Thursday, October 15, 2015


Myra here. I'm delighted to welcome back Seekerville favorite Dr. Stanley D. Williams! There are truly NO LIMITS to Stan's insights into crafting memorable stories, nor to his generosity in sharing his wisdom through books, videos, workshops, and chatting with us here on the blog. Please give Stan a hearty welcome and prepare to immerse yourselves in Stan's examination of IRONY, a vital facet of good storytelling!

Irony is the most important ingredient in all successful stories. It must be present in the story's setting, plot, character arcs, theme, style and tone.
I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.  (Jane Austen)
Irony must be obvious in the hook, the conflict of values, the moral premise, dialogue, wardrobe, landscape, and attitudes. Irony is the ever-present dilemma in the heroine's mind as she can't decide whether to marry the guy or kill him.
Would you like me to press the wrinkles out of this shirt or burn it?  
There is situational irony, verbal irony, dramatic irony. In short there has got to be conflict in everything you write. Irony provides the emotional roller coaster that gives your reader (and you) the thrill of reading (and writing).
The meal was scrumptious. For dessert let's put strawberry drool on shortcake and watch Silence of the Lambs. 
Irony supplies tension, suspense, intrigue without which you have no story. In short, there is no limit to where irony must be used in your writing.


Like multilevel marketing you can make irony work at every turn. It works to engender interest at the level of WORDS with TURNS OF A PHRASE:
Clearly Confused * Pretty Ugly * Living Dead * Great Depression * Honest Politician
Or, on the level of SENTENCES, as exampled in my opening salvo, and here:
His compliment felt and smelled like an elephant sitting on my head.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness... (Charles Dickens) 

Or, on the level of PARAGRAPHS:
Fearful that God would cast me into utter darkness or subject me to dismemberment, I frequently ran ahead too quickly. I often scribbled my first name in a rush...then recognize my error.  To me it looked like I had spelled SAINT...but then friends pointed out that I had scrawled STAIN. I could only hope that the errors in my life would be overlooked as typos. But alas, all too often they were real mistakes. (from the Preface of the writer's memoir, Growing up Christian.)
Or, on the level of chapters and entire books where the characters are struggling to overcome a weakness or some vice in order to achieve some noble goal. Such techniques make use of an ironic hook and a consistently applied moral premise. Here's one from my host's 2009 novel AUTUMN RAINS (Myra Johnson):
Trusting in one's own wisdom and knowledge leads to a dreadful imprisonment; but
Trusting in God's wisdom and knowledge leads to a pleasant freedom.
I have many examples of moral premise statements that guide the writing process on a page devoted to the listing of Moral Premise Statements.

For me one of the great proofs of the importance of irony in stories is the public's obsession with the real lives of Hollywood Stars and celebrities. The irony is their glamorous on-screen persona juxtaposed to the tragedy of their off-screen and real lives. On screen we adore Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, but we're engaged in their real life battle to keep their marriage together.


The key to understanding and using irony in our writing is the ability to see it in everything around us. Back on November 17, 2014, I posted a pictorial essay on IRONY and NATURAL LAW, INSEPARABLE.

The point of the five (5) illustrated juxtapositions (in that post) was to show how, in just a few hours of careful observance what I expected and what actually happened were much different. When reality conflicts with expectations we end up with drama, intrigue, suspense and the stuff of good stories—ta da—irony.

I'll let you visit that post later, but for now I want to get more mundane to demonstrate common everyday drama and irony that literally surrounds us. What I'm going to next describe and SHOW YOU (I'm trying not to just TELL you), you can do every day of your life. The more you do this, the more you'll find you can write ironic material that intrigues and engages your readers. So, here's what I did. On the morning I was scheduled to first start thinking about this blog post, I took a camera and walked around my house looking or irony in nature.  I was looking for things we normally think are normal, but finding in them or near them the abnormal, the juxtaposed irony, the conflict that creates tension and motivates us to action. My point is that these are mundane, nearly inconsequential. If there's irony in such lower-caste things, imagine the irony waiting to be tapped in the stuff that really matters, like people's lives.

The rose at left was probably prettier a few days before, but soon it would end up like its sisters on the right. The beautiful and the bald, part of the same plant. What characters are like that? I expect beautiful roses, but I find something else. Timing is everything,.

The patio outside my office door wall. Looks nice until you look close. Then, grime, moss, and cracks appear. Are there characters that seem good until you look close? 

Brown "Bunny Tail" plant looks attractive in my wife's front yard circular garden, until you look close and see the dreaded wrap-weed invading the plant. Do you have a character that is very attractive until you discover he or she's overly involved in another's life and willing to inhibit their growth?

Our backyard brick paver patio. It can look inviting, if I were to clean it up and blow off the leaves. But not obvious are the dangers: a tangled hose ready to trip, the lid to the septic tank which isn't so bad until during a patio lunch a guest asks what the blue lid is for—"It's where we put guests who are too inquisitive." And the edge of the bench that is ready to tear up your pants or scratch your leg. These are all juxtapositions that create tension and lurking drama. Do you have welcoming families that have hidden drama in every corner of their lives?

