Monday, February 6, 2012

And they asked for volunteers and my hand went up without my permission and before you know it I'd agreed to do something I know better than to do and now I need HELP...

Mary "What was I thinking?!!!!" Connealy
I’ve been kinda rasslin’ with this whole Moral Premise deal.

I told the ladies in my local RWA chapter I’d teach a class on it and as I bring the class together (keeping in mind that people usually get STUPIDER after working with me) I realize that … ahem … not only to I maybe not know what The Moral Premise is, but I’m not sure anyone else does either.

I had a kind of lengthy conversation with several author friends and we debated this. Does Moral Premise just mean The Moral of the Story? Does it mean the spiritual theme? I’m still struggling with it and maybe you all can help--because I definitely need HELP.

Excuse me while I weep quietly and curse the day I agreed to stand up in front of other writers and try to TEACH THEM SOMETHING.

Please bear with me during a long awkward moment while I whimper and sob and blow my nose in an unpleasant and soggy manner.

Okay, I’m back. (sniffle)

So…the example I found on the Moral Premise blog that seemed to make the most sense was for the movie Die Hard. Bruce Willis fighting terrorists in a high rise, who are holding his wife and a bunch of others hostage.

It made a great kind of sense…sort of.

I don’t know if you’ve seen this movie but let me just say now I love it but the language is toe curling. Honestly that’s all that’s bad about it—well violence of course but we can all handle that now can’t we? But whoa baby is there a lot of nasty profane language, very hard core. Be warned.

Okay, now that the disclaimer is over, the moral premise of this movie is that Bruce Willis’s love for his estranged wife dies hard. And if we take that a step further, everything in this movie dies hard. John McClane is a hard man to kill. They try and try, trust me.

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The villain dies very hard and does his best to kill McClane’s wife even after he knows he’s dying. What a great villain. I recommend Alan Rickman as one of the great villains. He’s the bad guy in Quigley Down Under. Robin Hood, the one with Kevin Costner, Die Hard and of course he’s been Snape in the eight Harry Potter movies. Pay attention to the way he brings a villain to life.

The villain’s main sidekick dies hard…in face he dies TWICE.

The newsman who’s snooping around for the inside story of the people inside the building – his ambition dies hard.

The cop who is McClane’s contact with the outside world has been crushed by a shooting that involved a child and his guilt dies hard.

That’s an interesting take on the book and it supports the Moral Premise idea that the themes or premise needs to echo between characters. If one person is filled with anger and trying to get over it, then another character needs to be filled with anger and be consumed by it and another—most likely the bad buy, needs to be reveling in it.

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So there is nothing WRONG with giving your characters different moral dilemmas, the point of the Moral Premise is that when they all have the SAME moral dilemma, it makes for a much more powerful story.

Also, honestly, if you think about it, it’s easier. Why invent two or three or seven moral dilemmas when you can just invent one. He’s acting out of fear. She’s acting out of fear. The villain is acting out of fear. That is incredibly simple.

He has a passion for family. She has a passion for family. The villain has contempt for family or was ruined by his family. That shows the flip side of the moral of the story

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Have I ever mentioned (like 8 zillion times) that I hate public speaking? It is truly not my gift. But I said I’d teach this class. So HELP!

I need advice on this topic. (and no, that doesn’t include move and leave no forwarding address—I already asked my husband and he says we have to keep living next door to our cows)

Leave a comment containing your understanding (or lack there-of) about The Moral Premise. I’ll put your name in the drawing for a signed copy of In Too Deep!
And I'm giving away TWO copies today so just leaving a comment gets your name in for that second one.

In Too Deep
It’s Ethan and Audra’s story and, I have to say, for two people who were more or less forced to marry, they are just finding married life…..ahem…delightful….in all ways. Ethan couldn’t be more amazed. Audra is just as surprised as all get-out. And if people would please just stop trying to kill them, they could settle down and be real happy. And I think the moral premise of In Too Deep is fear.

If you face your fear you can defeat it. If you run from your fear you become a victim of it.

PS, this does not apply to mice, so shut up.
Buy The Moral Premise by Dr. Stanley Williams. HERE


  1. No need to enter me for this giveaway, as I've already read and reviewed In Too Deep - great book by the way! :)

    I am SO looking forward to Over The Edge, thanks for writing such great books! :)


  2. Have you read The Moral Premise, the book?

    I think you understand it plenty fine, Mary!

    It's a reminder of a universal truth you will demonstrate with the characters in your book.

    And it's not "wrong" to have more than one moral premise, but according to the guy's research, the blockbuster hits are those that focus on one, I think he even goes to the length of saying that if your character is working through a different moral premise than another character, it belongs in another book.

    I just used the book's teaching to plot my new WIP, it made it fun actually in coming up with subplots and backstory etc. because it all had a focus.

  3. Ok on your last comments about if you run from your fears you become a victim of them. I will have you know I dont run I walk fast! One of my major fears is dogs. There is a dog up the road to the hospital, I know it can step over the fence and get to me. I just cant walk that way even though its is the quickest way to visit mum and that side of the town. I have to walk around the block.

    I dont have any advice and I do feel for you about public speaking. Want to visit Australia that week?
    Dont enter me either I am going to by this book with my Christmas gift voucher.

  4. Great post, Mary! I guess I've always thought the moral premise was just "the overall moral of the story"--but your post gave me more to think about. I'm thinking you must be a great public speaker--and I bet you keep the audience chuckling with your sense of humor! ~ Watching the Super Bowl tonight has energized me (or it could be the 6 cups of coffee I drank while viewing it) so here's a late-night snack for anyone who's hungry--Cinnamon streusel muffins (still warm from the oven). Thanks again for this post! Blessings, Patti Jo :)

  5. I am looking forward to reading Over the Edge. I have always thought that Moral Premise does mean The Moral of the Story so I guess I'm not much help to you. As for your doing public speaking, I'm sure you will be great. I took a trainign with Dale Carnegie, which delt with public speaking and for me it was the hardest thing I have ever done. But I got through it, so I sympathize with you, But I'm sure your great at it.


  6. Hello Mary,
    You have explained the moral premise in easy to understand terms. I think now that I have read your post I understand it! Your examples really help.

    Please enter me in your draw:

  7. Mary,

    The only thing I have to offer is that I think an agent came on Seekerville and talked about it. Is it in the archived posts? It was possibly Natasha.

    I'm too tired to look right now, but I hope this helps.

    Please put me in the drawing.


  8. Hi Mary ,
    That was very helpful. I understand more than I did but have some questions.
    Could the moral premise be the villain? For instance, could fear, or lack of faith or grief be the villain that the characters are working through, or does the villain have to be another person?
    I do see how working through one moral premise at a time makes for a better story. Thanks for that it will make a big difference.
    I would love to be put in the drawing for your book.

  9. You know, I asked for you to help me understand it better, not tell me how great I explained it.

    This isn't helping.

    Also, I was rooting for the NY Giants so I'm pretty jazzed.

    Which is BAD because I need some sleep.

    Do you really think it's just 'the moral of the story'?
    Or the ... THEME? Is that the word I'm looking for?

  10. And AUSJENNY, avoiding a dog that can get out of it's fence and might bite you is just good judgement. Wisdom even.

  11. Mary Im glad you agree, everyone tells me its harmless and very friendly but it looks at me! I have to say I wish it wasn't there on a hot day the extra 5 - 10 mins is really annoying.

  12. Um, will this help?

    More or less taken from The Moral Premise:

    The terms "message," "Theme," and "Moral Premise" are similar but not the same. ....A message is limited to a limited group, region and time. {So, something like, One should not drill oil in the USA b/c of the tiny little white moth who needs to live in the jungle so it can invade your cupboards later]

    A theme is a universal truth that applies to just about all people, through all time, and all places....{SO, If you want to have friends, you must be a friend back}

    A Moral Premise is the theme PLUS it's opposite (the vice) {So, If you want to have friends, be one back. If you aren't friendly, no one will like you}

  13. Mary Cline

    According to the Moral Premise, your villian should be working on the same moral premise as your hero. But in the opposite direction.

    Pretend the Moral Premise is...
    VIRTUE: Be a friend to have friends, VICE: be a jerk and you won't have friends.

    And I'm going to use P&P characters even though that's not the Moral Premise of P&P

    So, HERO starts the story with the vice. He acts like Darcy, unfriendly, tells Lizzy she's only tolerably good looking. Hence, he has no friends in Meryton, b/c he's not friendly, but then he'll start to move toward virtue a little while still being vice conflicted--so he starts talking to Lizzy and goes to see her at the Collin's house, but he's still aloof but he's working on it and starts to gain a teensy bit of Lizzy's attention, and then at the end of the book he'll move completely toward the virtue - he's so "friendly" he fixes Lydia's wedding blooper and Gets Jane and Bingley together, and befriends Lizzy's aunt and uncle when they all drop by and so at the end of the book, people who hated him now want to befriend him. (or marry him :)

    But the Villian displays the opposite path on the Moral Premise journey.

