A teaching story begins by presenting a problem. The character(s) are presented with an obstacle that is plausibly faced in real life situations. In truth, societal changes have evolved (for better and worse) each generation, particularly over the past 50 years. Teens today are faced with complexities that they are emotionally unprepared to resolve. College graduates are disheartened by their difficulty finding a job, let alone one in their field of study. Many college grads find themselves with menial jobs and moving in with parents. Parents who work all day and have school aged children are facing huge challenges in protecting their children while instilling responsibility and a strong sense of familial connection. If you add caring for an aging or disabled parent into an overloaded household, the result can be explosive. Disabled and senior citizens feel vulnerable and uncertain they can maintain independence, afford doctors, medications, food, and lodging.
These are scary issues. Each group has unfulfilled needs that affect confidence, health, and emotions. As a result, nearly every person copes with varied levels of stress and uncertainty. A series of short stories whose characters face modern problems can’t guarantee the reader an ultimate resolution. However, simply by identifying with a character and the problems presented, the reader can become emotionally invested in the story outcome. You can also offer alternate outcomes. Alternatives present a stronger contrast demonstrating the consequences of choices. “The Three Little Pigs” is a good example of alternative outcomes against a common problem. Thoughts and decisions, followed by action, motivate the story forward to demonstrate several possible outcomes.
Do not try to fix the reader’s problem. Instead, offer positive insights to various options open to the reader to resolve the issue. The writer can often receive a “bonus” while writing by discovering correlating personal insights into their own actions and results. Through understanding and acceptance, we find our own pathways become clearer. Putting that into a short story sounds daunting. Then again, consider the simplicity of the nursery tale, “The Tortoise and The Hare.”
Just as discussed in previous articles, consider how to best present the lesson for your reader. You will need to decide upon a setting, define your characters, and the type of obstacle to overcome. The results achieved by the characters should obviously demonstrate the consequences of the actions the subject decided upon. In a teaching story the lesson should be presented clearly in an age appropriate manner.