There are good things too. On the left is the hostas plant that's been taking up space under our front window for years. Suddenly, we're surprised to find this red fruit hiding under several leaves. Perhaps you have a character that has a hidden gift, or a forgotten treasure in that storage unit about to be auctioned off on reality TV. Better get over there and look inside. (On the other hand, this red thing that appeared this summer may be extremely poisonous.) 

Ah, and then there's the irony of golden rod and their daily visitors. Don't get too close to smell the flowers, your nose may never smell again. Do you see it? Irony is like that. You don't see danger until it flies up your nose. 

This is suppose to be a 6-second Vine post. (My first.) It's the scene I walked out on as I was starting this blog.  The expectation is that my van would start.  But the reality is it won't. This tow truck arrives and it does what is improbable—speeds my inoperative van back along the road—albeit riding piggyback.


This is so important it is the subject of the very first episode of my on-line Storycraft Training Series, described at the end of this blog with a code you can use for 30% off the regular price.

Aristotle, in POETICS, is known for his insights on narrative theory. For me the most important is his challenge to write stories that are PROBABLE IMPOSSIBILITIES, not improbable possibilities. The Probable Impossibility (of the main plot) is the story HOOK that maintains the interest of your reader and even maintains YOUR interest as you write.

But the concept of a probable impossibility, or ironic hook, should pervade every aspect of the story. In successful stories you'll find irony in the setting, plot, character arcs, theme (the moral premise) style, and tone. It is well worth your time to think and study this so much that it becomes automatic. When you get this down, it will be hard to write any sentence without juxtaposing opposite concepts.
The wolf looked so dainty in grandma's bonnet.  


The following two slides (from my workshop on Goals, Subplots and Irony) illustrate how a proper moral premise statement can keep your writing ironic, on all levels.

Dramatic Irony (whether it's found in a word, sentence, paragraph, chapter or novel) involves a goal that a character is trying to achieve. The successful author will set up the story so that the goal seems impossible to achieve. Imagine the hook for the story of David and Goliath: Near naked shepherd boy meets war-hardened, armored giant. Applying natural law and removing the cleverness of the author (or the grace of God), the natural expectation is that David will be quickly dismembered.

But through the cleverness of the author and the grace of God, that is not what happens. 

David slays Goliath and cuts off his head. The opposite of the expectation is achieved.

The moral premise sets up this expectation and the path to unexpected success:

Egotism leads to death and a rout; but
Meekness leads to victory and pursuit. 

The moral premise, of course, articulates inner values and outer consequences. Meekness is metaphored in David's physical appearance. Egotism is metaphored in Goliath's appearance.

Here's a tip: In your writing don't set up the irony by telling your reader what the the inner values are (Egotism and Meekness); that would be TELLING your reader what is going on. Instead, make your reader work by describing the physical appearance of the setting, character, etc, and ensuring that you're establishing a metaphor for the inner values that drive the drama. Juxtaposing egotism and meekness is ironic, but you SHOW the personification of those values in your descriptions of appearance and actions...and of course consequences.   

A final reminder of the potential and on-going irony in your stories is this cyclic model.

In achieving our goals, all humans (and all your characters), will continually follow this cyclical sequence:
1. VALUES you hold, will lead you to a...
2. DECISION, that when mature causes you to take an...
3. ACTION, which results in a...
In pursuit of a goal you, or your character, will repeat this cycle over-and-over again, until your goal is achieved, or the goal is given up for lost. You can start anywhere in the cycle, but I like to explain it by starting with an inherent value the character holds. The VALUE and the DECISION are mental processes. They are invisible. (In a novel you still have to SHOW values and decisions through description of physical metaphors or effects—a tense forehead, tight lips, nervous shaking, speechlessness, mismatched socks, or an askew wig.) The Decision causes your character to take an ACTION, which results in some CONSEQUENCE, which are both physical and visible.

Notice that the Value, Decision and Action are ALL under the control of the character (or you). But that the consequence is NOT under the character's control. It is solely determined by Natural Law.

Now, the cycle repeats. The Natural Law consequence informs the person's value by reaffirming the original value (making it stronger), or challenging the value (making it weaker or different). If the consequence is good, the value will be reinforced; if the consequence is bad, the value is devaluated or changed.

The irony occurs on two levels.
  • The action may have been meant to change something outside of the character, but the consequence made it worse. That's irony.   
  • The action may have been meant to change another person, but the consequence changed the person who took the action. That's irony. 
  • The consequence is not controlled by the action. This is the opposite of what we expect. That's irony. 

This cycle is also very present in the Scene part of the Scene-Sequel Model where a character begins with a goal in mind, takes action and pursues the goal, then natural law takes over and a conflict results ending in some disaster. That disaster (which keeps the reader turning pages to find out what happens) is the irony that the character did not expect when the goal was first embraced.



I will be giving away one signed copy of The Moral Premise to a randomly drawn commenter. The purveyors of Seekerville will do the random drawing. When claiming your prize, just let Seekerville know to whom the book should be inscribed.

To others here's a link to buy TMP at 20% OFF plus shipping: The Moral Premise: Harnessing Virtue and Vice for Box Office Success. I'll inscribe it if you put a name in the NOTES box during check out.


