So I’m talking to this guy, you know the type, the kind that knows everything whether he does or not and is always right? Yeah, that kind. And he tells me that every story should have a moral, and every book for young children should teach them something, otherwise, they are worthless.
And then I post a piece of flash fiction I’m submitting for a contest. It’s a 750 word children’s mystery. Now, I post my critique work on Scribophile. Works are divided into several categories. Each category has a spotlight that each piece of work must wait in line for. For obvious reasons, the flash fiction spotlight goes quickly, and the novel chapters go slowly. Therefore, it should also be obvious that the flash fiction spotlight invites the lazy and bad critiquers. One of those critiquers complained that I had two brothers instead of a girl, and another one declared “There is no moral to this story at all.”
Well duh! This story is for entertainment purposes only! In fact, Highlights specifically says in its requirements that nothing preachy will be accepted. Its first stated topic that it desires is humor. This is followed by mystery, sports, holiday, and adventure. At the end of said list comes other cultures or urban settings. Nowhere does it require a moral…period.
Why do I care? I care because forcing a writer to have a moral is like forcing a painter to use blue. What if he doesn’t want to use blue? It also tells young children that reading is work. Well if that isn’t a sure fire way to stop them from reading, I don’t know what is. Take your kid and set them down in front of the TV and tell them they’re going to watch educational videos. Most will run screaming. A few of the weirdos, like me, will stay. But if they’re only allowed to play video games with a lesson or watch TV with a lesson, you might as well throw out the TV and Playstation because they’re not using them again.
I do write to educate, hence this boring blog of opinions such as this. But I also write to entertain and ONLY entertain. You can pull a moral out of any story you want to, but when it’s all said and done, I will look you dead in the face and say, “No. I didn’t write this for any other reason but to entertain you.”