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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

March 2015

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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

The moral of the story

When Aesop told fables in the sixth century B.C.E., he always had a moral to the story. “Slow and steady wins the race.” “The tyrant will always find a pretext for his tyranny.” “It is wise to turn circumstances to good account.” The stories were all meant to teach something. We are told that Aesop was a slave, but also that he was honored in ancient Greece and there are statues of him dating back to the same period. His stories, usually just a couple of paragraphs, still survive. Moral: “Low estate does not prevent honor.”

Well, I made that up. What I was really trying to get to was how storytelling has evolved. We would be hard-put to publish stories that were only a paragraph or two. Our reading public wants a story that will absorb them and get them involved. Aesop is a classroom technique, not a storytelling technique. Yet satisfaction in reading a story is still often derived from the moral, or in contemporary language, the punchline.

We want to see Harry Potter triumph because good needs to conquer evil, and there is no power like love. We look for the hero’s journey in everything we read, and are disappointed if the last line is not perfect. I have personal experience with this based on my first book, For Blood or Money. Six words can make a huge difference.

By this time, in fact, we’re probably all aware of Smith Magazine’s Six Word Memoirs. It’s not a bad technique to use when planning your book or story. Summarize the point in six words. For Steven George & The Dragon, I can summarize the entire point in six words: “All roads lead to the dragon.” Within the book, each of the 19 original and recast folktales also has a moral, even though we don’t have to be hit over the head with it at the end of the story. “Sometimes fools are the best teachers.” “People care for people who care.” “Bridges are meant to be crossed.”

Whether you are working on a book, a story, a poem, or a term paper, “Know the point before you write.”

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