Last year I posted a 10-Episode (7-hour) Video On Demand training series at Vimeo called Storycraft Training.  It's the equivalent of a 2-day workshop. The very first episode deals with IRONY and expands on Aristotle's 6 PILLARS OF A GREAT STORY. Visitors to this blog may Buy or Rent the Entire Package of 10, for 30% of the regular price. This offer is good from October 15, 2015 through November 14, 2015. You can purchase the sessions and download them to your computer to have forever. Or you can rent and stream them. You may share the promotional code with your friends. The code is "SEEKERVILLE" and the readers of this Seekerville blog are the only ones to know it . . . so far.

GROWING UP CHRISTIAN (Stan's Journey of Faith Memoir)

Finally,  I still have some Advance Review Copies of what I'm told is an entertaining memoir to be released in November titled: GROWING UP CHRISTIAN: Searching for a Reasonable Faith in the Heartland of America. If you promise to write me a glowing-out-of-this-world blurb, I'll send an ARC to you for free...write me:

Otherwise, if you don't think you'll write me a blurb (you have to decide in advance), you can have one for the cost of postage and handling ($'s a heavy book), via this Seekerville Link. Such a deal...and even if you pay, you can still write me a glowing-out-of-this-world blurb. I won't object.


Now, there's a contextual reason I mention the memoir. It's really about irony. And I'm using irony in its marketing. One would think that a memoir about a guy's journey of faith would be a serious didactic tome on theology and religion. Well, it is a tome, and it is about religion and theology...but I knew I had to make the journey and the writing ironic. So, let's just say I had some fun. Here's the back cover copy. These are the hooks...also known as early promotional blurbs.

"Thanks, Stan. I now have work for the rest of my life." (His libel Attorney)
"We'd excommunicate him, but we're not Catholic."  (His former Pastors)
"We had an accident...and I can't remember a thing." (His Nephew)
"None of this is true, and I have the scars to prove it." (His Sister)
"I had no part in it. It's a comma disaster." (His exhausted Editor)
"I tried to put him in jail, but he was too young."  (His cop Aunt)
"Just goes to prove that he's just uneducated."  (His Mom)
"I had no idea what to do. He was beyond me."  (His Dad)
"Where do they bury the survivors?"  (His Wife)

If that copy is interesting to you, then the use of irony has NO LIMIT.


Stan Williams

Thank you, Stan, for another enlightening and instructional post--plus a whole lot of irony! 

And the memoir? Wow, ironically enough, it sounds fascinating!

And I can personally recommend Stan's video training series. If you've already read The Moral Premise, it's great reinforcement of the key concepts--and more! If you haven't yet read Stan's book, there's still a TON to be gained from this series. Your writing will benefit immensely!

Seekervillagers, what questions do you have for Stan? Let's chat in the comments!



Mary Preston said...

Such a fascinating post thank you.

Cindy W. said...

This is a welcomed post that will take some chewing and rechewing on. Thank you Stan.

Happy Birthday Seekerville!

Cindy W.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

STAN!!!!!! You must come closer so I can whisper in your ear because I'm about to create a firestorm....

(leans in... leans in farther.... then says:) The Moral Premise is the only writing book I've ever actually read, and the only one I kept despite the fact that generous people have hooked me up with others.

You, Stan.

You and that marvelous, wonderful, common-sense about emotion-driven plots book are the ONLY ONE on my shelf and in my house.

That's it. That's all I've got, and this post is the reason why I've got and kept your book.

You're amazing. You're brilliant. You see beyond the ken, beyond the obvious to the intricacies that make a story shine. There's a gift there, a discernment that goes beyond casual intelligence to a new level.

And that is what appealed to me with The Moral Premise.

So now when I write, I not only want the moral premise of the story to help set the emotional thread, I want the conversational dialogue of the story to be part of the irony. I strive for an unbalanced balance between the two and that helps me to make the reader laugh... and cry.


Bettie said...

Wow! What irony...Ruthy has endorsed a craft book! Better sign me up for this drawing. Thanks for your insights and great offers Stan.

Wilani Wahl said...

This post gives me a lot to think on this morning. I've brought some biscuits and gravy.

Jill Weatherholt said...

Thank you so much for this post. What an incredible addition to my ever-growing Seekerville notebook collection. And an added bonus, it's got the Ruthy stamp of approval.

Rose said...

Wow! So much to consider.

I'll definitely print this post off for future reference.

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Stan. Thanks for another terrific post! You've given us a lot to think on, always a good thing.


Jackie said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Stan! What a great post.

You've given me so much to think about. I'm definitely keeping a copy of this post! Thanks so much!

Caryl Kane said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Stan! Very interesting post. As a reader, I'm grateful to those authors that write with a spirit of excellence.

kaybee said...

Stan, this is deep. Too early in the morning for me and anyway I have to go to my day job, but I am going to save it in a file. Wow! I agree. The Oregon Trail story I'm shopping around is based on the ironic premise that the heroine signs on to cook for a wagonmaster headed West and finds out that his scout is the man who betrayed her and they're stuck together for a 2,000-mile journey. Fun And Games. Thanks for a great post.
Kathy Bailey

kaybee said...

