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Morals & Messages in Writing

Yesterday, I spent the morning at a teacher's rally, striking in response to the government's cuts & changes to education. In my classes, I've been discussing the West Australia shark cull, the pros and cons of killing sharks that cruise the waters close to swimming beaches along the west coast.

Both of these situations have given rise to some fascinating conversations, debates and insights from friends, colleagues and students.

This has led to me musing on the topic of morals and messages in writing. The topic has also arisen in the MG group I belong to on Scribophile; is a 'message' a necessary and inherent part of a piece of writing? I think this is something that is particularly applicable to tales written for children.

Fables of course, impart a moral, and fairy tales generally impart a lesson as well. Most children's stories seem to target a particular theme. But what comes first? The chicken or the egg?

Do we start with a theme, a message we want to convey, then write the story? Or do we start with a story, and the theme reveals itself through the writing?

My current WIP has an environmental theme. As a sustainability teacher, I know my students are very concerned about environmental issues, and what those issues mean for their future. I set out to write an enjoyable story for children, with an underlying theme about why we need to conserve and protect nature.

It hasn't turned out much like that though. I've been caught up in my characters, their quest and their world, and the 'message' has become secondary. For now, I'm enjoying the journey. As I approach the end of the first draft, perhaps the pendulum will swing back towards my original mission. But if it doesn't I'm quite comfortable with that.

Do you think that all good writing (for children or adults) has a messsage or theme? Or is a good story just that, something to entertain?

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