    Catherine DeBourgh Is very unfriendly. She condescends a bit to badger Lizzy at dinner and orders people around, she doesn't have friends, she has subjects. Then at the end of the book, she moves even further into vice for she's even more unfriendly by accusing Lizzy of being beneath her nephew and refusing to attend the wedding--she's pictured all alone as everyone else is celebrating--she's got no friends because she's the epitome of a jerk. She just got more vice filled. (A villian can also start out pretending the virtue and turning to vice)

  14. HAHAHAHA! Oh, that was great. I lvoed the part about being getting DUMBER after you help them.

    Ok, Natasha just said to read that book, so I've been struggling to get the Moral Premise idea, too.

    I hate watching movies like that BUT I was thinking about Holly Black's book 'Valiant'. A girl betrayed by her mother and her boyfriend (together- ewwww). Also, her best friend knew and didn't tell. Then she runs away and hangs out with some thieves who lie and (yes) steal. And meets a troll (hey, it's urban fantasy) who carries guilt over the death of his best friend.

    I was thinking that the troll, the hero that the girl falls in lvoe with, was the only character who never LIES.
    With Melissa's version (theme plus its opposite) the Moral premise is that lies spread misery, and from truth springs love?

  15. Oh, Melissa! Love the P&P!

    I have a quote on my van: 'Obstinate, headstrong girl!'

    And my other favorite Lady Catherine quote: 'If I would ever have learned to play the piano, I should have been a true proficient!'


  16. Mary, you're so cute when you're in trouble. smiling

    I find it helps to do what you did with this blog, admit you're not great at speaking and engage the audience like you did with us.
    Can you require or advise your group to read a book or watch Die Hard before they attend? If so, this will give you a great premise to discover the moral premise together.

    btw-any of you who are fearful of public speaking, CLASS Services is a wonderful seminar that teaches Christian Women public speaking. I would recommend that highly for anyone that even thinks they might have to speak in the future.

  17. Melissa-great job

    Jenny, The dog senses your fear which is why it gets excited when you approach. So wise to avoid. But if you ever find yourself confronting a loose dog, stand straight, look it in the eye, repeat Jesus name over in your head or out loud, point your finger at the dog and DEMAND it go home. Say it firm and commanding. If you feel brave, try it with the dog you mentioned.

  18. I'd LOVE to win a copy!! Thanks for this opportunity :)


  19. I love Stan and The Moral Premise.

    Take NCIS, for example. But not Gibbs. Leave him for me.

    Gibbs... father issues with his father AND as a father who couldn't protect his family.

    DeNozo... father issues, never feeling loved or cherished by his father.

    Tim .... father issues, never being able to satisfy his father.

    Ziva.... feeling used by her father for his own ends.

    Abby.... Just finding out she's adopted and was never told, lied to by her deceased parents.

    All of them use Gibbs as a substitute father, in loco parentis.

    (did that make me sound smart? Because I wanted it to.)

    He uses them as a replacement family.

    The basic is simple, the implementation wonderfully done, layer by character layer.

    Gotta love Stan-the-man and The Moral Premise, top to bottom.

  20. Okay, on my second reading of TMP, I finally got it. I can't teach it but I learned you really need to do the work and the chart.

    For me, it's building the character arc in the chart that shows how the character acts when:

    1.How they act when they are 'believing the lie' (as Susie May Warren calls it). This is their VICE. the way they are looking at the world (incorrectly)

    2. then they begin to realize their wrong-thinking...the 'realization stage' - mid point

    3. Now they've dumped their vice (wrong thinking) and they are operating in their virtue (the new realization) and finally getting somewhere.

    Their VICE leads to failure but their VIRTUE leads to success.

    Melissa explained it well.

    What's really nice is when the protag(s) and even the antags all have that same journey. Of course, the bad guy may hang on the vice and that's okay.

    If you look at the characters' motivation during each part of the story, it will help drive their decisions and reactions, and ring true for the reader.

    We want to see the moral premise be proven right. When someone messes up and then gets their act together and succeeds, it strikes true with our human experience.

    okay, where do I sign up for Mary's book?

    Now, I can't explain theme at all anymore. I thought theme was the take away message, or the point you want to be making to your reader. That should be the same as the moral premise, but I'm 'not going there.'

  21. Mary,

    Melissa Jagears helped me to understand the moral premise. I was leaning toward the hero & heroine in my new WIP to overcome the same problem...a controling father but I was shying away from it...NOT ANYMORE!!!!

    I know, this revelation does not help you with your public speaking gig!


  22. Can you believe I just explained succinctly and expertly the moral premise and now IT's ALL GONE...


    well here's what I think I said.
    It's worth it to actually do the work. AHA! do the character arc within those 7 or 8 steps.

    Each of your main characters will go from acting out of their vice to acting out of their virtue...

    1. Protag with incorrect mind set (Susie May Warren calls this 'believing a lie') and they act in accordance with that VICE (wrong thinking)

    2. Protag begins to REALIZE that it's not working and experiences show him options

    3. Protag starts to operate out of the new VIRTUE (they've learned something better) and their actions reflect it, just in time for the gritty part of the plot.

    the VICE leads to failure but the VIRTUE leads to success

    Easy Peasy? not really but it's worth the work. Melissa did an excellent job explaining it.
    Where do I sign up for one of the books, Mary?

  23. No advice from me. I haven't read on book on moral premise, theme, or anything else. (Except the Bible.)

    But I can say with what you already said, it reminds me of the Proposal.
    He has a loving family, but he can't get along w/his dad. They fight and don't respect each other. She lost her parents a long time ago and would love to be a part of family. Even his family.

    And yes, Alan Rickman is a great villian. I LOVE him in Quigley down under. I think he really enjoys playing those parts.

  24. So, I never understood The Moral Premise. My eyes kind of glaze over whenever it's mentioned and then my brain disengages and the fluff in my brain starts to fall out my ears UNTIL I read your post, Mary. jove, I think I've got it!!!!!! It has to settle yet, and simmer and I need to reflect on some of the books I've recently read (In Too Deep being one of the most recent. LOVED IT!!!) But, I think I can work with this!!!!! So thank you for that.

    Not what you wanted to hear? Sorry....but look on the bright side, you'll only have to speak for about five minutes and voila, the light bulbs will be flashing all over the room (as in light bulb moment).

    I'm totally sympathetic to your plight though. How big will the class be? Can you have class participation or is this supposed to be a lecture? If the class can participate you could start with brainstorming what everyone else thinks the Moral Premise is -- that should be good for some animated discussion. Then you can wow them with your succinct explanation and then divide them into small groups and get them to either create Moral Premises for stories they make up on the spot OR pull out the Moral Premises from books or movies. Then when the groups break, you can have a spokesperson from each one report their examples. And feed them...pass around cookies as they chat in their groups. This is what I do when it's my turn to teach at church. Everyone's so busy munching that they don't notice that I'm not doing the teaching. Bwaaahhaaahaaahaaaa!

    Maybe it should Moral Demise (as in the author's) instead of Moral Premise. :-) Good luck!!!! And don't enter me in the draw because I've read your book!!!! ssssss (yep, all of them.)

  25. Wow, finally I understand the moral premise! Thank you Mary, you did just fine.

    No need to enter me in the contest. I already have a SIGNED copy of the book and the pink pen that I thought was a book.

  26. Fun post, Mary. :) Don't laugh, but I'm still figuring out the moral premise. ;) I appreciated your explanation of the moral premise (could it also be an aspect of the theme?) weaves into each character's life, in a positive/growing way, or in a negative reaction sort of way.

    Sorry this sorta newbie writer can't offer you more wisdom. :) I'll look forward to reading others' wisdom on this topic. :)

  27. I am still waiting for the wonderful Moral Premise Guy to turn his book into DVDs or CDs. I so have a hard time reading theory.

    And BTW, Mary, Moral Premise or not your covers are gorgeous and your heroes keep getting hunkier and hunkier with each book. Are there book trailers for books 2 & 3? I like to know these guys are real.

  28. I'll be back to read all the comments later but I <3 Die Hards. The 4th one has a PG13 rating so much less language [though strains plausibility more with the whole helicopter under an overpass thing]. Lethal Weapons too.

    I will think on this.

    I was talking with one of the teens at church yesterday and we talked authors. She's read Mary and Julie and loved them both! I, of course, introduced her to the rest of the Seekers and told her she should read the rest of you too ;).

    Gotta take the 4yo to preschool. No good drugs until noon because I can't drive while on them /sigh/.

    Would LOVE to win the book!

  29. I'll pretend to be in your audience Mary.

    Uh, Ma'am, do all stories have a moral premise?

    One minute later... (hand waving wildly) What's the moral premise in The Fugitive? What about O Brother Where Art Thou, or Sleepless in Seattle. Any of these.

  30. Melissa, THANK YOU! I so appreciate how you explained the difference between message, theme, and moral premise. Soo helpful!

    Mary, I'll be praying for you. :) You can always have notes up there to refer to. I always have my notes on index cards or printed out on 8 1/2 x 11 paper when I'm in front of people. :)

  31. Mary, I got nuthin' because like you, Moral Premise alludes me when I'm working on my own work.

    Sure, it makes perfect sense when Stan, Natasha, and Myra explain it. I just listened to Natasha's ACFW workshop last week and it made sense, but then trying to figure it out in MY story is much harder.

    I like your answer.

    So, how long is this talk. Maybe you can tell them the simple version, pair them up and let them brainstorm the moral premise for their story.