Good morning Myra,
Just a note to say hi and tell you I am about halfway through "The Sweetest Rain" and enjoying it. Michael reminds me of Gilbert but without as much anger, and Bryony is a keeper. And good job on the botanical studies! Your information is conveyed in an organic way, your "research" does not show.

Sally Shupe said...

This is a very informative post. Will be keeping this one. The link to buy TMP at 20% off gives me an error when I click on it. Would love to win a copy of this book!

Stanley D. Williams said...

Thanks, Seekers for your nice comments. Now, Ruthie...I don't know what to say. But we have to stop meeting like this, people will find out. Did you cash my check?

Myra Johnson said...

And already the fireworks begin!

Ruthy read a craft book!!!

Just so glad you could be with us today, Stan! Can you tell Seekerville loves you?

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Well, we all comprehend the somewhat self-inflated importance of a "Ruthy Seal of Approval", LOL!

I can't easily describe why Stan's ideas work so well for me. I can't describe why they work so well for so many in Hollywood and TV.

I can only say that following the emotional curve of a story is much clearer to me than any plotline. And using a moral premise to give me that curve gives me a roadway.

In Refuge of the Heart, my moral premise was this: Skirting the edges of life may provide a measure of safety, but boldly living with kindness and grace provides true satisfaction.

Basically, it's the moral Garth Brooks sang so beautifully in "The Dance"... The Dance by Garth Brooks

The irony of accepting suffering for the chance of joy. Taking chances. :) Life's full of 'em.

Ruth Logan Herne said...


Stan, I did cash the check and thank you! You are a very generous man, LOL!

I meant it all sincerely, because it's absolutely true.

Myra Johnson said...

KAYBEE, I'm so glad you're enjoying Bryony and Michael's story. They are very special to me!

Myra Johnson said...


And for FREE??????!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome, Stan! You brought us an entire workshop. OH. MY. GOODNESS! Thank you.

Honestly, I started reading this and kept murmuring, oh, my goodness. This is an amazing bit of wisdom which I will eagerly and with much excitement apply to my current manuscript and all the rest going forward.

I feel I must offer something in return.

Especially in light of your poor van situation.

I brought white chocolate chip and raspberry scones to this "workshop." I promise not to chew loudly in class.

Myra Johnson said...

Even though I got a preview while uploading Stan's post, I am about to go read it again. Just because I can.


Cindy Regnier said...

Thank you so much, Mr. Williams. I will read this post several times to soak in as much of this as I can, then save for future use. Feeling very blessed to have you in Seekerville. And thanks to Myra too! Hope the van is running again.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I am eating these scones right now.

I will share.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I went to tweet about Stan and he's not Stan on Twitter... he's @MoralPremise which is perfect because when I first heard of him, no one could remember his name and just dubbed him "The Moral Premise Guy".


Deanna Stevens said...

Welcome Stan, & Happy Birthday Seekerville!
As a reader it's always interesting to read how authors think & work, interesting thoughts Mr Williams..

Jill Weatherholt said...

Thank you, Myra!

Marianne Barkman said...

The secret behind Ruthy's fabulous success? Now all my favourite authors should have books flying off the retail shelf. I'll have to wait till Phoenix, because basically there's no Seekerville authors books in Grande Prairie. HappyBirthday, Seekerville. Thanks Mr. Williams.

Myra Johnson said...

FYI, we are working on getting the link corrected for ordering The Moral Premise. I'll fix it on the blog as soon as I hear back from Stan.

Marsha Bernabe said...

Awesome post. I agree with Deanns, it's fascinating to see authors' minds in action.

Myra Johnson said...

Honestly, the day my agent recommended Stan's book was a day that changed my whole outlook on story. My copy is now full of yellow highlighting! I'm also now a big fan of Stan's video training series. Really, really worth the investment, because you can listen to Stan explain each concept in his own words while having the visual aids of charts, graphs, and movie clips. Just outstanding!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Good morning Stan and welcome to Seekerville. What a wonderful post and it so helps me to better understand the concept of the moral premise. How ironic. Sorry couldn't resist. I love irony and now I see how you use it to work for the drama and conflict that keeps a reader engaged. Thanks so much.

And thank you so much for your generosity in your offers and discounts. I certainly am going to invest in the Story Craft Training. I have benefited greatly from your book so will look forward to the training. As Ruthy said, you are very gifted.

Thanks again and have a fun day. Hope the van gets fixed. Love your yard and the illustrations of irony.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Wilani, its been ages since I"ve had biscuits and gravy. Thanks. ANd then I'll have to have some of Tina's scones later on this morning for a snack.

Rachael Koppendrayer said...

Pretty sure the red fruit in your hostas is a Jack-in-the-Pulpit, a native plant that is, yes, fairly toxic, but the root, boiled in multiple changes of water, can be made edible for starving folk. And birds love the berries. Look up the blossom. It's green and brown, and therefore easily overlooked, but it resembles a preacher in the pulpit.

Example of irony: wild, woodland plant decides to grow domestically in your garden of its own free will. Or what is toxic to humans is perfectly digestible for grouse. Perhaps what is poor advice for one character can prove vital to another?

See, I learned something and wasn't totally distracted!

Myra Johnson said...

