Monday, January 13, 2014

Charting Your Way to a Story--The Moral Premise

Charting Your Way to a Story--The Moral Premise
By Missy Tippens

Missy Tippens, here. And I’m the self-proclaimed "Queen of Charts." I have a whole file on my computer of charts and forms that I use while planning characters and stories.

I’ve previously shared one of these, my combination of a GMC chart (from Debra Dixon) and Magic Conflict Chart (from Carolyn Greene). Click here to see that post.

Today, I’m going to share one of my Moral Premise charts. This is a chart I made after reading The MoralPremise: Harnessing Virtue & Vice for Box Office Success by Stanley D.Williams. We’ve had Dr. Williams as a guest on the blog, plus several of us have blogged about his book, which my agent Natasha Kern recommended. You can check those articles out here, and here.

One of the things I love about his how-to book is that it shows how readers relate to movies/books that have resonance. And resonance comes about by showing the main characters growing, changing, overcoming, and becoming better people. According to Williams, the goal of a storyteller is to take the audience/reader through an emotional and psychological journey that reveals a poignant truth (the moral premise) about the human experience.

Williams also talks about the premise (psychological truth) being offered up to the characters multiple times. But there’s a mid-point moment, the moment of grace, where the protagonist sees the solution to his dilemma, and it makes clear the fundamental conflict of his journey. He’s confronted with an understanding of the human condition in light of the moral premise and his own predicament. Of course, he then has the choice to accept the truth and apply it to his predicament (and have a happy ending) or to reject it (and have an unhappy ending).

I highly recommend The Moral Premise:Harnessing Virtue & Vice for Box Office Success. It’s been a huge help for me in planning my characters and plot. I won’t go into virtue and vice today. Look at previous posts for more on that.

Today, I want to share part of my Moral Premise Chart (The Good Guy Arc Plot from Williams’s book, pg. 123) for Georgia Sweethearts, my most recent release from Love Inspired.

Personal Goal:

Daniel: to make a difference

Lilly: to find security
Behavior before (vice practiced) in striving toward a personal goal…

Dreamer and planner (not good at following through, moves around)

Practical, no dreams allowed.
Moment of Grace in the personal subplot…

Gets glimpse of settling down and supporting Lilly.

Black moment: the reality of her trusting him leads to fear, and he returns to the safety of moving on.

Gets a glimpse of trusting and dreaming of a future.

Black moment: the reality of him proving he’ll leave makes her revert to protecting herself, and she decides to move back to her safe life (will sell shop)
Behavior after (virtue practiced) in striving toward a personal goal…

God has given her to him to love and care for; she needs the life she’s built. The new reality of her leaving shows him the cost of him moving on. He decides to trust God for strength to be the man she needs. Asks her to stay.

As she’s about to sign contract, she thinks of her sister grabbing happiness. She can do it, too. Daniel is worth the risk for her dream of a secure future with him.

Daniel is a pastor who wants to make a difference in his community. As the story opens, he’s shown to be a dreamer and planner. But he’s not so good at following through and tends to move around (in the name of starting new churches).

Lilly, who had an insecure childhood, often uprooted by her dreamer father who couldn’t keep a job, wants to find security. In the beginning, we see her being practical. Dreams are not allowed.

At the midpoint of the story, Daniel gets a taste of what it would be like to settle down with Lilly and to support her. Lilly gets a glimpse of what it’s like to trust someone (Daniel) and starts to actually dream of a future. Things start to look good for both of them.

You can see I’ve added their black moments to the chart. I think it’s important to plan what is going to make the characters revert to their vice.

So just as things start looking good for Daniel and Lilly, Daniel observes Lilly trusting him and is struck by fear. His reaction? He decides it’s time to move on and start another new church in a new community. Which leads to Lilly’s black moment. By telling her he’s moving, he’s shown her that, no, you really can’t trust people. She must revert to her former, safe life. She’ll sell the shop she’s grown to love and move back to her old location.

Of course, then the characters will have final realizations and will have grown enough by this point to choose the virtue over vice.