    And maybe listen to Natasha's talk about it again if you have the CDs. I think it was 2006.

  32. I have NO CLUE, and even if I did, I couldn't put it into words, not good at saying things sometimes. Also, I too have a fear of speaking in public, I even passed out in 9th grade when I had to give an oral report. That didn't get me out of it though, the teacher made me give it the next day.


  33. Good Morning Mary,

    I think you did a great job explaining Moral Premise....well, at least of what I understand it to be. Smiles.

    Praying for you as you teach the class, and I'd love to read your new book. You are one of my favorite authors. :)

    Jodie Wolfe

  34. You shed some light on the Moral Premise for me the last time we met for supper in the Twin Cities. A little light bulb went on.

    When I took Dr. Williams's class on The Moral Premise, I found it to be more about story structure, like when these moral premises should clash, intersect, and resolve. (At least that's what I remember about the class, that and something Lacie Nezbeth said, but I digress.)

    Wish I could be there to take your class. When is it again? Maybe the Seeker-Villagers will crash the party.

    Not that we would heckle or anything.

    Really. ;)

  35. RUTHY!!!!

    And Gibbs looks[ed] to Mike Franks as a father figure for a long time [until the stupid PTB killed him off /mutter/grumble/]. Which makes him a grandpa-figure to Tony/Ziva/Tim/Abby which makes perfect sense :D.

    Can I just say that I am SOOOOOOOO looking forward to tomorrow night's episode? And I don't know if I'm going to get to watch it tomorrow because if I'm going to get enough sleep [and take the drugs that help me sleep without the extra hole in my nose throbbing] I'm going to have to go to bed early and don't know if I'll have a chance :(.

    Er, right. Mary. Moral Premise.

    Yeah, I'm with everyone else.

    I got nuttin'.

    What about Independence Day? Will Smith and Bill Paxton want to protect the people.

    Whathisdrunkname wants to protect his kids from the aliens who abducted him.

    Drunkie's stepson wants to protect his halfsiblings.

    Vivica Fox wants to protect her son/dog from the bad alien dudes.

    Judd Hirsch and The guy from Jurassic Park [the first one] want to protect everyone, but especially Mr. Dino Hunter's ex-wife.

    The aliens don't want to protect anyone. They want to kill everyone.

    Am I even close?

  36. Only Mary Connealy could make the moral premise funny. :)

    Mary, I think you did a great job talking about it! You just forgot to throw us some candy. :)

  37. BTW, I think the moral premise is more the lesson learned. It's what the characters have to figure out to be able to overcome the obstacles and have their happy ending.

  38. Yeah, what Melissa said (only better than I did). :) About being universal.

  39. Sandra, your advice the ausJenny face the dog and call on Jesus is great.

    I was going to recommend she get a can of mace.

  40. CATHY SHOUSE--Yes, Natasha Kern was on Seekerville. And Dr. Stanley Williams himself was on. And I've studied both their posts.
    But it seems like I keep learning a little more about it, in fits and starts and everytime I think I've got it, I learn some new aspect of the whole idea and then I think maybe I don't understand it AT ALL!

  41. MARY CLINE, you know I love that idea, that the villain could be a moral conflict. It's actually a really deep thought.

    I always think I need a bad guy. But is that narrow thinking? Can the 'bad guy' be a sin or a moral dilemma.

    It's so intriguing I might experiment with it.

  42. I think it's the 'two sides to the story' that make the moral premise.

    A feel like I understand the 'moral premise' of Petticoat Ranch, the best.

    I actually, deliberately, chose the moral premise of that book...but I didn't know to call it the moral premise.

    But I very deliberately chose ANGER as the defining struggle in that book.

    A had this image in my head of anger being an arc, all the way from vicious killing rage and a person who had dealt with their anger and gotten on with their life and I had characters on all points of that arc.

    I don't know if you've read it, but I actually created the character, Adam, in that book, the black man who came running to help Sophie, because I had the hero Clay in that stage of anger, that white hot fury at the men who had killed his brother.

    I didn't like what that was doing to Clay as a character, it was to unpleasant. So I created Adam and gave him all the rage.

    So the heroine Sophie is almost over her anger, until she sees the man who killed her husband and that brings it all back. But she knows it's wrong to hate. She prays for the hate to end and for forgiveness for it. Still it simmers.

    The hero Clay has just learned his brother is dead, murdered by a band of vigilantes. He's furious and he's come to get justice for his brother. Then Clay finds his brother's wife and four daughters and that diverts him from his path of revenge and plunges him into an all girl world.

    Then comes Adam and he's just had his partners in his ranch killed, he was beaten and left for dead. His white hot rage is threatening to destroy him.

    And the villain, Mort Sawyer, who is killing mad at the whole world and for no reason at all. His losses and hurts are all his own doing, he gets stopped, then stopped again but he won't back down. He won't just ride off and hunt new prey in a different area. He descends deeper and deeper into his hate until it destroys him.

    Okay, that's one book I think I understand the moral premise of. One down, twenty-two to go.

  43. Add my name to the list of clueless. I don't know anything about Moral Premise. Truth is, I never thought about it and when someone mentions theory books my eyes glaze over and I get fidgety. You, though, Miss Mary, actually got me interested and now I might make myself read that book. Maybe. So my advice is for you to do exactly what you did in this blog. Use your wonderful humor, the knowledge you clearly have even if you don't think you do, and ask a lot of questions. Let the audience toss out ideas of what they think the Moral Premise is and then lasso them in for a landing with the info you gave us. Toss in Melissa's well reasoned comments, and you're done. Wish I could be there to hear you. You'll be awesome.

  44. Ah, Mary, you're to be applauded for taking on moral premise. And giving a speech about it! God is stretching you. :-)

    I get that secondary characters can echo the h/h struggles. That those struggles go back to the issue the h/h need to face underneath, the thing they've been avoiding. Once they do, in a romance, they get their happily ever after ending. What they learn is the takeaway, the point of the story. But I'm confused that things that die hard in Die Hard is the moral premise. What is the takeaway? That we're never to give up?

    I'm reading In Too Deep and loving it!

    Seth's cover is wonderful! Is this the first time I've seen it or have I been asleep? Really love the brothers!!


  45. Melissa this line: A Moral Premise is the theme PLUS it's opposite (the vice) {So, If you want to have friends, be one back. If you aren't friendly, no one will like you}

    I think this is boiled down to it's most basic.

    I wonder if my RWA Chapter will let me just say that line and sit down. (they will probably not agree, but then later, they will regret passing on that easy escape--if only they'd KNOWN!)

  46. Honestly, reading all the comments and the back and forth is helping me get it more clear in my head.

    Or maybe it's just that I'm pounding down caffeine.

  47. LOL, Mare, your titles look like my books ... :)

    Oh, THANK GOD somebody else struggles with nailing down the moral premise. The number one thing I freak out about after I write a book is if I'm going to get it right when Natasha asks me what the moral premise is because I NEVER do, God's truth. She always says, "no, the moral premise is this ..." It's so bad that Keith and I joke about it now!! :)

    For instance, I thought I nailed the moral premise in A Passion Denied because EVERYONE was denying someone something -- Brady denying Lizzie his love, Lizzie denying him hers later in the book, Patrick denies Marcy his love, Marcy denies bitterness, Mitch denise Charity his affection out of fear, etc., so naturally I just assumed the moral premise for A Passion Denied was "denial." WRONG!!! At least according to Stan, who ... ahem .. wrote the book. But then, what does HE know???? :)

    Anyway, now I follow a formula that helps me to get to the moral premise so that when Natasha asks me now, I can tell her with the utmost confidence. Yeah, right ...:)

    Here's an example of what I did when I pitched The Cousins McClare, using the following "formula" for each of the three books to help me get to the moral premise:


    1-line premise:
    A spunky heiress without a fortune falls in love with a handsome pauper looking to marry well.

    Moral Premise:
    Pursuit of material things, pleasure or escape will lead to discontentment and emptiness, but pursuit of God will lead to fullness of joy and fulfillment.

    Scripture Theme:
    For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. —Matthew 6:21

    The above "moral premise" applies to everyone in the book, but particularly the hero and heroine, which hopefully will leave the reader with a clear and cohesive moral premise ... God willing!!

    I just figured that by throwing as much at Natasha as I can, I'm bound to get something right ... you know, kind of like shooting buckshot? You're bound to hit something. :)


  48. Linda, love the picture of you holding that Rita! I remember that lovely night like it was yesterday.


  49. MELISSA: The Pride and Prejudice examples are terrific.

    Are you really Melissa Jaeger or are you a fake Blogger Identity for Stan Williams?

  50. One more thought. Ha! And you thought I was finally gone. I popped over to Amazon and read some of the reviews. Well, not really. I read part of the first review. My eyes started to glaze over and I got fidgety so I quit. But the point is that the first reviewer laid out lots of info on what the Moral Premise is. You might want to peruse those.

  51. MELANIE!!!
    The very FIRST comment, has a link in it to a very NICE review of In Too Deep.

    Thank you so much, Melanie.

    Here is a live link for it.

    Christian Bookshelf Reviews

  52. Hi, Rose. Melissa's doing great isn't she.

    Soooo Melissa .... where do you live and if I arranged for a plane ticket, could you come and do this lesson for me?????

