For today’s writing prompt I want to cover a single word. That word is the basis for many things in life, including writing.
One small word that has multiple facets. It can be a catalyst, something to push you, give you drive. It can start arguments, cause strife, confusion and even death.
What is that word? Can you guess?
Go ahead and give it a try. What single word can cause a man to exceed expectations, another man to kill someone, another woman to break the law and yet someone else to enforce it?
Give up? Justification.
That’s right, we justify everything we do. Judges send criminals to execution because it is justified to do so. The murder’s actions were justified because there is something wrong with his brain, or the victim pissed them off.
Everything we do is justified. That doesn’t mean it is right or wrong. The idea of right and wrong is a basic human construct. It only has bearing on us, as a species.
We need to feel that whatever we are doing has a reason and that reason is justifiable to others. We defend our positions, we argue our points and we try to force others to see things our way, through our eyes, and feel the same justification we feel.
And, since we have talked about point of view a lot this week, I think you can see where I am going with this.
Let’s take a look at today’s prompt and then I will explain further.
Your employee stole $200 from the safe. Write a scene about the termination interview where the employee justifies what they did in a manner that causes you to rehire them.
In this scenario, you are the boss. You have a job to do and duties to maintain. One of your employees stole $200 from the company, but this comes down on your head as the boss. So, you have to fire the employee.
Part of the termination process is to explain to the employee why they are being fired and hopefully get a signature for the paperwork and your files, before they leave the premises.
Your scene will detail this interview process where the employee is given a chance to tell their side. Writing from the bosses perspective (yours) you need to see through their eyes, justifying why they stole the money.
By the end, the justification should have made sense to you (as the boss, not the writer) to tear up the termination papers and rehire the employee.
Why do this prompt?
This prompt is important for most authors and it is a small exercise that I expand upon in the classes here.
As authors we get caught up in voice, and PoV from a writer’s perspective. We need to write in 3rd person omniscient, or write from the MCs PoV. We need to have our voice and the flow of the story and on and on.
What tends to get overlooked is the alternative points of view within our own stories.
The bad guy is only a bad guy to the protagonist. In the bad guy’s mind, he is the hero and your protagonist is the villain. Why, though? Don’t bad guys know they are bad guys?
Not really. You can take any real life aspect and see this in action. A shopper picking up the last box of cereal in front of another that wanted that box. The one who got the cereal is the bad guy because the other shopper missed out. But for the one that grabbed the box, they are justified because they got their first. The other shopper becomes the bad guy for saying something to try and get the cereal in their hands.
That justification is what helps your antagonists become stronger, more realistic and helps draw the reader in, which is always the main goal.
When you can be partial, fair and apply justification to both sides, the story becomes more real, richer, and your characters have actual stakes.
So give it a try. Talk yourself into rehiring a thief as an employee. Justify it in a real way and see if you can make it hold water.
When you are done, post your story in the comment section below and let others see if your justification is enough for them, too.