Okay, I think we have the link fixed for ordering The Moral Premise directly from Stan!

Myra Johnson said...

RACHAEL, your example of what's poisonous in some cases can be healing in others reflects the irony in my novel The Sweetest Rain. Bryony, the heroine, is named for a toxic plant with beautiful flowers. In many ways she becomes the hero's greatest danger while at the same time serving as the catalyst for his healing.

Debra E. Marvin said...

It took a while for the moral premise premise sunk in, but it's now part of anything I plot. Good to know you're not standing by watching up writhe and write, but continue to push us, Mr. Williams. I'm a big fan.

the flower wrapping weed in the dreaded bindweed. I think I'd move if I had to fight it in my home garden. 'ironically', it has lovely flowers.

Thanks again Myra and Seekerville!

Stanley D. Williams said...

This is Stan's wife, Pam. It is my job to pour ice upon his head today so that he can get it through the door after being with all of you adoring ladies. But I do understand your attraction to The Moral Premise. He really nailed it, huh? (I fell in love with Stan's mind as much as anything else, even though the else was very nice, too. ...married him 46 years ago, and still in love!—but, boy are there stories in between!! : )
Also, just listened to The Dance by Garth Brooks. Thanks, Ruth. That one was new to me. Truly sadly beautiful and perfect example for your point.
Glad you ALL had a good morning in Seekerville!

Myra Johnson said...

Hi, DEBRA! Understanding the whys and wherefores of TMP has certainly made a difference for me. I was also gratified to realize that the Moral Premise was basically present in my stories even when I didn't consciously plan it that way.

And seeing how dramatic irony also fits into the picture is giving me even more to think about!

Just still blown away by this post, STAN!

Myra Johnson said...

MRS. WILLIAMS!!!! So glad you could pop in! Yes, we do love STAN here in Seekerville! His wisdom and insights are helping so many writers to write better books!

Stop by anytime, okay?

Julie Lessman said...


Welcome back to Seekerville, my friend, a pleasure as always. AND a challenge as well, because you make the writer think like no one I have ever seen (or read), stretching their brains and imaginations to the point of "Wow ... I never saw that before!"

My favorite line in this entire piece (and there are many) is the following, primarily because it boils irony down beautifully for simple people like me:

"When reality conflicts with expectations we end up with drama, intrigue, suspense and the stuff of good stories—ta da—irony."

I never really thought about irony as an integral part of a novel, but you have opened my eyes (AGAIN, like you did with Moral Premise!) to its importance, so THANK YOU!


Tina Radcliffe said...

Stan, is bringing lurkers out of the woodwork. DEBRA MARVIN.. I have missed you, young lady!!

Stanley D. Williams said...

Rachel, thanks for the insight on the hostas berries. Indeed, ironic, poisonous to humans, yet good for birds. Story metaphor fodder. Great stuff. Love nature.

Heidi Robbins said...

Wow, lots of deep information here! I'll definitely be keeping it in mind while reading...

Myra Johnson said...

STAN, have you analyzed any interesting movies recently? Just wondering how you would state the MP and describe the ironic elements in films like The Intern and War Room.

Stanley D. Williams said...

Julie's favorite line in the post ["When reality conflicts with expectations we end up with drama, intrigue, suspense and the stuff of good stories..."] is perhaps a key to my engagement with stories. I'm in daily awe of Reality and the juxtaposition in it of God's Gifts to all humanity. For example (1) a portion of his divinity. That divine spark can inspire us to achieve... but it can also lead to an out-of-control forrest fire of destructive pride. At the same time (2) God's gift of Natural Law acts both as blessing to provide us with food, relationships and gravity to keep our "feet on the ground," but Natural Law also acts as a mediating (even automatic) temporal judge when our self-assurance turns to arrogant pride.

Stanley D. Williams said...

Myra, I have not seen THE INTERN, and I refuse to see WAR ROOM (although Pam's been after me). I did watch the trailer. I have a dislike for sanitized Christian films that do not reflect reality and avoid verisimilitude in order not to offend. I'm also not convinced that Christians need movies of their own "safe" genre. I'd rather Christians watch films that are unsettling and which challenge them to some "salt and light" action. I think most (if not all explicit Christian films) warp reality to the point of lulling Christians into mediocrity, inaction, and encourage them they stick too close to the ghetto. I think stories need to motivate Christians to get dirty and be more involved in culture as salt and light. For that reason I'm a fan of Aronofsky's NOAH, which I debated heavily with Christian distractors on-line and on-stage at the Biola Media Conference in 2014. The folks at BIOLA didn't all agree with me, but they did pull me into a studio for a series of short interviews about it which can be watched here:

In terms of story structure, with a strong moral premise I recently wrote a solid blog on SILVER-LININGS PLAYBOOK, which has a subtle but true Christian message.

I was also a big fan of ST. VINCENT which was written and produced by a Christian and has a strong Christian moral premise.

In the pro-life realm of things, I frequently compare BELLA, KNOCKED-UP, and JUNO. The first one was produced by very devout Christians, but avoided so much verisimilitude that you didn't know it was suppose to be pro-life story. BELLA was a box office failure, I think because it avoided reality and sanitized the story. The latter two were not produced by Christians, but were mega-hits because they told the moral truth, were not sanitized, and were explicitly pro-life. But the latter two you'd never show in Sunday School.