  53. So, DEBRA what you're saying is, it's the JOURNEY. the characters take the journey from one side of the moral premise to the other?

    That's sort of like my arc with Petticoat Ranch.

    I guess.

    I think I need more caffeine.

  54. This is a great topic. The interaction has really helped me to understand the moral premise!

  55. KAV!!! NO STOP!!!! Don't reflect. I think that's where I went wrong.

    The more I THINK about it, the more confused I get.

    And fluff falling out of your ears??? Whoa, not a great mental image, girl.

  56. Connie, I've seen the proposal.

    So let me say this another way on that movie.

    He has a great family and doesn't appreciate them.
    She has no family and appreciates his.

    No, that's not quite right. well, it's RIGHT, it's just not a moral it?

  57. Mary, I feel your pain! I've been comatose and blubbering since I discovered my RWA workshop proposal was accepted.

    I always had this vague idea about the moral premise that good choices led to good things, and bad choices led to bad things. But what happens if you make a bad choice for a good reason?

  58. JEANNE T....I totally respect your confusion. Trust me on this.

  59. TINA
    There is a trailer for In Too Deep on my website.
    Bethany House is doing such a great job with them.
    You might need to scroll down a bit.

    My Website

  60. CAROL, did you know that they CLEANED UP the language in all the Die Hard movies after the first one was so hard core (I'm talking profanity here) all the EFF Bombs, so so many.

    But they realized they could sell more tickets if they'd knock it off and bring the ratings down to PG-13.

    I like that. It smacks of morality = money

  61. PS there's still plenty of cussing in all of them. In case you're worried.

  62. Oh and CAROL ... ahem ... The GOOD DRUGS?????

    I'm just gonna go ahead and assume you've got a cold and are talking about decongestants.

    I need to believe that.

  63. Connie, I am officially putting a guard on the front door of the class/meeting room to keep you out.

    My blood pressure just spiked to think of you asking me those questions!!!!

    Just go ahead and assume my answer in all cases is gonna be....duh, I dunno.

    I am getting weepy again.


    Where are my tissues!!???

  64. Hi Mary,

    You brave soul, you! Not only talking in front of people, but about a subject you don't get! LOL!

    I think Julie described the Moral Premise best. The part I use is the vice/virtue concept. He has a list of vices and opposing virtues.

    You can start off really general, like: Pride leads to misery, humility leads to happiness.
    And then get more specific as to your particular characters and problems.

    Another well used one is: Selfishness leads to loneliness, Self-less-ness leads to love and joy!

    Good luck with your talk!!

    I'd love to be in the draw. Those two covers are gorgeous!

    sbmason at sympatico dot ca

  65. Mary, both you and Melissa have done a great job of simplifying what has always been a mystery to me. I ought to introduce you to my bible study class now, and let you loose on Revelation! You've clarified Stan Williams' "Values -> Thought -> Action", and "the physical story is a metaphor for the psychological story." Mm, yeah, stuff like that makes me bang my head against a wall.

  66. JEANNE T if I had an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper, I'd just use it to hold in front of my face!

    And what to you mean 'I ALWAYS'

    You mean you speak in pubic enough to have a SYSTEM??????

    You don't understand a thing I've been saying, girl. I never speak in public.

    btw, I just read a little news clip in the OMaha World Herald about a book signing I'm doing in Papillion next Saturday. With another lady, Vicky DeCoster.

    Part of the article talks about us both doing comedy and it says PREPARE TO LAUGH.

    I don't remember agreeing to SAY anything!!!

    My blood pressure just doubled.

  67. btw Vicky DeCoster, who writes the Wacky Womanhood blog.

    Wacky Womanhood

    Go read her most recent blog post called A Walking Cast, A Stripper Pole and an Elephant Encounter.

    I'm letting Vicky to ALLLL the talking.
    Maybe I should warn her?


  68. Pammy, so far, the talk is a minute and a half.

    And I'm betting by 60 seconds they're begging me to shut up.

    Hand outs. I need hand outs.

    This is getting complicated and I only have until April.

  69. Woo, Mary, I think you've got it!

    I'm not one for theories in writing, but I think I've got a better grasp on it, looking at everyone's examples (thanks, MELISSA!) and yours, too.

    How about a moral premise in Francine Rivers' wonderful "Redeeming Love?"

    The prostitute, Angel, doesn't believe she can be redeemed, especially through love, because of everything she's done.

    Michael loves her, because God loves him and has taught him how to love her.

    Paul, the brother-in-law, can't believe in Angel's redemption because he doesn't know God's love.

    I think the moral premise is about accepting that God's love can redeem anyone and everyone.

    And BTW, I'd love to read "In Too Deep!"

  70. wfnren-----you PASSED OUT!!!!!!!!!???


    ANYONE READING HERE FROM MY LOCAL GROUP (I'm talking to you, Sherri) you are sworn to secrecy and please don't call an ambulence. I intend to come around on my own. Eventually.

  71. Honestly, Mary, my readers under the Moral Premise in my books better than I do. I think I've read so many books, I put it in there without realizing it.

    In my new WIP, the heroine fears no one can possibly love her because of the way her stepmother and stepsisters have treated her, and the hero fears the heroine won't love him because his betrothed dumped him for his brother. And the villain fears that no one will respect him if he doesn't crush his competition in every way, because that's what his father ingrained in him.

    I'm not sure this helps you in any possible way, Mary, but it's showing me that everybody in my WIP is pretty messed up and desperate for love but not likely to get any unless they grow and learn before the end of the book. So I better show some growing right quick.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Mary! Sorry I can't help you with your class. Just pass out some Lindor chocolate truffles and they'll be happy.

  72. I meant to say, My readers understand my moral premise better than I do.

  73. Jodie you are soooo gullible.

    Since you don't know what it is how can you be sure I've explained it correctly.

    In fact, now that I think of it, I might change the name of this whole thing and claim it's my own idea.

    I think I'll call it The Premise of Morals.
    Or no The Poral Memise
    How about Dennis the Premise

    Hmmmmm naming it is going to take time. As is selling a one sentence book.

  74. I'm not going to read any other comments before I give my slightly misguided understanding of The Moral Premise.

    I HATED Die Hard. It wouldn't have been so bad except for all that nasty language... I watched it for the Early Bird and then we didn't even talk about it. I still want to go wash my ears out with soap.

    ANYWAY! People use so many big words when it comes to talking about the moral premise and it took me forever to figure it out. But I think I've kind of got it down in my head: it's one moral (good/bad thing) will lead to THIS outcome, but this moral (good/bad thing) will have THIS outcome. I thought for forever it was the plot of the character arc, but it's just the morals of the character, where they start and where they end.

    I'm scared to read the book, that I'll only be more confused, but maybe someday I'll get brave enough and pick up the copy. Like when I'm eighty and it won't matter anymore because I'll already have been on the NYT list 10 times.

    LOL! ;-)

  75. MARY, I may have to come to your RWA meeting, assuming it's in the Omaha-area.

    And I saw that about you and Vicky doing the book signing in Papillion. I may come just because it's in a CHOCOLATE store. Humor, chocolate and Mary Connealy- sounds like a fun Saturday morning to me!

  76. ERICA, seriously, I'm begging you, anything you learned from me....proceed with extreme caution. I very often don't know what I'm talking about and yet that doesn't even slow me down.

    And you should come.
    I would love that.
    But we would have to skip the meeting and just go somewhere and talk, which kind of defeats the whole 'I'm giving the lesson' business.

  77. Oh I forgot! Mary, you're going to do GREAT on this class and if I lived even just a little bit close to where it is, I'd be there in a heartbeat and I'd get SMARTER. I know I would. Because you're a genius. :D

  78. Carol, do you really think all those people wanting to protect others is the moral premise?

    don't all heroes want to protect someone?

    And why do you have an extra hole in your nose? I feel intrusive asking but then YOU BROUGHT IT UP NOT ME!!!!!!!!

  79. Stephanie, the meeting of my RWA group is in APRIL.
    Saturday, April 14th from 9 t0 noon at the Old Country Buffet at 144th and Center. It's in the same mall with ShopKo, near Oakview Mall. And btw, I've been to that mall, there isn't an Oak to View anywhere. Who are they kidding?

    And yes, come to my signing. I think Vicky might be really funny. (I pray she is. I'm counting on that desperately)

  80. Missy, candy is a great idea.

    You may have just saved me.

    Although I've never tried candy on anyone older than fifth grade.

    But everyone loves Starbursts, right?

  81. Hi LINDA, thanks for coming by and joining me in my mire of confusion. At least it's not LONELY here.

    And so far, I think I'm just going to copy Melissa's comments and delivery them as my own.

    Again, Sherri Shackelford belongs to this group and is, in fact, the PRESIDENT. Or at least she was recently.

    So, Sherri....I need to buy your silence. How about you, Andrew Jackson and I have a little talk?

  82. Janet I know EXACTLY what you mean? where is the arc? So what if everything Dies Hard, for heaven's sake.
    It helps.....not at all.

  83. Debra, that was a great way to explain the timing of the moral premise arc.

    Virginia, I wish I were cool enough to have DeBourgh quotes on my van, maybe I'll try to be cool and get some.

