Inside a Writer’s Mind 26: Fables & More – 501 Prompts

You can read my homegrown fables here.

I use fables quite often when working with kids because every lesson is easier for us to remember if there’s a story attached to it. During my research of Aesop’s writing, I’ve come across a lot of stories that I thought to be hilariously out of touch with today’s society because the world has changed quite substantially in the past 2000 years (no shit!). Writing one on my own was an idea I’ve had for a while now.

I was excited to pick up this project and decided I wanted my style to imitate Aesop’s originals as well as I could. First, I had to understand how those micro-stories worked on a structural level.

There are many different ones when it comes to length, theme and characters but for most the set-up is pretty simple. The title is barebones and mentions the main actors of the fable. Most start with a kind of one sentence introductory to the setting and quickly jump to the topic the author wants to talk about.

They build up the problem, let it play out and sometimes show its consequences. There’s no rule on how long it should be because they are exactly as much text as they need to be.

There is little to no fluff to these stories. They are descriptions and dialog that goes straight to the point. Fables don’t want to be pretty. They need to be easily accessible and catchy to be remembered. That’s why they are stripped of everything deemed unnecessary to achieve that.

It was a real challenge for me to recreate that. I don’t know if I usually clutter my writing with unnecessary words, even though I find myself slashing the word count of my projects substantially lately. In a way, it felt to me like taking away some element of joy out of the writing. I know they are a challenging read to enjoy. As a result, it hurt to post my fables as they are.

Because of that, it was a great exercise. The experimentation with style challenged my writing process and how I think about my work. I don’t know yet how it will influence my writing going forward, but I’ll definitely keep it in mind for the next projects.

After I knew how to compose a fable, I needed to decide what I wanted it to be about. Fables try to teach a moral or a lesson, but they are more based in the realm of social interaction and how to get through life instead of taking up the big issues of the time.

You have talking animals, ancient deities, and ordinary people that act out scenes of everyday life back then, directly showing people the consequences of a given behavior. Not all of them are nice or have a happy ending.

It’s incredible how some of those ancient tales are still relevant today. I asked myself, what are the things I would want to pass on? A tough question to ask yourself in any situation.

I came up with way more things I wanted to talk about than I came up with ideas on how to package them into a fable. Imitating the original style felt restrictive in a way, but for most, I couldn’t come up with an idea even if my life depended on it, to be perfectly honest with you.

Those I ended up posting are just a small selection. I sneaked one Koan like story in for good measure. They are about some things I keep tripping over time and time again.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s prompt, and I hope to see you around again next time. Until then, take care!