In this story, I had a moral premise in mind while writing (and if you look at the comments section of Stan Williams’s 10-1-12 post, you’ll see he had some great input for re-working my premise). Here it is:

Trying to protect ourselves and follow our own plans leads to loneliness and isolation. But risking love, and trusting God with our lives, leads to the rich, fulfilling life God intends.

Using that premise, you can see the virtue I was heading for and can guess how the story should end.

Daniel realizes God has given him Lilly to love and care for, and he wants the best for her. He sees what his leaving has cost Lilly and decides to trust God for the strength to be the man she needs. He asks her to stay.

Lilly realizes she’s stronger than she thinks she is, and Daniel is worth the risk. She wants to dream of a secure future with him in it.

I hope looking at this chart has helped. If you’d like to read Georgia Sweethearts to see how all this plays out, I’d be honored! You can find it here:

Today I’ll be giving away a phone or email chat to one commenter for us to discuss your moral premise or your moral premise chart. Please TELL ME IF YOU WANT TO BE ENTERED in the giveaway.

Now, tell me what you think. Do you see some sort of moral premise arc in your story? Do you think it would help to add one?



Marianne Barkman said...

Thanks Missy for a great post. As you know. Y now, I am not a writer...but I am a readaholic (I could stop, but I'm not a quitter!) Now I know what's missing in memoirs and biographies (both of which I have a hard time reading, but do, just for so, no growth really being given! If you are offering one of your books, I'd love one, but leave the other for a writer! Thanks

Cortney K said...

Hey Missy.... Thanks for the post....

It made me think if I was doing that in my book....

The chart sounds like a way to help with organizing and helps with the main points so you can get to know your characters better and not lose track of there dreams and who they are and what they go through....

Great work.... I need to try this....

Cortney K said...

Sorry meant *their

Vince said...

Hi Missy:

It seems that your moral premise is exactly the same as mine in “Stranded in a Cabin with a Romance Writer”:

“Trying to protect ourselves and follow our own plans leads to loneliness and isolation. But risking love, and trusting God with our lives, leads to the rich, fulfilling life God intends.”

My hero has been burned out by trying to find happiness in the military -- which has not rewarded him with a higher rank -- while my heroine is a burned out romance writer who thinks winning a RITA and selling many books will make her happy. When stranded in the cabin together, they even draw up ‘rules of engagement’ to protect themselves from falling in love and thereby being hurt. By the end of the story they find that trusting in love, God, and starting a family to share that love is the way to the rich, fulfilling life that God has intened for them all along.

There is more to the story than that, of course, but your MP works to a “T” for my story. This leads me to ask if the Moral Premise adjusts to meet the needs of the characters or if the characters change to meet the needs of the Moral Premise.

In “Georgia Sweethearts” I saw Daniel as a St. Paul type who was called by God to create churches. He never pretended to be a day to day minister. I saw him, as I believe he saw himself, as doing the work of God. He had the 'call' to blaze a trail of churches.

Some ministers are great caretakers of the flock but are not much as church building dynamic preachers and some preachers are not much as care giving ministers.

I was never sure if Daniel could really be happy as a practicing minister. I thought that Lilly might join his quest and find security in helping Daniel do God’s work. Her security would be in having a home in the mission and not in a geographic location.

Do you see what I am getting at? Couldn’t the same moral premise be used if both the hero and heroine left together on a great adventure, much like St. Paul’s amazing travels, to fulfill God’s plan for them in founding new churches?

Do you think your story could be crafted to this St. Paul type outcome? Does not the Bible say something about the wife going wherever the husband goes?


P.S. I have all your books and I have given a great deal of thought to “Georgia Sweethearts” which I highly recommend.

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, Missy! Excellent post! I have an overall story premise (similar to your own and Vince's one-liner) and a "before & after" in my mind for each of my main character's personal growth -- but I never thought of putting the latter in chart form to post by my computer.