    Mary, I love teaching! I got my first gig doing a talk at the Kansas State Authors Convention this summer and man, do I wish I was published so I could grab up tons of those gigs. So fun. (I'm a teacher by trade btw) I do my best winging it actually. And if you're my poor crit partners, you sometimes get teacherly lectures in the track changes...poor crit partners.

    Now, whether I can carry out what I know in the art form itself....

  84. Moral Premise: To me it's the right thing to do, as well as what God says is right. It includes every area of life, sexual, personal, mental, spiritual, etc. Morals don't just include sexual, which is what I used to think. Includes lying, stealing, truthfulness, etc.

    desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

  85. Wow, Julie that seems really clear and reasonable and easy.

    It can't be right.

  86. Sherri, I'm so proud of you and excited for you and terrified for you.

    Wow, girl. Presenting at RWA. That's the big time, girl.

    I could barely find my way back to my room. How in the world would I survive a presentation?

  87. btw, according to Stan Die Hard's premise is:

    covetous hatred leads to death and destruction, but sacrificial love leads to life and celebration.

  88. SUSAN ANN MASON...well here is the real kicker...I thought I did get it when I agreed to give this lesson, back last summer.

    Then I learned just enough more to realize I DON'T KNOW WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  89. CAROL J GARVIN....WOW, you got all of that out of my blog post and these comments?

    Because I didn't get that. I think you might be hallucinating.

    Or no, maybe i am.


  90. CASEY, I know what you mean about thet cussing in Die Hard.
    I considered trying to do a power point presentation for my lesson because, of course, I don't know how and it's the perfect opportunity to make something already hard, into something staggeringly impossible.

    And because I thought I sort of had this notion of how Die Hard reflected the moral premise (I THOUGHT I did until Janet confused me and now I'm not sure anymore)
    So I hunted around YouTube thinking I could get a scene from Die Hard to use and the cussing is insane. Worse than I remembered. I could NOT find a two minute clip to use that wasn't just salted with hard profanity.

    So I gave that up. Also I don't know what a power point presentation is. But I thought one of my kids could help me.

    And yes, I'm sure they've heard cussing but they haven't heard their MOTHER using it to explain her books, for heaven's sake.

    ps, it's not Janet's fault I'm confused. She just made me understand that I didn't know what I was talking about.

  91. Melissa, seriously, keep commenting. I've almost got the whole lesson now, copied and pasted.

  92. Take heart, Mary! I haven't even touched my Power point capabilities on my computer. Toooo daunting.And had to LOL at your comment about Janet's comment. This really shouldn't be such a hard concept, so why is it??

    Ruthy just makes it look soooooo easy. Just want to smack her.

    With all loving kindness, of course. ;)

  93. Oh, Mary, you reminded me of a professor I had in college. She stood at the podium and gripepd it with both hands, the whole hour, while BLUSHING. Sometimes she'd be red, soemtimes purple, sometimes spotted. She always had one of the students writing notes on the board for her.

    My last year I got to her know her better and she said how much she hated lecturing, but how much she loved teaching. She was willing to suffer the 'stage fright' just for that 'a-ha' moment when one of us got it.

    I've thought of that a lot in the 15 years since. Just beautiful.

  94. booking tickets for April 14*

    WOW! I read all these comments and my brain is so stuffed that I stood up and fell over. :O

    JULIE, buckshot!! Is that the trick? Because I'm guessing 'I don't know' isn't the answer to any question Natasha asks about moral premise! But that's my first urge. Deny all involvement. "Book? I've never written a book? I think you have the wrong number."

    My brain is just going all over the place. A good thing. I just wish it was 2AM again and I could keep writing. Maybe I'll jot some notes before we start school here.

    In this house, I'm usually the one staring out the window and daydreaming, not the kids. :D

  95. Man, oh man, just when I start thinking I understand this writing stuff, you have to throw "just one more thing" in the mix.

    Mary, do feel like Columbo right about now? Because you should.

    BUT - reading through the post again this morning (after two cups of tea and 20 minutes doing some Latin translations to wake up my brain), I think I'm beginning to get it.

    Then I read through some of the comments (esp. Melissa's, Ruthy's and Julie's), and now I think I have a handle on it.

    The Moral Premise is that deeper layer that some books have, and it's what separates a so/so story from a truly great one - that deeper layer that resonates with the reader like the bass line in a Beethoven symphony.

    (That simile will only make sense to music geeks, by the way.)

    (And no, bass in this case does NOT refer to fish.)

    So I'll attempt my own example - in The Lord of the Rings (books more than the movies), the moral premise is: grasping for power leads to subjugation to evil, but relinquishing power leads to victory over evil.

    Now I have to go read the Seekerville archives for the posts by Natasha Kern and Dr. Stan Williams, and put the book on my Amazon wish list.

    I really do love homework.

    And Mary - go for the notes on the 8 1/2 x 11 paper rather than the index cards. Not only can you type up the notes in a really big font so you can see them even when your eyes are glazing, but someone can use them as a fan when you faint.

    And since Carol M.'s drugs may keep her away from Seekerville this afternoon, you can read about the hole in her nose in the comments on Friday. I think the drugs she's taking are controlled substances...

  96. I read The Moral Premise a long time ago and I never remember much about what I've read. Without going back I think it's something like this--You have a belief that governs your thoughts and your actions, only it's incorrect. The character has to learn this through the story.

  97. Mary, if the purpose of your talk is to make your listeners think and want to learn more about moral premise, you've already succeeded. I'm hooked.

    Try distracting your audience with Riesen's chocolate covered caramels, they'll be so busy trying to get the caramel out of their teeth, they'll never notice you're nervous!

    And I'm still giggling at the having to stay next door to your cows comment!

  98. Just finished In Too Deep. Great story! Had me laughing at the Kincaid Brothers' family dynamics and I enjoyed watching Ethan and Audra grow as a couple. I'm getting the word out on my blog tomorrow for those who haven't had the pleasure of reading it yet.


  99. Jan Drexler...this line.... that deeper layer that some books have, and it's what separates a so/so story from a truly great one.

    I think this is it.
    I'm definitely adding this to the talk (along with everything Melissa and Debra and ... well, okay, Ruthy and Julie and

    I'm not supposed to keep track and give y'all credit am I? Because I'm going to pretend I thought of all this myself.

    In fact, my brain is so addled that before a day has passed I'd BELIEVE I thought of all this myself.

    It's nice here in Wonderland.

  100. Mary, I believe Missy has defined it the best so far saying,"I think the moral premise is more the lesson learned.It's what the characters have to figure out to be able to overcome the obstacles and have their happy ending."

    Maybe you could explain it in a new way. For instance break it down to a definition of Moral and a definition of Premise. Then put them together as only you can.

    But even if they are as clear as mud about Moral Premise when you are through talking, they will have been thoroughly entertained, because you are a hoot!

  101. BRANDI!!!!!!!
    I just read Brandi's soon to be released debut novel Garter's for Lace.
    I think it comes out in the fall.
    Brandi, if you check back in, can you tell us the release date?
    It was a terrific book.
    A dance hall girl (who is a GOOD GIRL) and a parson.
    Really loved it. A western. Fun.

    You're going to talk about In Too Deep on your blog? SWEET! I'll go link my blog to it.
    thank you

    Brandi Boddie

  102. Since I used a fake Moral Premise for P&P I thought I might try to extrapolate the real one, since it's kinda bothering me that I used a fake one. The moral premise should belong to all the main characters.

    So perhaps "Pride and Prejudice leads to misunderstanding. Humility and objectivity lead to understanding."

    yeah, I think I could make that work for all the main characters.

  103. Mary - don't give credit, just send chocolate.

  104. Love your books! Can't wait to get the new one!

  105. CDEES, I like where you're taking this. Distract them.
    It might take more than chewy caramel stuck in their teeth but it's a start.

    Perhaps Chippendale dancers.

    Or I could pull the fire alarm and hope there is a sprinkler system that goes off.

    We can get through this somehow. I just know it.

  106. a) I loved the title of this post.

    b) I loved this: "Also, honestly, if you think about it, it’s easier. Why invent two or three or seven moral dilemmas when you can just invent one." Felt like a much-needed "Uh,DUH, Melissa!" moment for me as I'm plotting my next novel... :) Needed that!

    c) Such a helpful post!!

  107. DONNA this makes sense doesn't it. The lesson learned AND the flip side, the bad result to the one who does NOT learn the lesson. But it needs to be the SAME lesson.

    The evil villain who slinks off in disgrace (riddled with bullet holes, of course) needs to be the one who doesn't learn his/her lesson.

  108. Mary, after reading your funny post and all these comments - just throw candy! :) No make that chocolate, while you show everyone pretty pictures :)

  109. Melissa you LIED in your earlier post and now you're imagining me using that and you've got this mental image of me, standing up in front of people and they're all yelling at me and saying: THAT'S NOT IN PRIDE AND PREJUDICE IDIOT!

    And then they'll come for me with pitchforks.

    my group, HWG, there are some TOUGH COOKIES in there.

    I think it's nice of you to come clean before they whip out the tar and feathers. God bless you, Melissa.

  110. Hi Mary,
    Oh, no! Another thing I need to learn, and I'm just getting the hang of 'deep POV.' lol. Where are you teaching this class? I might need time to start walking...(air fares are nuts right now).

