What’s a fable? I’ll bet we’ve all read one or had one of their many morals preached to us. Does “slow and steady wins the race” ring a bell? Technically, a fable is a fictitious short story that conveys a moral. And just to be clear, a moral is a lesson that differentiates between right and wrong.
I thought of this genre when I recently came across an old copy of Aesop’s Fables, which my mom read to me as a kid. I’m interested in this genre because I think it’s a happy medium between the first two experiments I did. It gives me the creativity of the children’s book, with room for a higher word count like the screenplay.
Fables are centered around the moral of the story, so this should always be the author’s starting point. A moral is not something that should only apply to a specific circumstance like “don’t stick gum in your sister’s hair when she takes the last cookie”. A moral is a lifelong lesson like “treat others as you would like to be treated”, which still applies to the aforementioned gum situation, but is more general.
When picking your characters, keep in mind that they need to be of the talking animal or inanimate object kind, à la Cinderella and her mice or Belle and her candelabra. Having two characters is most common because we want to keep the moral clear and not overwhelm the message of the story with character development. To make life easier, don’t even bother naming the characters; call it like it is: the tortoise and the hare.
Now it’s time to personify your fabled friends. Give them human traits. Many animals are already associated with such traits: the clever fox or the wise owl come to mind. Then, contrast that characteristic with its antonym. Clever fox, meet foolish flamingo (or something of that nature).
Consider what kinds up trouble the fox and flamingo could get into. Perhaps the flamingo, with its beautiful feathers and long legs enters into a beauty contest and aces all the parts except for the category about animal rights. Then the fox, who is small and ordinary comes in and aces the intelligence categories and wins the competition! Bam! Moral: true beauty comes from within.
Before you get too excited to write, you eager beaver (also a potential character), remember that the simpler the better. Keep it short and entertaining, don’t be afraid of rhymes or dialogue, but overall keep it focused so that the reader comes away knowing exactly what to do the next time their sister takes the last cookie.
Now if only I could figure out what the moral of this blog post was…