So, I like stories best that connect with culture on society's playing field and that don't hide in the Church basement.

Pam Hillman said...

I read the post. It is amazing. I see the truth, the irony, the glimmers of brilliance... but the irony is that I'm having trouble verbalizing it all.

But that's irony in and of itself, isn't it?

Lordy, somebody pass me some of those scones and a fresh cup of coffee!!! :)

Welcome back to Seekerville, Stan ...AND Ms. Pam.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Myra highlighted hers?????


Whereas I simply a-b-s-o-r-b-e-d all the amazing knowledge and then assimilated it into my very consciousness.


Vince said...

Hi Stan:

Any mention of Aristotle flags my immediate attention! Delighted you are here today!

Also any time I think about, "The Moral Premise," I get this irresistible urge to to write an ad for, "The Six Crucial Corollaries of the Moral Premise," and "Williams' Three Laws of Moral Premise Success".

More to point: what I found ironic about your rose picture example was that I saw no irony in the two pictures. Just success: mission accomplished.

The blossom's job is to attract insects in order to pollinate the plant. Flowers bloom at different times to maximize the viable exposure to available insects. The bald state in the second picture is the end of the character arc. All is well. All is as natural law intended.

This observation, (plus being a Kantian), led me to the realization that irony is not outside in the world to be discovered but rather irony is internal just waiting to be projected out into the external world. Our job as writers is to create enough foundation in our exposition so that the reader can intuit our ironic intentions.*

I think it is a fascinating idea to apply irony to every stage of the writing process. I'll have to try it and see how it works on me. My characters are always more concerned with my character arc than theirs.


P.S. I have, "The Moral Premise," but I'd like a chance on winning your, "Memoir," as long as you'd accept an ironic blurb.

*I wrote this line especially for Mary who always appreciates and acknowledges apropos alliteration.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Marianne, I love those sweet words, fabulous success! :)

God bless you!

I think the whole concept Stan presented just worked for me. It made sense.

I was like YES! HE GETS ME!

So that might have made it easier. :)

Lyndee H said...

Pleasure to meet you, Stan. I have The Moral Premise and refer to it often. This writing stuff is hard! Every day is a new lesson. Thanks for teaching.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Pam! Waving from upstate New York!!!!! I love The Dance, it's such a wonderful example of the irony of risk and life and the lesson of stepping out. I love it. It's as if he hits every single note of the music.... while hitting the beautiful notes of life.

So nice to meet you! I've got a husband of a bunch of decades too, and they're useful sorts.


Jana Vanderslice said...

Dear Sir, You are a very smart man. I have not had to read so slowly in a long time! I think your main concept is much like Cognitive Behavioral Theory in psychology.

FYI on The WarRoom- I thought it had a significant amount of realism in it which made it more effective. I'm thinking that it follows your formula (from what I understand from reading today). It did have a happy ending, and most people (ok, I) need a happy ending. And it did challenge my faith and my prayer efforts. It was pretty funny & entertaining, too. At least give it a try when it comes to satellite. :)

Thanks for sharing your insight with us today!!!
Any HERO of RUTHY is a Hero of Mine!!!

Piper Huguley said...

The column was wonderful. But this statement in your comment is also very insightful and honest:

"I'm also not convinced that Christians need movies of their own "safe" genre. I'd rather Christians watch films that are unsettling and which challenge them to some "salt and light" action. I think most (if not all explicit Christian films) warp reality to the point of lulling Christians into mediocrity, inaction, and encourage them they stick too close to the ghetto. I think stories need to motivate Christians to get dirty and be more involved in culture as salt and light"

This is the most awesome thing I've heard today. Thank you, Mr. Williams, for visiting Seekerville and for sharing this truth.

Jan Drexler said...

Thank you for being here today, Stan!

May I call you Stan? I've spent so much time in the pages of The Moral Premise that I feel like we're buds.

Like Ruthy, your book resonated with me deeply. I start out every novel with copies of the story diamond, my log line, and the Moral Premise of my story. I'm not sure I could write a story without going through those steps first!

I'll be checking out the Storycraft Training course - thank you so much for the discount offer.

Debby Giusti said...

Welcome back to Seekerville, Stan. I attended your workshop at ACFW! Seems I saw you at RWA as well. If you're presenting, I'm in the audience, soaking up all the information you provide.

Today's blog is amazing. I'll be reading the post again and again and again. No wonder your wife fell in love with your mind! A smart woman. :)

Thanks for sharing your opinion of Christian movies. I live in GA, close to the new Pinewood Studios that Dan Cathy, the head of Chick-fil-A, brought to this area. The studio's focus is on family friendly movies. At least that was the initial concept. They're turning our area into a Hollywood of the South! Knowing how easily folks are swayed through film and television, I wish more movies would provide a positive influence and perhaps change some of the negatives our country/culture seems to be currently embracing.

Also love your Nineveh Crossing site, although I don't think I've received anything recently. Have you put that on hold? Or has my PC moved you to spam? If so, it's a problem I need to fix.

