how to write [a short story on justice]

Written by Dan King

Christ-follower. husband. father. author of the unlikely missionary: from pew-warmer to poverty-fighter. co-author of activist faith: from him and for him. director of family ministry at st. edward's episcopal church. president of fistbump media, llc.

December 16, 2010

There’s been lots of activity here at over the last several months looking for short stories on one topic…


Back in August 2009 we ran a little creative writing challenge on justice for an upcoming The Idea Camp conference on Compassion and Justice. In that challenge readers submitted all kinds of creative writing on the topic, but it’s the short stories that were submitted that are still getting lots of activity.

In fact cruelty at the playground and tina’s grandmother are still in the top ten posts (by traffic) every month for the last year and a half!

Based on this interest in short stories about justice, I wanted to share a few tips that I’ve learned about telling these stories.

1. Understand the definition of justice.

Wikipedia defines justice as, “the concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, fairness, or equity, along with the punishment of the breach of said ethics.” Simply put, it’s the idea that there’s a moral right (and wrong), and a punishment for those who do moral wrong.

But I think that’s a shallow definition. I think it misses the point that punishing the wrong doesn’t necessarily heal the one who was wronged. Therefore, I believe there’s an aspect to justice that requires us to right the wrong that was done to somebody.

2. Also understand the resulting definition of injustice.

Based on our understanding of justice, there’s always someone who’s the victim of the wrong that was done to them. The wrong that hasn’t been fully righted is injustice.

If an abusive husband (the oppressor) gets busted and goes to jail, then what happens to the wife (the oppressed) that now cannot support her kids. Is justice served by punishing the husband for his wrongdoing? The injustice still exists for the woman who cannot feed her children.

3. Look for where injustice happens.

People are wronged all around us. There are starving kids dying of malaria in third-world countries, but there’s also the guy/girl at work that doesn’t know what they’re going to do since their spouse left them for another woman/man. It’s easy to overlook that homeless guy standing at the intersection that you’re stopped at holding his sign asking for spare change. But where’s he sleeping when the temperatures drop below freezing tonight?

Injustice is everywhere. All you need to do is open your eyes to it…

4. Ask why.

Asking ‘why’ may not lead to any immediate answers, but it will help you to recognize the depth of the injustice. Ask why the injustice happens in the first place. Ask why nobody else is doing anything about it. Ask why people have to suffer like that. Ask why…

5. Figure out what you can do to change the situation.

Don’t remove yourself from the situation. Rather think about how you can be part of the solution. If there’s anything that’s in your power to do for those suffering from injustice, what would it be? Would you take someone a meal? A blanket? Support an organization that helps people in that situation with your money? With your time?

Ask yourself how you can help bring justice to the oppressed. Then do it.

6. Talk to your friends about this injustice and what needs to be done.

Before you ever write about it, talk to other friends and family about what’s going on and what you’re doing about it. Watch and listen to their reactions. What is it about your story that get’s them worked up too? What responses do they have about what’s happening? Do they know anyone else that’s fighting the same injustice? These reactions can help you form your story so that it can have its greatest impact.

7. Write.

Now tell your story. It’ll be your story when you live it the way you will when you take these steps. Your story should reflect the passion that you have for the oppressed that you’ve encountered. Your goal will be to make people feel the same anger and frustration that you feel about the injustice. But your story should also inform and educate on how real justice (not just the punishment of the oppressor) was reached.

Tell the story of redemption for the oppressed. Share your testimony of restoration. Do it well, and you’ll be sharing the heart of God.

If you’ve shared (or know of) a good story about justice, please share the link below (in the Linky Tools widget). I’d love to create a list of good examples of what justice looks like, and help tell these stories that can make such a significant difference in the lives of the oppressed… no matter what that oppression looks like.



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how to write [a short story on justice]

by Dan King time to read: 4 min