Do you find that when you plan in advance what your over all story moral premise will be and the "before/after" of your character growth that you stick with them throughout or do they sometimes "morph?" Do you ever NOT know the over all moral premise until the book is done?

I'm thrilled to announce I'm "coming up for air" as I just sent my latest WIP off to my editor at 4:27 a.m. this morning. Now on to planning the NEXT books! :)

Debby Giusti said...

Missy, you're such a great teacher! Love how you took Stan's weighty book and condensed it into a very understandable blog post. Not sure I totally understood Stan's process until today. THANK YOU!!!

I'll use the chart! Another thank you!

Missy Tippens said...

Good morning, Marianne! You know we love readers around here. Thankfully, I don't think you need to worry about that addiction. :)

Missy Tippens said...

I'm glad you found it helpful, Cortney. It helps me to have a midpoint to aim for. Plus, I know what my ending needs to include. :)

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Mary Hicks said...

Thank you Missy, you made me realize I need to do more planning ahead for my characters.

I'm gonna' try the chart! :-)

I'd love a phone chat with you!!!! :-)

Missy Tippens said...

Vince, that's such an interesting comment! I love it when readers have a different take on the story.

Honestly, I wasn't really sure what would happen after the story ended. :) I could see it going either way. But in my mind as I was writing, Daniel truly did feel called to start churches and move on and he had a gift for that. But PART (not all) of the reason he interpreted his gifts that way was because he hadn't yet faced the problems with his dad or his fears. I wanted him to discover that maybe he hadn't realized his full calling because of that fear. Or to maybe even see his calling as changing.

I'm glad, though, that you could see other possibilities. Because they had kinda-sorta been in the back of my mind. Maybe my indecision leaked through! :) :)

Missy Tippens said...

Glynna, welcome back from the writing cave! :) Congrats on finishing!

Your question reminded me that I never really answered part of Vince's question.

Sometimes my premise is really strong and closely fitted to my plot idea so that it shapes the characters. But other times my premise morphs and changes. I'll realize that the characters didn't learn exactly what I thought they'd learn. So for me, this is a flexible type thing. I think it probably depends on what I came up with first--the characters or plot idea.

Missy Tippens said...

Debby, I'm glad it was helpful! I really like doing the chart. If you look at Stan's book you'll see there's actually more to it. I've used the whole chart before, but on the last book, I only used the part I showed y'all.

Missy Tippens said...

Mary, I hope it's a helpful tool. If it doesn't work for you, then don't worry about it. We all work differently, and I don't want anyone to stress out and think they have to use the same methods other writers do. :)

kaybee said...

MISSY, this was helpful. I think charts are great, they give us structure and help us look at the big picture.
In my current WIP, "Town," Pace Williams has been on the run for most of 19 years. He's tired of moving around and tired of being afraid. A horrific childhood makes it impossible for him to trust people, and never knowing his real father makes it impossible for him to trust his Heavenly Father. Oona Moriarty spent three years in a convent, hiding from a vengeful English landlord after she inadvertently killed his son. The landlord destroyed her home and scattered her family. She's bent on revenge and bitter against God. Can these two scarred people move beyond the past and learn to trust God and each other? I dunno...
Please enter me in the drawing for a physical book (I don't have an e-reader and I already own "Georgia Sweethearts") or for the phone chat.
Thank you Missy
Kathy Bailey

Sandra Leesmith said...

Morning MISSY, Thanks for the chart on the Moral Premise. I try so hard to wrap my mind around this and the chart really helped.

Can I put in for a chat? ha ha ha
I know I am not allowed. sigh

GLYNNA congrats. You always amaze me.

Debby Giusti said...

I'll check out the extended chart in Stan's book, Missy.


Audra Harders said...

I just love charts and graphs. Thanks for the visual, Missy.

You make this all look so easy, LOL!

I try to identify the moral premise before I begin the story. It's a very convoluted idea of how I want things to go. By the end of chapter 3, I have a good idea of where the characters want to go. So I revamp. I find this clarifies my roadmap significantly. I see the before and after. I find keeping the moral premise in mind while I write keeps me on track for the important, life-changing points in the book.