Keep up the great work you do!

Suzanne Baginskie said...

Stan, I really appreciated all the work and time you put into your knowledgeable column. You didn't leave anything out. The examples were superb and a good way to process your thoughts. This one is a real keeper. Yes, put an entry in for me to win your book. I love the way you look at the premise of writing and all the categories needed to fulfill the story. Thanks for sharing with us all at Seekersville.

Suzanne Baginskie said...

Happy Birthday to Seekersville today, on the 15th of the month. October is almost half over. Let's keep the celebration going!!

S. Trietsch said...


Stan thank you for your blog. Took me off and on all morning as I zipped back and forth to the links while trying to get my J-O-B done! I can't wait to dive into your book (whether I win it or order it). It will be nice to read a How-to craft book with a good dose of Christianity!

Many blessing!


Myra Johnson said...

STAN, you make a very valid point about "sanitized" movies. That same rationale applies to "preachy" Christian fiction or where Christian characters are just TOO good to be believed.

I had avoided the Noah movie for quite some time--until learning more about it in one of your video training segments. So I put it in my Netflix queue immediately afterward, and you were right--a lot to be learned from the film on many levels.

DebH said...

hi Mr Stan
This post is a keeper which I will have to read many times to fully grasp the material (well, absorb it, like Ruthy says she did). You have opened my eyes/mind/imagination to something I haven't been aware of for good story composition. I definitely need to acquire a copy of your book (especially because it's the ONLY craft book Ruthy owns - if it's good for Ruthy, then it's a MUST for me). I'm hoping to win that free copy offered, but if not, then I'm expecting it to be purchased very quickly.
Thank you so much for sharing at Seekerville. Thanks tons, MYRA for inviting Mr. Stan. Yayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

I love what I learn at Seekerville.

now, off to go comfort little man, who appears to be suffering from an ear infection. woke at 2am this morning with pain in his ear. poor kid. not a fun way to begin his birth day.

Myra Johnson said...

JANA, I did enjoy War Room. It was a charming mix of humor and faith, and it inspired me to take a closer look at my own prayer life.

Myra Johnson said...

Great to see you again, PIPER! Isn't Stan amazing? And it is so important that Christians strive to be salt and light. Living insular lives isn't getting God's message out where it needs to be.

Myra Johnson said...

JAN, if Stan's book resonated with you, I think you'll really like his video series!

Myra Johnson said...

Welcome, SUZANNE! Isn't Stan great? I love the way he provides concrete examples for each of his points.

Myra Johnson said...

Hi, STEPHANIE! Stan's Moral Premise book isn't explicitly Christian, but it certainly is applicable to writing Christian fiction. Just packed with insights and examples!

Stanley D. Williams said...

Vince, thanks for the great feedback. I'll have to read the Kantian paragraph several times to figure it out, although it sounds like The Moral Premise concept is related...connecting the inner with the outer. Thanks for pointing out the "arc" in the rose pictures. That's wonderful. I didn't know that about why plants blossom at different times. How cool creation is.

If any of you want me to send you the Memoir (free shipping in exchange for a blurb) send me your ADDRESS with the request to Stan AT StanWilliams DOT com.

Myra Johnson said...

DEB H, so sorry about your little one's ear infection! Hope he feels better soon!

Yes, Stan's book is truly an eye-opener. I wish it had been available 30 years ago when I first seriously attempted a writing career. If so, it might very well have been the only craft book I ever needed! (Unlike RUTHY, I have a whole bookshelf full of books on the writing craft.)

Stanley D. Williams said...

Piper, thanks for your positive reaction to my criticism of "Christian" films. I'm sometimes fearful of sharing that with other Christians. But, generally, we are not called to be hiding in church basements and cloistering ourselves form the world, hoping the bad stuff will all pass away. One of the films that I think every Christian needs to see is PRECIOUS because it reveals the dark world that so many are trying to break out of and it suggests (at least to me) that Christians need to be compassionate and reach out and help those that come from desperate situations.

Stanley D. Williams said...

Jan Drexler, you can call me "bud" (with a l.c.). It's amazing what names I respond to. : ) I get excited when I hear writers using the Story Diamond and things like that. They certainly help me, and the writer's I coach.

Marianne Barkman said...

I'm sure, Mr. Williams, that the "writer's I coach" must have been an auto correct?

Myra Johnson said...

STAN, I just went to your blog and read your analysis of Silver Linings Playbook. Haven't seen the movie yet, but one of your statement near the end really grabbed my attention:

"Sometimes the antagonist is a good guy (like Tiffany) and sometimes its a bad guy (like Hans Gruber in DIE HARD)."

Not sure we often realize that antagonists can also be "good guys." (Some irony there?) But as you said, Tiffany is the anchor and the one who pushes the other characters toward change. This gives me a fresh perspective on antagonists and heroes.

Debby Giusti said...

DebH, prayers for your little guy! Sorry about his ear infection!

Stanley D. Williams said...

