When undertaking my PhD, for five years I shared an apartment with a wonderful elderly man who owned an astounding post-impressionist art collection. This painting was one of the jewels. By the Polish Jewish artist, Henri Hayden, it celebrates the multi-culturalism of Montparnasse. It’s a very appealing image, but it has a strong message at its core – as art must, otherwise it’s just decoration. Writers worth their ink need to making a point with their story. Art must contain some comment on life, on human existence. Therefore, beneath your storyline, there should be something else going on, a deeper message, your take on how humanity works, or doesn’t… Consider Aesop’s Fables, each one is a tale that could be enjoyed on a superficial level by a child, yet there is a deeper meaning, or moral, which endeavors to teach the child some universal truth about life, ie being slow yet determined is often better than being hasty and easily distracted (Tortoise and the Hare).
A good place to seek inspiration for a comment on universal truths is a list of proverbs. A proverb is usually a metaphor and encapsulates in simple terms, a lesson from the common experience of humanity. Here’s an exercise that might get you going: sit down and have a think about the specific meaning of the following and then go freewrite a story illustrating (Or disproving) this philosophy.
You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.
The belly has no ears.
Trees don’t grow to the sky.
A dumb priest never got a parish.
The only free cheese is in the mousetrap.
Eaten bread is soon forgotten.
The squeaky door gets the oil.
If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you’ve never spent a night with a mosquito.
Graveyards are full of indispensable people.
The early bird catches the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.