I once had a character tell ME, "it's not all about you!" I took the observation to heart : ) Now, my characters and I work together!

Audra Harders said...

YAYAYAY, Glynna! So glad you got your ms off to your editor.

Whew, take a deep breath now and take a day off...

Congrats, big time!!

Missy Tippens said...

Kathy B, it sounds like your characters will have a lot of growth to get to the point of trusting. It should make for a good story! :)

I've got you entered for the chat. (Mary Hicks, I have you entered as well.)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I love the moral premise. That idea resonates with me Missy. And I love deepening plots with reflective storylines to deepen the premise. When other people's struggles reflect that of the H/H or story, i think it really impacts the reader. I love Stan's work!

Missy Tippens said...

Sandra, good morning! You know I'd love to have you call any time. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Hey, Audra! I'm glad to find another chart loving gal around. :)

That's so funny that your character told you it's not about you. LOL Should we worry about you???


Missy Tippens said...

Hey, Ruthy! Are you back home yet???

Yes, I love how Stan recommends reflecting the premise in EVERY character. It's challenging but fun when it works out nicely. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Oh my gosh. I have a big ol' dog head right on top of the laptop. We're dog sitting the grand dog, and he won't give me an inch of space! I think he misses his daddy and is extra needy.

You'll have to excuse any extraneous typing today. It could have been done by a dog chin or nose.

Missy Tippens said...

I just posted a video of the grand dog snoring to Facebook. LOL

Pam Hillman said...

Missy, thanks for sharing your moral premise chart from Georgia Sweethearts.

Every time someone talks about Stan's Moral Premise, I glean a new insight and take-away from the book.


Helen Gray said...

I like charts and use some.

Need to try this one.

Fresh coffee is on the table.

Jackie said...

What a great post Missy.

I've struggled with my current WIP, and I'd love to be entered in the drawing. Thanks.

I'm definitely going to work on a chart. Thanks!

Missy Tippens said...

I'm glad it helped, Pam. I always love seeing examples of how people work on their books. It helps me hone my own methods.

Missy Tippens said...

Good morning, Helen! You're just in time. I needed to re-heat the last bit of my coffee that's forgotten on the coffee table. Maybe I'll have fresh instead. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Great, Jackie! I have you entered. I hope the chart helps you figure out where you're headed in the story.

Myra Johnson said...

LOL on the charts, Missy! I have tons of them on my computer, too, but I've gotten lazy about using them. Maybe it's just having been writing for so many years, but now I carry a lot of that stuff inside my head. I HOPE that means it's becoming more second-nature!

As for The Moral Premise, reading Stan's book was the biggest AHA moment I've had in years! So much about plotting and characterization and GMC really started to fall into place.

I can't say I consciously set out with a specific MP in mind, but as the story unfolds, one usually presents itself pretty clearly. And once it does, I gain a lot more clarity about how the rest of the story will proceed.

Tina Radcliffe said...

I have the book. I have tried it with no success. But your chart does make it sound doable now. Thank you, Missy.

DebH said...

hi Missy
Charts and organizational files sort of scare me - even though as I type that, I know I tend to "chart" ideas and story flow on paper. Your post makes charting sound a bit less scary and doable though. It looks like a wonderful tool for me to learn, now to just be disciplined enough to practice.

Don't put me in the running for a chat - I just won a chat with Ruthy (happy, happy, joy, joy), so wanting another Seeker chat would be just plain selfish of me *heh*.

DebH said...

hi Missy
Charts and organizational files sort of scare me - even though as I type that, I know I tend to "chart" ideas and story flow on paper. Your post makes charting sound a bit less scary and doable though. It looks like a wonderful tool for me to learn, now to just be disciplined enough to practice.

Don't put me in the running for a chat - I just won a chat with Ruthy (happy, happy, joy, joy), so wanting another Seeker chat would be just plain selfish of me *heh*.

Janet Dean said...

