Literature professor, Dr. Karen Swallow Prior joins me to talk about novels, story, and Christian film. 

I have a weak spot for books and articles written by Christians that address the value of good fiction and the role good storytelling can have in the Christian life. And as a Christian filmmaker, probably the same as you, I’m a fan of stories written from a Christian point-of-view. I want them to entertain, and challenge. And I want to learn from them. 

A year ago I picked up a book called “On Reading Well. Finding the Good Life in Great Books.” written by Karen Swallow Prior. It’s a book that is a guide to great novels. Each chapter focuses on one novel and Dr. Prior gives us an entry point into that novel through the particular Christian moral virtue that is exercised by the characters and story. The introduction to the book is priceless. 

Given that Christian films tend to be very message driven, I was interested in learning at the feet of Dr. Prior as she walked her readers through these great novels. How did these time-tested storytellers communicate moral and spiritual virtues? 

I believe filmmakers should be readers of good fiction, especially given that we don’t have a very strong storytelling tradition in fiction or Christian films. Christians, historically, are a people of propositions, not stories. Good authors of fiction have a great deal to teach Christian filmmakers. 

Even Quentin Tarantino believes this in the secular world of filmmaking. He’s well known for having an encyclopedic knowledge of cinema, but whenever he credits his greatest storytelling influences, he credits novels. Tarantino is not only an avid cinephile, he’s an avid reader. 

And, so I invited Dr. Prior to this podcast to talk about stories and storytelling. She and I share some particular points-of-view about Christian films and Christian storytelling, and to be honest, I’m glad I’m not alone in my perspective. You may not agree with us, but there is so much we, as storytellers and filmmakers, can learn from good fiction. And isn’t it wonderful that we not all the same, and we all have different tastes in story. Whatever we create we want to create well. We want to be the best storytellers we can. 

Dr. Karen Swallow Prior is research professor of English, Christianity and Culture at Southeastern Theological Seminary. She is also a frequent writer for The Gospel Coalition and a speaker at The Gospel Coalition conferences.