    I am actually doing a book signing at a Chocolate STore next Saturday.

    This is the most amazing place. OH MY GOSH!!!!!!!!

    The chocolate is just delicious and so beautiful. My heart is fluttering with excitement as I write this comment.

    The chocolate is just ART. They don't make it there but it's so amazing.

    The most memorable was a clam shell made of three colors of chocolate, dark, milk and white, all swirled together, an open clam shell and in the shell were pearls made of the three different kinds of chocolate.

    It was stunningly pretty.
    And they had a log, maybe eight inches long and four inches high, chocolate that looks liked a real log, rough bark, so pretty and the top of the log lifted off and it was a hollow log filled with an assortment of their 1000 different kinds of chocolate. (I'm estimating on 1000 but trust me there were MANY KINDS of lovely chocolates).

    I bought a nice assortment and they were extraordinary.

    Tina Radcliffe brought dark chocolate with sea salt to the signing she and I did in Tulsa and it was so delicious I still spend significant time daily thinking about it. I am going to find that in this store if I can.

  112. Lyndee, it's omaha in April.
    Wait until the weather warms a bit before you start hitchhiking.

  113. Hey hey, hold on a sec! I put a warning in that first post that it wasn't really the Moral Premise of P&P that I was just using it to illustrate. It still works, just not on all the peeps in the book.

    And yeah, don't want you to be tar'd and feather'd.

  114. MELISSA TAGG I'm glad you learned something from this post.
    I can only hope and pray it's correct. I have sort of a reputation for teaching all the wrong lessons.
    But the good part is, I usually do it so poorly that no one remembers exactly what I was getting at. And if it works out just right, they think that's THEIR FAULT!

    it's a gift

  115. Ah, I went back and read it, Melissa, you did include a disclaimer.

    Not unlike mine when I warned everyone there was cussing in Die Hard.

    Okay, that's a bad comparison.

    Anyway, you're right. You said it. I've called my lawyer and told him to stop drawing up the lawsuit.


  116. I'm on gooooooood drugs! I had a bit of skin cancer removed from my nose but that doc couldn't sew it back up so a plastic surgeon is going to but not until Wednesday. So yes. Controlled substances :D.

    I JUST took my first one for the day. And yet, I still fell asleep and was late picking up the 4yo from preschool.

    Yesterday, though, I read a book with your name on it Mary. But it was in little tiny letters under the endorsement of Colleen Coble's new book. Twas quite good.

    Moral premise of Blue Moon Promise: Trust God to take care of you and yours because if you try to do it yourself it'll all fall apart eventually.

    I think.

    The drugs are starting to kick in and I may be just a bit loopy... ;)

  117. Wow, Mary, you ARE brave, volunteering to teach a class on the Moral Premise!

    For me, it's one of those writing things that just sort of has to evolve as the story develops. I don't usually know what the MP really is until I get WAY, WAY, WAY into the writing.

    And sometimes not even then!

    When I think about MP, though, I always remember that TV series 7th Heaven. That was the #1 best example of how the MP is reflected in every plot and subplot. If Mary was caught lying, one of the other kids was struggling with honesty in another area.

    And so were Mom, Dad, and half the neighborhood. Different story lines, same MP. They dealt with either the virtue side or the vice side, depending on the situation and the characters involved.

  118. Dr. Quinn is a good example of always having a MP dealt with in more than one character per show.

  119. One of my favorite moral premise conundrums actually comes from Star Trek. The Enterprise was faced with a culture that had no concept of good or evil, so they hijacked Kirk and Spock for a "lesson." They then put Kirk and Spock with Lincoln and the George Washington equivalent from the planet Vulcan (Spock's home planet for the non-trekkies). They then faced off against four evil figures from history.

    At the end of the episode, the culture who set up the contest noted the following:
    1) Good and evil use the same methods.
    2) Good and evil achieve the same results.
    3) Good and evil both fight for a cause.

    The moral was the cause you fight for.

  120. Mary I think you are an amazing writer and I have no doubt that you will do fine teaching your class !! Id love the chance to win this book as Ive read book one and I cant wait to read book 2 and 3 of this set !!
    As far as the moral premise , I too thought it was all about the over all Moral of the story So i am afraid that I am no help there as well !! But there are some great comments on here that do a pretty good job of explaining other people take on it :) !! From what ive read it sounds like the comparable situations of life or circumstances between characters examples (home life , parents children job faith and religion circumstances ) that can be used to bring the story together !!! Hope that helps !! have a blessed and wonderful day and thanks for the chance to win !! God Bless !!


  121. Mary,
    LOVE< LOVE the cover of In Too Deep.
    Makes me love CRAZY even more!!!

    And Alan Rickman is a FABULOUS villain, but he's also incredibly endearing in Sense and Sensibility. And 'villain' is a bit 'gray' as Snape, don't you think? :-)

    I think there are a lot wonderful things to learn from the idea of The Moral Premise. It's a way to refine each scene to have a common purpose. For example in my WIP my moral premise is:
    Unforgiveness leads to bitterness and isolation, but forgiveness leads to hope and community.
    Well, my 'goal' (remember, I wrote 'goal') is to show my heroine's choices as either isolating her or building her community.
    I may be TOTALLY off on my guess of the moral premise, but that's how I've understood it.

    In my YA fantasy, my moral premise is:
    Disobedience and blame lead to rifts in relationships and loss, but obedience and humility heal relationships and builds confidence. (it's an allegory)
    So... each scene (read: some scenes) really focus on the choices that the young people make and how it causes rifts or heals.

    Sorry if I'm extra confusing.
    And If I'm TOTALLY wrong!
    It won't be the first time








  123. Oh and Mary,
    I may not have all the basics of the Moral Premise, but I can totally set you up with PowerPoint.
    I present for a LIVING!
    I can even do all those cool techy things with Powerpoints just for videos and zipping fonts in and out.

    It's actually beautifully distracting ;-)

  124. CAROL...i'm sorry about your skin cancer, sweetie. I hope you're okay.
    I'm frowning as I write this.

    Also, MY NAME IS IN COLLEEN COBLE'S BOOK???????????????

    All RIGHT!!!!!!!!

  125. WALT, I remember that episode. I LOVE Star Trek, the original series.

    Those are all morality plays.

    Even the Tribbles

  126. Amber honestly your comment helped a lot. I now have the mental image of people with the same challenges, fighting the same problems, but if they fight righteously and make moral choices, they grow and succeed and find happiness and if they fight with sin and evil they are defeated, often through their own actions.

    What do you think?

  127. PEPPER I actually consider SNAPE a weak spot in Rickman's career. He played Snape is such a under acted way, and with so much doubt as to Snape's good or evil that I just didn't see any of his usual flare in that character.

    Oh, maybe flashes of it.
    Still, eight movies, all making a zillion dollars apiece, I suspect he managed to hold up under the directorial suppression of his usual flare.

  128. Our church owns a power point projector. An alliterative device if ever there was one.

    I suppose I could borrow it.

    :( This is getting harder every minute.

  129. "When you write a story with a sound Moral Premise, you are not trying to persuade your audience of something they don't believe. You are writing a story that confirms something they (and you) already believe." Randy Ingermanson

    He also recommends the book "The Moral Premise: Harnessing Virtue and Vice" by Dr. Stanley Williams, Ph.D. This definition comes from his book: pyschological vice leads to physical deteriment but psychological virtue leads to physical betterment.

    Stan also has a blog called: MoralPremise.blogspot tha might be helpful.

    Hope this helps. I haven't looked it over yet. Have my parents visiting and sick kiddos to take care of. Please count me in the drawing?

    I think for me, moral premise is so much a part of the story that I never really think about putting it in there. I haven't really thought that much about it by definition.

  130. Mary, I will pray for you. Especially since I think you called me Missy.

    Anyway, chocolate is the answer to most of life's problems. Except for the one I'm currently having, which is procrastinating writing. Pretty sure chocolate will not help.

    Chocolate with sea salt? Can't imagine that. I also saw a recipe for brownies sprinkled with bacon. Weird weird weird, on the Betty Crocker website. It was a popular recipe, believe it or not. Weird. Almost as weird as that fuzzy-headed guy bouncing on a tightrope wearing a toga in Madonna's halftime show.

  131. Linnette, thank you so much for mentioning the actual book. I can't believe I didn't have the link to buy in my original post.
    It is there now.
    The Moral Premise by Dr. Stanley Williams.
    I have hunted all over the Moral Premise blog. I think it has deepened my confusion.
    But that is MY FAULT. I'm sure.

  132. Mary,
    I remember Natasha saying that your work was wonderful because the characters in a particular book dealt with the same Moral Premise.

    So, you've got it. Even if you don't think you understand the MP, you do.

    Your blog had me shaking my head and repeating, "Yes! Yes, that's it!"

    Way to go, Mare!

    Plus, you'll have them rollin' in the aisles. :)

    Can you video tape your workshop and put it out on You Tube? Then we could all watch!

  133. Melanie, did I really call you Missy? I guess you southern girls all look alike.

    And honestly, bacon and chocolate? I can totally see that working.

    salty and sweet. How is that different than a salted nut roll?

  134. Video tape, Debby, what a great idea? So my incompetence can be posted on YouTube and shown to the whole world.

    (is there a smiley face for sarcasm?)

