Over the weekend I watched The Ten Commandments. I hadn’t seen that Charlton Heston movie for many years, and I didn’t mean to watch it this time. I wanted to paint instead, but I turned on the TV as background noise. Every once in a while the movie pulled me away from my art. Before I knew it, I got completely sucked into the story, in spite of how dated that movie is in oh, so many ways. So, why did it grab me?
1. It’s familiar. The story of Moses is a story I grew up with. It’s appeared in books, songs, and lessons that I’ve heard and read over and over. Moses is a role model, and his life has become almost a formula. It’s part of my cultural heritage.
2. Passion. The three major characters—Moses, Rameses, and Nefretiri—are all driven by an almost over-the-top passion, and of course their goals are in opposition to each other. This makes a recipe for conflict and disaster.
3. Unrequited love. For various reasons, the major characters desire someone he or she can’t have:
- Nefretiri desires Moses but can’t have him
- Rameses desires Nefretiri but can’t really have her
- Moses’ wife desires Moses but can’t have him (and doesn’t complain—how do you compete with God?)
- The slave girl desires Joshua, and Joshua desires the slave girl, but they can’t have each other, thanks to…
- The governor, who desires the slave girl but can’t really have her, either.
Am I missing anyone else?
4. Theme of persecution. This is a personal favorite. I love stories dealing with persecution in its many forms, maybe for the conflict, maybe to see justice win in the end. Or at least to root for justice over adversity.
3 & 4 especially create strong feelings of sympathy for the character. They increase conflict and the threat of disaster and pull me through the story. I want to see those sympathetic characters win in spite of the odds against them. And in spite of knowing how the story ends.
These are all good lessons I can apply to Good Storytelling!