Missy, thanks for the helpful post and chart to plot my story's moral premise. I still hope to finish reading Stan's book. It's here waiting for a clear-headed day. And waiting. LOL

The chart and your tips look doable. My characters grow and change but I find it tricky to condense that journey into a moral premise. You are a pro at this!


Missy Tippens said...

Myra, I seem to be carrying more in my head these days, too. Which is a good thing (I hope!) :)

Missy Tippens said...

Tina, I wasn't sure if you're a chart person or not. :)

The problem for me is that I have too many. I'm learning to narrow down to the ones I use most and find easiest to work with.

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, DebH! Enjoy the chat with Ruthy. She's so fun to talk to--meaning I get to make fun of her Yankee accent! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Janet, I think for some people, it's easier to figure out the premise at the end once the whole story is revealed.

I sure know what you mean about needing clear-headed days! LOL

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Missy,

Thanks for the chart and the reminder to use the Moral Premise. I have it for some books, others not so much!

Will have to go back and study the ones I'm working on!


Jeanne T said...

Missy, what a great post. I wrote out a moral premise for the story I've been working on. I wrote it before I ever wrote the first word of the first scene, and it was interesting to see the story take shape with the guidance of one sentence.

My moral premise is: Self-sufficiency leads to isolation and alone-ness. Trusting others leads to fulfilling relationships.

Probably a bit simplistic, but it worked for me. :) I'm coming back later to study more of what you shared here.

Please do put me in the drawing. :)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Oh wow. The moral premise arc. This is what I'm not so good at figuring out. In the book I have to turn in on Wed, I think the moral premise might be, Believing the worst about yourself can bring out your fears and cause you to fail, but trusting God can bring about victory and peace. Something like that. I probably need to focus in more on this theme as I do revisions, methinks.

Jeanne T said...

Oh, I have a question for you. It JUST came to mind. Do you normally find your moral premise during the character development stage or the plotting/writing stage?

Just curious. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Sue, I'd love to hear how if it helps with the current stories!

Missy Tippens said...

Jeanne, that's very similar to mine. I think the simpler the better! I think this is a premise I'll be doing more than once because I deal with it so much in my own life (being the control freak that I am). :)

Thanks for sharing! I'm glad it's helping you focus. It truly has helped me as well.

Missy Tippens said...

Melanie, I like that one. And yes, it can really help while polishing a manuscript. According to Stan, the premise needs to influence every scene.

Good luck finishing up! :) My proposal is due on Wednesday as well.

Now, back to it...

Missy Tippens said...

Jeanne, thanks for the question. I've done it both ways. Sometimes my premise is harder for me to figure out. I can't say that I've ever truly started with just a premise I want to explore, but I have had a story where the premise was right there in the beginning with the characters. Other times I have my characters (usually opposites in some way) and figure out the premise as I figure out what's going to need to happen in the plot.

I do things in all kinds of wacky orders! LOL

Missy Tippens said...

Anyone else want to take a stab at what their character is doing "wrong" at the beginning, how she sees possibility at the moment of grace, and what she learns to do by the end???


Naomi Rawlings said...

I'm with Tina on the mixed success of the book. It's kind of like a love-hate relationship for me. I understand what it says, see the point and all that. And yet I feel like it doesn't leave enough room to have your characters react in a deep, realistic way. Lets say the moral premise is some kind of statement about love vs. bitterness and how bitterness is better than love. Well, what if one of your bitter characters grew bitter over something like jealousy? Don't you need to deal with the jealousy too? I'd like to think so, but then, jealousy doesn't fit into that perfect little chart, just bitterness, right? So that's where I run into problems.

Anyway, I try to keep the guidelines in mind as I write and like the fact that your novel should make a general point, but I don't stick to the specifics, if that makes sense.

CatMom said...

Great post, Missy---thank you!
I really need to get Stan's book--I keep hearing/reading wonderful comments about it.
Thanks for showing us how you do your charts--seems like a helpful, organized way to make sure the h/h have what they need!
As I'm sure I've told you, I LOVED Georgia Sweethearts, and am looking forward to many more Missy books. :)
Hugs, Patti Jo

CatMom said...