  135. Mary said: Janet I know EXACTLY what you mean? where is the arc? So what if everything Dies Hard, for heaven's sake.
    It helps.....not at all.

    Mary, what Melissa J said is what you need to add to the Die Hard example for your talk!

    Melissa said: btw, according to Stan Die Hard's premise is:

    covetous hatred leads to death and destruction, but sacrificial love leads to life and celebration.

    So the moral premise has nothing to do about dying hard, but everything to do about living. Thank you, Melissa!

  136. I think you should let Pepper do your powerpoint. When she said 'distracting' all sorts of things popped into my head. Just don't watch the screen. Those gasps and laughs are for YOU! Really! Fuzzy kitten pics and hotties and photos from your 8th grade yearbook are NOT included.... *shhhh*

  137. Reading/skimming all the comments from the bottom up has made my head spin. And I'm still not sure if the Moral Premise is a book or if it's the premise of one's morals. Since I haven't read such a book, I'll go with the later. The words 'moral premise' make me think of world view. Does the author have his/her characters making choices from a Judeo-Christian world view, atheist, deist, post-modern, Muslim, Hindu, etc. point of view. Your world view shapes how you make decisions and choices, and what you believe about different things. That's my two sense, but I'm only commenting b/c I'd love to win a copy of In Too Deep. Marriage of convenience stories (where the couple of course falls in love eventually) are some of my favorites.

  138. It all comes back to Dr. Stanley's secret identity Melissa J.

    So Melissa/Stan/Whoever I think I'm ready.
    I think I can handle this presentation.

    A pep talk may be in order closer to the actual day.

  139. LOL! Mary! You're too funny! :D

    Sometimes, I think we make things more complicated in the writing world than they need to be or actually are. When you start dissecting art, you're in for all kinds of trouble. Maybe think of it in terms of the parables Jesus told. Why did Jesus tell parables? To some people, they are just good stories. To other people, they are stories that emphasize a moral truth. Either way, the reader or listener "gets" the moral point - whether consciously or subconsciously. Personally, I believe that when we come up with a story, the moral premise comes out without even trying. Maybe the key is to keep the moral premise narrowed so that we don't have a dozen different ones. BUT. If you're a good writer, the writing will take care of that on its own. We know we are to focus our stories so we don't confuse the reader and when we do that, I believe we hone in on a moral premise, as well.

    I did not set out to write a story about overcoming fear, yet that is what my story in many ways has turned out to be. I don't think we should write a story around a premise. Then it would be preaching. Instead, we should just write our stories and let the moral premise come out.

    Does that make sense? Does it help at all? Just like Jesus' parables, some people will get the premise and some won't. Regardless, both will be entertained.

  140. Mary -

    You are on the COVER of Colleen's new book! And after your name is a comma and then the words:

    best-selling author of Doctor in Petticoats

    which, as we all know, is the book with my favorite hero of all time in Tom Liscott :D.

    And they got all the cancer. But the doc couldn't sew it up under local anesthetic so going in Wednesday for a general anesthetic.

    Could someone enter me in Wednesday's drawing since I'll have to be in bed early [because I have to be at the hospital by like 6am] and I'll probably be so drugged up afterwards that anything I post would be incoherent?

    Don't frown. It's all good :D.

  141. Arc. journey... whatever works. I know that when I sat and followed the steps and made REAL CHART for the character arc it popped out for me.

    I didn't see the raising of hands... but I know my head is spinning so I can't be helping things here...

    Mary, if you use the steps in the book and make up a character arc to fill in, that might help the attendees. That is if they aren't laughing too much...which might be why they sign up for your class.

  142. Thanks for commenting, Rina. Your name is in the drawing. When your head stops spinning I hope you can go back to reading.

    Not too dizzy, you know?

  143. Wow, that anonymous is me. I kind of know why it jumped to anonymous but still, it wasn't intentional.
    I do an amazing amount of stuff on the computer that isn't intentional.
    And no, Ruthy, that doesn't include my books.....

    I may have entered a contest four times over the weekend. ONE BOOK, entered four times.

    I have a long list of things like this. I registered for the ACFW Conference twice one year.
    I reserved two rooms for the RWA conference last year.
    I once bought two tickets on the same plane.
    I once reserved a flight for 7 pm when I thought it was 7 am.
    Some of these are kinda grim. I didn't get my money back on those flights and that SUCKED.
    I bought my granddaughter TWO rolling back packs for her birthday. I returned one but I got a 'reshelving fee' that was almost a third of the price of the stupid backpack, the snots.
    I could go on but I'm depressing myself.
    I believe Pam Hillman has coined the phrase 'pulling a Connealy.'

  144. Sandra I do pray when I confront a dog. its more Dear God please protect me from this dog. I do say go home. I was told not to look directly into the eyes as it can take that as a challange. Oh I do stand still. and not turn my back. the problem is when it starts walking my way I tend to scream. The big thing with fear is I know that dog is there if I didn't it wouldn't be a problem or if I knew it couldn't jump the fence I would be fine. The logical part of my brain says the dog is harmless but the irrational part says it may be harmless but I know its there and it can get me. Its a boxer mix so looks scarey.

  145. Here is where I think I got my above question (way above). When i was just in about seventh grade in Literature class the teacher said writing boils down to something like this (and that was a long time ago too so I could be wrong) Man against Nature, the elements. Man against Man. Man against Himself. Now is that the moral premise or is that something else entirely? So could a romance be Us against the world, us against nature us against ourselves or our problem like fear or hate. Sorry if I am way off subject.

  146. Mary,
    I think you'll do great on your speech!
    Before this, I thought Moral Premise was the moral of the story. Like fairy tales.
    The little boy who cries help & never needs help so the one time he does need help and calls for help nobody comes. The moral of the story is don't call for help unless you need it.
    Anyway, I love your Die Hard comparison. It is a great movie, and you gave me more to think about it. Maybe the language does take away from the moral issues.
    In my new story I'm working on, I'm going to take your advice on this. They can all have the same fear. Villain can prey on their fears. You've helped me so much & that's why I think your speech will be great. (Just try not to blow your nose in front of everybody. --Just kidding.)

  147. Mary Cline, Here's my thoughts on for what it's worth on the Man vs. man, man vs. nature, etc. are types of overall conflict that coincide with the moral premise.

    If you have a premise like: "Perseverance leads to life, giving up leads to death"

    It could be a Man vs. Nature story like Hatchet

    or it might be a Man vs. Man story like one of those bang bang shoot them up movies, where the hero can't stop or the villain will kill him.

    Or it could be a Man vs. Society story with um, Schindler's list like stuff, so Jewish captive against the Nazis.

    Or it could be a Man vs. Himself story where he's battling the mental voices in his head telling him to kill himself and he tries to find a way to stop it.

    Anyway, my thoughts on that; they mesh.

  148. Hi Mary and all Seeker-ettes! Mary's words and other's comments have helped me understand it better. The idea does sound like it would make plotting a book simpler to tie it all together.

    And Mary, my cattle farmer husband thinks we need to live next door to our cows, too! Strange, huh? I guess the moral premise for that is that if farmers live next to their cows the cows are better taken care of, but if farmers don't live next to their cows the cows might get out on the road and cause an accident or starve to death!

    wfnren spoke of passing out when having to speak in school. I was so nervous I would giggle thru the whole thing, taking twice as long to give a book report, so everyone wanted me to go first and take up much of the class so they had a day longer to read their book!

    Please sign me up for this book as it is one of Mary's I don't have yet!

    PS. And as Donna said, and I have told you before, Mary, you are a hoot! And I mean that in the best way!

  149. Mary, it's okay. I've been called worse. Missy is nice, so it's all good.

    Mary, you're way overthinking this. You just need to be yourself. Let your nervousness give you enthusiasm. Turn that nervous energy into enthusiasm for your subject. You can do this. Be yourself and think about how much you love writing and your audience will love you. I'm cheering for you! Wish I could be there to cheer you on in person.

    But I still think chocolate brownies with bacon on top is weird. But I'm willing to try them if someone wants to bake them for me. ;-)

  150. I'm obviously 'lacking there of' as I am totally confused now on the Moral Premise. I always thought the moral premise of a story was the overall moral aspect of the story. Guess I have more studying to do.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.


  151. are so funny.
    You ought to make one of your charcters afraid of dogs because you describe it so well.
    "he looks at me."
    That's all it takes.

    We have a neighbor up the road who has 4 big dogs that used to run out at us barking and growling. I finally learned if I stretch my arms out the side and head toward them, they run. I don't care how stupid I look. The problem is, some dogs may not be intimidated by that.

  152. Great post! I think moral predicaments are a great way to really add that needed depth and it really helps the characters grow and it definitely give weight to the story :)

  153. Thanks Connie (Im not a writer but could do fear of dog well)
    Connie if those dogs were near me I would have to go a different way. even knowing they were more scared of me doesn't work. There are some dogs I am ok with (hey there is even a photo of me and a huge dog).

  154. OK, I haven't actually managed to read all 152 comments here... but has anyone mentioned Mike Duran's blog? He posted today on "Without Moral Absolutes Your Story Sucks". It might just give you another way of looking at things. Or it might totally confuse you. But you could just take his premise and turn the whole class into a debate. See

  155. My Gosh, Rose. There's a moral premise to FARMING and RANCHING. I always thought the moral of that story was, "You work until you die."

