Are Stories with a Moral More Engaging? (Take Two)

This is a post I originally published more than three years ago. I ran across it the other day and it got me thinking. Do I still think the same way as I did three years ago? Most definitely. Writing, for me, has to have a purpose. It can be fun (and should be), engaging, and unpredictable, but if it is ultimately not saying anything of importance, then I will walk away and say “so what.” I don’t want others to think that about my writing, though I’m sure some people do anyways. But I try. That’s what I love about my drama group. We have a blast, but we make sure to try to make people walk away thinking about issues in our crazy world. Engage and challenge while you entertain. That’s my goal. Here’s the original post. 


This is not a trendy post – especially in our post-modern world. But . . .

Recently, I attended several different live dramatic performances that got me thinking about how modern writers approach their subjects.

The first one was a one-man show about space.  The actor was talented with his vocal and facial impressions.  He was clearly someone who had worked hard at his craft, but as I left the show, I felt like there was something seriously missing.  I wasn’t too far out of the theater when I realized what it was – meaning.  The show was nothing more than a few snippets of different characters that followed no particular rhyme, reason or purpose.  I wanted to re-write the whole evening into a coherent, simple plot with an overarching message or moral.  It could have been really good.

The other show I saw was an off-Broadway hit that was reworked in our local theater  about a dead man’s cell phone being picked up and used by a stranger.  The stranger seamlessly weaves herself into the dead man’s life by dialing the last numbers used on his cell phone. It was an interesting premise, and I particularly enjoyed the beginning.  The acting was solid and the direction tight.  But then it just got weird.  The dead man came back to give his thoughts on the matter.  Other weird things happened.  The plot seemed to unravel and we left the theater thinking ‘what was that?’  I still don’t know.  Again, purposeless.  The plot devolved into a post-modern mish mash of pointlessness.

Now, I understand the idea of entertainment for entertainment’s sake and that’s fine, but what ever happened to the idea of a moral?  It doesn’t have to be preachy.  Actually, the less preachy-ness the more effective in my opinion. No one likes to be hit over the head with a message, but there is something to be said for making the audience think about purpose, moral, or the lack thereof.

I like to write with broad themes which explore different aspects of life to get people thinking.  My latest play deals with the power of forgiveness and what can actually happen when someone chooses to go down that often difficult path.  It also explores the vain and vapid nature of celebrity and modern media.  Hopefully, the audience will walk away thinking about these large issues.  The moral is understated, yet it is there.   (Whether I accomplished my goal as a writer is certainly another thing.  Hopefully I have.)   These are the kind of stories I like.

So are stories with morals more engaging to the mind?  More meaningful to experience?  More worthwhile an achievement for a writer or producer if one is able to subtly achieve that goal?  Perhaps.

Your thoughts?

3 responses to “Are Stories with a Moral More Engaging? (Take Two)”

  1. I don’t think for an instant that there’s anything wrong with being entertained for a little while, but if that is all we experience of a story, it captures our attention for a few hours but never leaves a mark. I’d like to become the sort of writer who, when people have finished what I have written, find that they can’t stop thinking about it, internalizing the characters and their predicaments in ways that change their outlooks. That takes a good moral!

    • Certainly nothing wrong with it. I’ve find for myself that I find it less and less satisfying as I get older. Thanks for the comment!

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