By Sophie Nadel, Writer’s Tips Editor
We can learn a lot from stories. For centuries, authors have been using the power of the pen to make the world a better place. Ever since you first could read, tales have been helping you to become a better person. From fairy tales to novels, we have been learning the ways of the world through the eyes of the protagonist. “The Golden Fish” taught us not to be selfish and instead be satisfied with what we have, “Beauty and the Beast” showed us not to judge a person by appearances, and “The Tortoise and the Hare” told us that slow and steady wins the race. With a little bit of practice, you will have the ability to inspire readers with words of wisdom stemming from the experiences of your characters. Here are some suggestions to successfully incorporate a moral into your story.
Choose the Moral First
Having a moral before you start writing will help to guide the plot. From the beginning, you should know what lesson your character is going to learn so that you can establish how he or she will learn it. Choose a theme that you are passionate about, maybe even a lesson that you yourself learned recently. That way, your emotions will fuel your characters and make them more believable to the reader. Your moral doesn’t need to be deep and philosophical—it can be as simple as “Remember to tie your shoe before jogging!”
Have the Character Learn a Lesson
One of the easiest ways to have a moral to a story is by teaching through the eyes of a character. If a character makes a mistake related to the moral, it allows the reader to learn from the mistake and therefore realize the theme you are trying to portray. When creating your character, think, “What negative personality traits can I give this character that will drive the conflict?” Thinking ahead when creating your character will make it easier for you to teach him or her the lesson.
Show; Don’t Tell
By the end of your story the message you intended to share with your readers should be obvious. You don’t have to be blunt when expressing the moral; in fact, outwardly stating the purpose of the story often lowers the quality. A good writing technique to use is “showing, not telling.” Instead of stating something plainly, describe it. For example, a “tell,” such as “Mary learned to never doubt her elders,” might not be quite as impactful as a sentence that “shows” the same theme, such as “With Old Man Thompson’s advice still ringing in her head, Mary tentatively discussed the issue with Barbara and found, to her surprise, that they were able to forgive each other quickly.”
Stories with morals are awesome to read and a great way to learn. Your readers will not only feel the satisfaction of a good plot but also feel fulfilled as your lesson seeps into their minds. Next time you want to write a story, consider something with a moral!