    Which is NOT bestseller material.

  156. Melanie, you go girl. I can see you with pom poms. Better yet, I can see you at halftime, telling Brady YOU CAN DO IT!!!!!!!

    Okay, bad example.

  157. Cindy W, here's the thing with your's the first step...admitting you have a problem.

    Or now, that's an intervention for an alcoholic. Well, we can do that here in Seekerville, too. We're an all purpose blog.

    Good luck with step 2...whatever that is.

  158. Now I'm scared of Aus Jenny's dogs. I think she should just go the long way. Walking is healthy.

    Hey, here's a line from In Too Deep that is totally appropriate.

    “No, it’s not Seth. Seth meant no harm.” Audra patted Seth again. He smiled back like a cheerful puppy. The kind that didn't mean a lick of harm when he bit you in the backside.

  159. Mary, did you go on another one of those drastic diets that cause you to see strange things? That was me screaming for Eli Manning. Not a fan of Tom Brady. At all.

    And the pom-poms are loaners from Missy. She does a little cheer for her hubby just before every sermon. I have to get them back to her before Sunday. But don't tell her I told you.

  160. Mary thats how I look at it too I get more exercise this way.
    Oh the little dogs up the road that sometimes get out I am quite brave with. I have to say I do hate having the fear. I am much better with lizards, didn't even scream when I saw on in the shed, sure the ladder is still waiting to go back but I didn't scream!

    I love the line from your new book. now I really must go and buy it to read it.

  161. lola I went over and looked at Mike Duran's blog. He's really got a great blog going there. Thanks for the link.

  162. What a topic, Mary. You brave soul. The Moral Premise is open to such interpretation, it's tough to hold to one true answer.

    I think you nailed it in your post and executed it with humor and grace. A smidgeon of light dawned in this dusty ol' brain and I actually had an aha! moment. Atta girl!!

    Then I started reading all the comments and Oy vay, my poor brain became muddled all over again.

    Everyone is so right one way or another.


    Call me impressionable or chalk it up to instant activation of ADD. I'm going to have to read through ALL these comments again and sort out the different story elements.

    Melissa nailed it for me and explained Moral Premise in such simple terms, I felt like a third grader looking up at Ms. Jagears with big "I love you" eyes.

    Ruthy brought up NCIS and I was hooked. But I just don't think I could look at Gibbs as a father-figure...

    Then Julie came on the scene and I started nodding in agreement all over again.

    Stephanie did a great job with "Redeeming Love," giving another great perspective to think about.

    Then you came back and dissected Petticoat Ranch and I looked at anger from a whole new perspective. How can you write such a funny book with such angry characters??

    And Walt made me a very confused manner...that Spock might just be the answer to all the MPs of the world.

    What a day!!!

    I don't have a scrap of advice to give you about public speaking but I know, know, know you'll be fantastic.

    Shoot, now I have go and dig around in Stan's head for a while and come up with good moral premise to suit my story.

  163. BTW,have I told you much I really, really love the name of your heroine??


    Has a nice ring, doesn't it??

  164. Snoopy Dancin'!!!!

    FINALED in Great Expectations!!!!

    WOOHOO!!! Now to get revisions done tomorrow because the post op drugs will likely make that hard later ;).

  165. Mary, my hubby would agree with your premise that you work til you die on a farm or ranch. In fact, that is why I can't get him to retire. He says farmers who retire and move to town with nothing to do usually die in 6 months!

    I know you will do a fantabulous job on the class! Let's see the moral premise could be...many writers spoil the broth or all work and no play...

  166. You kind of got me confused about the whole moral premise thing but I did understand when you talked about having one moral dilemma, like fear.
    Your post was very entertaining though, like your books. I'd be delighted to win a copy of "In Too Deep."


  167. At the urging of Rachel Hauck, I am reading The Moral Premise. It is not a fast read. But it is well worth the time and mental energy needed. One of the things I like best about the book is how there are several lists of values. I mean, you can't exactly go defining the moral premise of your book if you haven't identified your characters' values.
    And while there may be the same moral premise running through a book, i.e. characters may all be dealing with fear, what happens when those same characters have competing values behind that moral premise. Ah, that's when things get interesting.
    Fear -- and character #1 values independence -- a lone ranger.
    Fear -- and character #2 values community -- a one for all, all for one type.
    Now we have moral premise and conflict.

  168. AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!
    WAY TO GO GIRL!!!!!!!!!!!

  169. Well, hmmmm, let me think...Moral Premise - nope, you're on your own for this one Mary! But I loved the post!

  170. Carol!!!!! Congrats, girlfriend!! Great Expectations is an awesome contest and so glad they see your incredible talent.


  171. Mary - I thought your explanation was very succinct. I haven't read The Moral Premise, but I took the class. It was really cool, saw lots of movie clips and learned how the story arcs were all interrelated and it all made perfect sense. That day. Now, put that into my pantser writing style? Hmmm, not so easily done. I was counting a bit on the osmosis method of incorporating this great idea. You know, if I have the book (and it's in the "to read" pile) and I took the class, maybe it will now sink into my subconscious...and voila! It could happen, right?
    So I highly recommend passing out lots of hand-outs at your class (that's how I always got through those homeschool classes I volunteered to teach) and have everyone watch a clip of "George Lucas in Love" - fun and inspiring and next time you're somewhere where you might accidentally volunteer, sit on your hands for pity's sake. That's what I do.

  172. Hi Mary,

    Good to think about this, although I'm commenting late. Question: What if the characters believe a lie...THEIR moral premise isn't true? Then, the whole story is about them gaining a new one....OR is the moral premise "Those who believe a lie must travel a rough road to discover the truth?"

    Maybe just a bit cornfused, here.

    Gail Kittleson gkittlesonAT

  173. Gail, someone earlier was talking about Susan May Warren's teaching, character study and one of her tenets is the character believes one thing that isn't true.

    You said: "Those who believe a lie must travel a rough road to discover the truth?"

    I'm not sure if that's the same thing as a moral premise or not.

    Does believing the lie really affect the moral premise? Or is it just part of what the conflict is that the character must deal with and solve ... but not the moral issue really.

    What the lie is about, or the mistaken believe or whatever you want to call it, could be the focus of the moral of the story. Right?
    Does any of this make sense? :)

  174. Stephanie, you are all that is wise.

    I know better than to volunteer. Every once in a while I have a weak moment and must live with my foolish choices.

    I not only won't volunteer again....I seriously doubt they'll ask me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    We'll have all learned a painful lesson.

  175. Just when I think that I remember something from hs english someone has to come along and add morality - something not taught in high school! Thanks for the entertaining post. :)

    Carol M - I thought that the aliens were old news, now it seems to be all about zombies (or is that the news and not dvd??)

    Please enter me in the contest too!

    justin _ autumn at msn dot com.

  176. I've been hearing "The Moral Premise" EVERYWHERE and never understood it. My ms needs SERIOUS work in the motivation/moral dilemma department. This helps.

    If it's not too late, I'd love to be entered for either book. :)

  177. Mary sorry I missed ya, yesterday was a very busy day for me, and looks like for you too-lot of great comments. I have never thought of the moral Premise but will be looking up more on it now.
    I loved that movied Die Hard with Bruce Willis.
    If you can sneek me in would love to have a chance on your new book, I have read the first one and anxious to read Ethan's story.
    Paula O(

  178. I don't know if I'm too late, but I'll comment anyway. When I think of a moral premise of a story, I think of the type of lesson the characters are going to learn as they grow. I recently read a Deanne Gist book, which I don't normally because hers are too sexual for me, but anyway--the heroine definitely learned that waiting until marriage is the best thing. I think of that as the moral premise. But I'm not a writer, I don't know:)

  179. Wow! this place is getting so crowded! It's wonderful.

    I haven't read The Moral Premise (even though it's been on my Christmas list for the last two years) so I have only the barest understanding of it. This post has me thinking on my major characters (H, h, and main secondary) to see if their moral dilemas line up. The good news is two of them do. I probably need to work on the third.

    Mary, I'd love to win a signed copy of In Too Deep to go with my signed copy of Out of Control.

    andeemarie95 at gmail dot com

  180. I was skimming the comments here (I should be giving my daughter a bath, and I promise I will right after this), and the chocolate/bacon comments caught my eye. I think it sounds wonderful. I saw a recipe on a Food Network show for Praline Bacon. Thick sliced bacon covered with a mixture of brown sugar and pecans (the mixture was mixed in a food processor so it would have a consistent texture).

    I've been wanting to make it ever since I first saw it, but I never have.

  181. I'm the last person who can help, but I wish you well.


  182. THANK YOU for explaining this in such a way that it actually connected in my brain and made sense. I was TOTALLY clueless about what Moral Premise meant. =]

    Thanks, Mary.

  183. I'm so behind and trying to catch up on blog reading, but I had to stop, despite the nearly 200 comments before, because I too need clarity on the Moral Premise. Between Mary's post, in which she does a pretty good job of explaining using the Die Hard movie, which I loved, as an example, and the comments, I'm hoping I'll gain some insight.

    Might help for me to read the book too.