Friday, May 29, 2009

A Wonderful Discovery

I'm excited to share what I learned from Stanley D. Williams, Ph.D. book entitled The Moral Premise Harnessing Virtue & Vice for Box Office Success.

Yes, it is written for screen writers, but I'd say about 95% or more of it is very relevant for novel writers. Over on Seekerville, a guest visitor, agent Natasha Kern, recommended this book to writers, and boy am I glad I took her advice. Seriously consider adding this one to your wish list if you don't already have a copy on hand.

To try and sum it up in a short post won't give it justice, I know. You really need to absorb the concept through reading Williams' book, but I will offer this as a teaser.

The written formula for a moral premise is this:

[Vice] leads to [undesirable consequences], but
[Virtue] lead to [desirable consequences].


[Vise] leads to [defeat]; but [virtue] leads to [success].

The Moral Premise is "a universal truth that can make life better." pg. 161

Right away you can see how having a defined moral premise can aid in the needed conflict in any story. Vice, vice, vice. If you don't have one, find one.

Along with the Moral Premise, Williams goes to great lengths in this book to show how the physical goals of the story must be created so that they are a metaphor for the moral premise of the story, which is really defined by the inner struggle that the characters traverse through the story. Any given story is to be only about one thing--the defined Moral Premise. It's our job as a writer to make everything tie together so that it reveals that key Moral Premise.

I suspect I'll come back to share more on this book, but for now, I'll leave you with this for your weekend pondering. Can your current wip be defined by a moral premise? [Vise] leads to [defeat]; but [virtue] leads to [success]. I'd love to see your moral premises in the comments!

Praying for all to have a blessed weekend with many joyous experiences!

Surrendering to Him,



Cindy said...

Thanks for sharing what you learned, Eileen. I liked taking that question and applying it to a novel I've been working on. It's been kind of jumbled in my mind but that helped put it in perspective and define a major purpose of the book.

Jeanette Levellie said...

Wow, how cool! Sounds Biblical.
Although I write non-fiction, I have learned so much from fiction writers and princilples.
Thank you, Eileen!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Cindy, it's all in focusing I think. Defining a moral premise when you start will help you focus better in the creation of the book. That doesn't mean that the Moral Premise won't need tweaking as you discover your characters, but to start with a base concept of truth should prove to be very helpful. It's a great book.

Jeanette, I suspect there is much overlap in non-fiction writing to fiction. We still need to keep the reader engaged, right. I hope this helps you.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Will definitely have to check this book out. Tell me MORE!!! LOL!

Jody Hedlund said...

I am writing this one down as a must read! I'll have to explore that concept more. I think that somehow I've been able to thread in the moral premise by having each of my MC's deal with spiritual struggles that challenge them to grow. In the end, they've grown through the conflict and problems, but by nature of my stories, the problems aren't neatly wrapped up.

T. Anne said...

Thank you for sharing this invaluable advice! Must find a vice for each of my MC's. I like looking at things from a new perspective.

Katie said...

Great advice! Thanks for sharing!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

I figured my moral premise out for my current wip as:

Prejudice leads to segregation, but tolerance and openness leads to love and acceptance.

We'll see how I end up tweaking it as the story progresses. But I am finding it to be helpful in keeping focused.

Jessica said...

Your premise sounds great, Eileen. Hmmm, I'll have to think about that for mine. I heard of this book too on the Seekers. I think I might be taking Natasha's class at ACFW for Vice and Virtue, if I remember right.

April said...

This is awesome, Eileen! I've got mine - and what a great way to think about my wip!

Love of power leads to loneliness, but a humbled heart leads to true Love.

Terri Tiffany said...

Interesting concept--now I need to go back and see if mine has it.

Erica Vetsch said...

Off to check for this book at my local library. I can't wait for you to share more about what you're learning through it.