Great post, Missy---thank you!
I really need to get Stan's book--I keep hearing/reading wonderful comments about it.
Thanks for showing us how you do your charts--seems like a helpful, organized way to make sure the h/h have what they need!
As I'm sure I've told you, I LOVED Georgia Sweethearts, and am looking forward to many more Missy books. :)
Hugs, Patti Jo

Missy Tippens said...

That makes perfect sense, Naomi. I like to have charts to help me with the skeleton and to give me focus. But I see what you're saying about limiting yourself.

I think, though, that you could deal with the issue of jealousy (or whatever else came up), which would free up the character to choose to love (or whatever your virtue is). That would be showing a very specific area of growth.

Thanks for bringing this up! Does anyone else feel limited by charting this type thing out?

Missy Tippens said...

Thanks, Patti Jo! I'm glad you liked it. I had a lot of fun writing that book. I really enjoyed the teenagers. I guess because I lived with two of them while writing it! :)

Vince said...

Hi Missy:

I’ve never been comfortable with the “Moral Premise” thesis. I believe that your comment below has shown me why this is:

“Sometimes my premise is really strong and closely fitted to my plot idea so that it shapes the characters. But other times my premise morphs and changes. I'll realize that the characters didn't learn exactly what I thought they'd learn. So for me, this is a flexible type thing. I think it probably depends on what I came up with first--the characters or plot idea.”


I think the problem is with the word “Moral” in “Moral Premise”. I believe that term, with its religious overtones, colors the concept and makes it hard for some writers to digest. What would you think of using “Guiding Premise” instead for the same concept? You can always change your guide. You can also seek guidance elsewhere. You can get a second opinion.

Yet, can your characters really change the “Moral Premise”? Wouldn’t that be like believers changing the Ten Commandments so they can take a different path than the “Moral Premise” called for? Is not following the “Moral Premise” thereby immoral? Is changing the “Moral Premise” to meet your current desires a version of situational ethics or moral relativity?

I suspect that the actual “Moral Premise” is not the important factor but rather having the consistency of purpose to apply it in every scene: that is what I think is of the greatest importance. I can’t think of a single romance that could not be said to have a “Moral Premise” -- even if the author never heard of the concept. However, there could well be a great many romances in which the author did not apply that “Moral Premise” to every scene.

I think the concept would be better digested by writers if it were called the “Guiding Premise” or the “Golden Premise” or “The Lesson Learned”.

Ask your characters this; “What was the lesson learned by the journey you both took to reach your happiness?” Wouldn’t that be a way to discover the “Moral Premise” without the religious overtones? Or is all this a philosopher’s exercise in finding a distinction without a difference? (That’s me. : ))

Mary Connealy said...

Sorry to be slow checking in. I stopped in earlier and remembered I needed to create a timeline for my book.

I had crammed my story into too short of a time frame and it wasn't hard to spread it out but it's book 1 of a three book series, books 2 and part of 3 done so if I push the days out very far, I need to make sure I get it right and not push the end of book 1 past the beginning for book 2.
So I decided I'd better Timeline that baby.

Which I'm mostly done now.

I'm back.

Mary Connealy said...

VINCE I find the Moral Premise so hard to put into words. I know the one book I wrote with the Moral Premise, brainstormed and set from the beginning, at some point toward the end...I decided I'd written a book with a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT MORAL PREMISE.

Nothing wrong with that except there were places in the book where I'd emphasized the brainstormed moral premise in a way I wouldn't have if I didn't 'know' what it was.
I had to go back and fix them.

I hope I found them all!

Missy Tippens said...

Vince, it's been a while since I read the book (I need to again soon), but I don't think Stan uses the word moral like we're thinking of moral. In fact, when he helped me during the comments section the time he was guest blogging, he said this (I just looked it up and pasted):

Stan: "You'll do better if you get away from "depending on God" and "not depending on God" as your controlling virtue and vice. You need something much more specific. Here's why.

