structure of my WIP and my thoughts drifted to my previous efforts at adapting the story of Esther. You see, Esther is a queen. My daughters love princess stories and Disney in particular has made billions on such stories.

So why hasn’t Disney released a princess movie about Esther? Ignoring the fact that she is a queen and not a princess, couldn’t the story be adapted to make it work?

And the answer…is no.

No. NO! It cannot be adapted! Neither Disney nor any other company will ever be able to use the story of Esther for their own purposes. It has always been and will remain a bible story.

But the intriguing part is why. And don’t be fooled. Disney has certainly tried. They were seeking adaptations for Rapunzel a decade or more before Tangled ever came out. And they finally did come out with a version of Rapunzel but Esther continues to elude them.

And here is the revelation. Esther can’t be adapted because the foundations of the story are built on Jewish culture and devotion to God. Neither component of the story can be removed or replaced without the whole story becoming a crashing house of cards.

This revelation in turn lead to a new understanding of what it means for a story to be labeled as ‘Christian’. I’ve blogged on this topic before but I’m not completely satisfied with my conclusions. Indeed, I never really came to any until tonight: If a story can have it’s Christian message removed or replaced then it isn’t really a Christian story. At least, not a strong one. We should all be writing strong Christian stories. We should all be crafting our stories in such a way as to make the biblical principles foundational, required for the story to be told.

And Esther is a fascinating story. Commentators have attempted to plumb the depths or the story for ages. But have any studied Esther as a model story? It’s plot-perfect in my opinion and has all the components to make it irresistible to readers: Kings, Queens, politics, opposing factions, dinner parties, deception, revenge, the threat of genocide, reversals, and even an Act III twist when the evil Haman is hung on his own gallows. The characters show a full range of emotions, gather information, and make life-altering decisions in an effort to escape the trap. Try reading it yourself for analysis and see if you don’t get sucked in.

The final point is that we should study Esther as a model for great biblical stories.

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Christian suspense author Mike Dellosso gave a talk of the same name at the 2011 Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference (BRMCWC): Is Christian Fiction an Oxymoron?

Well, is it?

It’s a difficult thing to define but you’ll find my answer at the bottom of this post. My answer in turn is based on another slippery definition: What does it mean for a story to be Christian?

I posit that Christian stories contain an element of redemption. No more, and no less. Examples:

  • When a high school basketball star becomes pregnant during her Junior year, she must choose between a future with the child, adoption, or abortion.
  • After an inner-city detective discovers his partner has been taking payoffs, he must choose between friendship and duty.

Now, what is redemption? What does this quality look like in fiction? I think of it as an opportunity, a choice presented to a character to do the right thing – or not. This is often a choice between bad and worse rather than good and evil, an agonizing decision colored in smoke and shades of gray.

So if being Christian means there exists an element of redemption, what of horror?

Most people would define horror as being that which elicits fear in the reader. But suspense often induces fear too so I find this definition lacking. I tend to separate horror from suspense along the lines of hope and meaning. In horror, there is a general lack of hope or expectation of meaning behind whatever is going on. However in suspense, there is generally a very good reason why the bad guy is doing bad guy things which is revealed by the end. Plus, the good guy is expected to be triumphant at the end of the story. Not so with the horror.

By the way, these should not be confused with Thrillers where we get to watch the villainy happen as it were over the antagonist’s shoulder. Someone on The Kill Zone Blog defined Thrillers as mysteries in reverse: Mysteries start with a crime and thereafter follow the detective working through clues to determine whodunit. By contrast, thrillers often begin with a credible threat and then follow the protagonist questing to prevent it from being executed.

So, is Christian Horror an oxymoron? Can something with a redemptive quality lack meaning? Yes, by having the chooser make the wrong decision, especially the wrong eternal decision. What’s more frightening to a Christian than a sinner rejecting the offer of salvation?  This dooms them to hell, a very frightening thought.

Attribution:
Image from http://www.mixcloud.com/black-buddah/literature-mystery-thriller-horror/

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