"Depending on God" as a value could be anything. It's the kind of phrase or jargon that every preacher, in every sermon, repeats in every paragraph, when teaching about any topic. Thus, it means nothing particular that we can see, taste, hear, smell, touch, or get up and hug (balance). ..until that particular is described.

Depending (or not) on God relates to any of the value sets (virtue-vice) such as pride/humility, covetousness/liberality, lust/chastity, anger/meekness, etc. "

Missy again. So I think maybe instead of the word moral, we should think about values in general. Universal values. I think those allow for more flexibility in the story, too.

I also think maybe I don't use the moral premise quite like I should! :) Sometimes I have to work harder to discover it in my story or don't discover it until later (depending on how my story has come to me--like a gift or like pulling teeth). LOL

Missy Tippens said...

Mary, I think your timeline comment just gave me a headache! LOL I sure hope you figured it out and didn't have to change books 2 and 3. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Mary, I think the proposal I'm working on is about forgiveness/unforgiveness. But for the life of me, it's not moving that direction. I know who every character needs to forgive, though. So maybe once I pass chapter 3, we'll get more to the meat of the forgiving.

Of course, it's probably going to end up being about something completely different! And I'll end up doing what you had to do.

Mary Connealy said...

My real problem with charts is, I make them, then I change something in the book, then I FORGET to change the chart.

Then there's that chart that I'm supposed to depend on but I can't depend on it because I forgot to change it....or did I?

So I'm afraid to depend on the chart. It becomes The Geometric Block Collection of Doom.

And btw, I'm a disorganized dolt, just in case anyone wonders.

Mary Connealy said...

See Missy what you said to Vince makes so much sense because if we're not careful all Moral Premises look like this.

Generosity leads to happiness
Greed leads to loneliness and misery and death

Love leads to happiness
Hate leads to loneliness and misery and death

Peace leads to happiness
Discord leads to loneliness and misery and death.

You see? Fill in the good/bad flip side of every virtue and vice.

It's too broad. You've got to somehow be specific.

Only how?

Now I have a headache.

And a stinking timeline chart to make.


Cara Lynn James said...

Great blog, Missy! The Moral Premise is a wonderful book. Love your charts! I like to see everything written out -- I can't keep things in my head.

Myra Johnson said...

Mary said: "My real problem with charts is, I make them, then I change something in the book, then I FORGET to change the chart."


The perils of pantsing. {sigh}

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Mary. That's so funny you should mention changes. I was going to share my Magic Conflict chart for the story, but when I went to get it, I found it was the original version! My editor had me revise the proposal majorly, and I never went back to change the chart. So I'm just as guilty of that!! :)

Missy Tippens said...

BTW, in that version, Lilly was pregnant and came back to town for some help. And she and Daniel had been in love in the past but he'd broken her heart (or maybe she'd broken his). There was no yarn shop. No teenagers. WAY different story.

Missy Tippens said...

Thanks, Cara! Yeah, things don't stay in my head well these days. Never really did anyway. :)

Jenny Blake said...

Dont enter me just dropping in to say hello.
Interesting post. (I like learning more).
we are in a heat wave at present.
in the 90's at 8am.

Vince said...

Hi Missy:

Why that Stan just stole my whole argument! And he did it even before I came up with it. I sure don’t think I want to debate that guy!

Going along with what Mary said, I think it is too easy for all MPs to function alike. But then what is it that they say about genre romances? That romances are all alike – only different.

Perhaps the MP should be given a ‘difference’ – a hiccup – something to individualize the universal theme that gives the MP its power.

I’m thinking here of Mary’s “The Bossy Bridegroom”.

Here’s the generic MP:

“If you forgive, trust, and risk in giving another a second chance, you may find happiness but if you will not forgive, are unable to trust, and not willing to risk again, then that happiness will be denied you.”

Here’s the MP with the hiccup of difference added in:

‘‘If you forgive, trust, and risk in giving another a second chance and you do this when everyone you love around you is telling you not to but you do it anyway, then you may find happiness but if you will not forgive, are unable to trust, and unwilling to risk again, and you are unwilling to go against the advice of others, then that happiness will be denied you.”

In Mary’s book everyone (save one person), was telling the heroine not to give the abusive husband another chance. (He said he had found the Lord).

It is one thing to forgive and allow a second chance when it is just your own personal decision but it is quite another thing when everyone else is telling you not to forgive and almost everyone else is also hostile to the man. (Men like that do not change.)

I can remember reading many scenes in the book when this MP+ was reinforced and the heroine was told over and over not to trust the man and not to go back with him. This individualized MP makes for very strong writing. Imagine how much weaker the story would be if everyone was telling the heroine to forgive.

I’d want to think about this idea more but I think having a MP with a little ‘difference’ might prove very useful in creating a more compelling story.

Missy Tippens said...

Jenny, I'm jealous of your weather! Enjoy it. Wish I could send you some cool air. Although, it was in the 50's here today. Pretty nice outside.

Missy Tippens said...

Vince, that's something interesting to think about--using other characters to fight against the MP the character is supposed to learn. Adds more conflict, certainly. I like it!

The nice thing about universal themes is they reach out to most people. But adding twists can certainly make the reading richer.

Jessica Nelson said...

This is excellent! I'm so glad I stopped by. I'm going to have to really look at my WIP and see what I can find. Thank you!!

Missy Tippens said...

I'm glad it was helpful, Jessica. I always like to see how other people do things. :)

Jenny Blake said...

Missy 11am around 110! not nice. scary what it may get to. thank goodness for a cool house.

Mary Connealy said...

90 degrees? It's like Jenny lives on the surface of the SUN compared to me!!!!!!!!!

Chill N said...

Missy, how is the moral premise different from the stages of character growth? Or is it?

Thanks for an interesting post!

Nancy C

Chill N said...

I always enjoy hearing when you Seekers meet deadlines ... it means more books to read.

Nancy C

Jenny Blake said...

Mary I think we moved closer to the sun as at 12.3o its now 112F I dont want to know what it could be. the highest yesterday didn't peak til after 4pm.
not going out there again today!

Missy Tippens said...

Jenny, that is ridiculously hot!! Stay safe.

Missy Tippens said...

Nancy C, you can think of the moral premise as what causes the character growth. It affects all the scenes, which affects character growth. Using that chart, you can see how the character changes/grows from practicing his vice and moves toward making better decisions and practicing the virtue. So the set of values affects everything else. And by that, I mean you as the author can play that up so that the story has more resonance. You can write scenes that involve having to face the vice and overcome.

Does that make a bit of sense?? I'm not sure I have enough brain power to answer. :)

Julie Lessman said...

Hey, Missy, ever since Natasha introduced me to Stan's work, I've worked hard to implement moral premise in my books.

This is a great blog today, showing each of us just how Stan's moral premise works and why it's so important to a story.

I have to admit, it took me a while to "get it," but after ten books, I finally have. I guess I'm a slow learner ... :)


Chill N said...

>> Nancy C, you can think of the moral premise as what causes the character growth. <<

Got it! Thanks, Missy :-)

Nancy C

Mary Curry said...

Missy, this is so wonderful.

I'm working on a romantic suspense right now, so I really need to think how to work with the moral premise.

I'd love to chat with you about it so please count me in!

Thanks for sharing your charts.

Missy Tippens said...

Julie, I'm still trying to figure it out. But I sure love using the chart. :)

Missy Tippens said...

I've got you entered, Mary Curry!

vonildawrites said...

I got to sit under Dr. Williams' teaching at ACFW a few years ago. I learned a lot. I'd love to chat and make sure I'm applying it to my novel.

Fiction Writer said...

I think a moral premise could help my writing, but I'm not sure how to add one. I would be delighted to receive some email coaching from you!

Missy Tippens said...

I have you both entered! Thanks for dropping by.

jacqui19 said...

I would need assistance with this kind of charting, but it looks helpful. Yes, please enter me in for an e-mail chat. Thanks. Jackie