Hi Debby (Giusti). I didn't know Dan Cathy was behind the Pinewood Studio effort. Pinewood is a branch of the famous British Studio group. Thank you for also asking about Nineveh's Crossing. It's still active as a distributor of some niche Catholic media products. In an effort to spend more time writing (e.g. the Memoir) I off loaded the distribution to Vision Video for a little more than a year. They still sell our products, but some of the excess inventory came back to Michigan where my daughter now fulfills the orders. I send out a NC e-blast about once a month. If you haven't gotten anything lately, yes, check your spam filters. The white list address is "" Blessings.

Stanley D. Williams said...

Stephanie (Trietsch). Glad you liked the post, but The Moral Premise is not an explicitly Christian book. It was written for mainstream filmmakers in Hollywood, who have clearly embraced it. The Christian influence is there (it has a true moral premise : ) ) but Christian bookstores will not stock it because it doesn't have scripture plastered throughout and I make mention and use as examples some films they would never stock to sell to Christian families. I take my clue from God's creation—i.e. when I see a tree, I don't need to see a Bible citation carved into the bark to know God made it. (Okay, so here you go: Psalm 19).

Stanley D. Williams said...

Marianne, I coach writers. Auto correct?

Stanley D. Williams said...

Myra, regarding antagonists being the "good guy." TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL featured 3 or more angels. They were the antagonists. They never changed. But they did change the protagonist (the guest star).That is the main job of the antagonist in a force the protagonist to change...literally by hook (something good), or crook (something bad).

Kathryn Barker said...

Dr. Stan,

Thank you for this workshop-in-a-post!! much to soak up! I'm working my way through The Moral Premise! LOVE it!! And I'll be signing up for the Storycraft Training!!

Perfect timing for me...I'm getting ready to participate in NaNoWriMo...and working out some details before Nov. 1st!

Am blessed by your comments concerning Christians and the REAL world!!

Myra Johnson said...

Now you've got me pondering the whole concept of antagonists and villains. I see your point about the angels in Touched by an Angel staying the same while changing the guest characters on the show (although I seem to recall a few episodes where the angels themselves had to change their viewpoint about something in order be the agents for change they were sent to be).

So how about genuine "bad guy" villains? Can a villain be a true antagonist and still be changed somehow, possibly even turning toward goodness in some small way, by the end of the story?

Meghan Carver said...

Thank you, Stan, for your wisdom here, and thank you, Seekers, for bringing such wonderful guest posts. With this many endorsements, I must read this book!

Stanley D. Williams said...

Myra, yes, antagonists can change. In fact in DIE HARD Hans Gruber changes for the worse. He has a Moment of Grace, and chooses the dark side of the moral premise. His ark is dark. Antagonist change not at all, or up or down. It's best if they change somewhat, but they don't always have to. Protagonist ALWAYS change. And, if they don't then the story will not connect very well, as was the case with ENEMY OF THE STATE (with Will Smith and Bobby Dean). He was billed as the protagonist, but he changed little and did little. Jon Voight's Thomas Reynolds is the protagonist. He was active and his ark is dark. The audience was confused. Did poorly in the BO. Tiffany does change in SILVER LININGS.... but not nearly as much as the two Pats. And in the episodes of TOUCHED BY... where the angels change, they become either the protagonist or co-protagonist with the guest stars.

Myra Johnson said...

Yes, MEGHAN, do read TMP! It's great!

Myra Johnson said...

I think I will have to add Silver Linings Playbook to my Netflix list.

S. Trietsch said...

Sorry to cause confusion. I realize The Moral Premise is not a Christian book (and don't get me started on retail). I simply meant to say that I enjoyed the websites you provided via url links and was pleased to see Christian / bible references along side 'usual' Hollywood (I live less than 5 miles from Pinewood Studios in Fayetteville, GA and would LOVE to run into some of the Marvel Comics super heroes in the grocery!).

I look forward to more of your insightful examples in the book!


PS I do agree that the Christian movies and television per se are not up to par but I'm please to see mainstream movies that have a moral message, i.e. Bruce Almighty, Guardians of the Galaxy.

Debby Giusti said...

Waving to Stephanie! They filmed, I believe it was Ant Man, about a block from my house some months ago, but security kept the public--namely me--from getting a glimpse of anything except the trailers! Folks have seen some of the stars in grocery stores and restaurants. I evidently eat and shop in the wrong places. :)

Stan, Dan Cathy was the main force in bringing Pinewood here. At least that's the story that circulated in our paper. The studio has a huge area of land and lots of buildings, plus they use many of the local spots to film.

Thanks for the info about Nineveh's Crossing!

Debby Giusti said...

Stan, are you scheduled to present at any upcoming writing conferences?

Missy Tippens said...

Wow, what a packed, meaty post!! Welcome back, Stan! And thank you for sharing this. It's giving me a lot to think about as I'm working right now!

Stanley D. Williams said...

Debby. Currently, I have only two workshops scheduled for the future, both here in Michigan, and both fairly short affairs. You can track such things about me at under my picture there's s list of upcoming workshops and talks. Thanks for your interest.

Mary Connealy said...

Stan this is all so interesting.
This is a blog post to STUDY.

I think I use irony a lot but after reading all this I'm caught a bit flat footed to show and example.


Thank you for being on.

I'm going to think some more...possibly until my brain starts smoking...and come back.

Myra Johnson said...

Stan, I know Tamera Alexander really sings your praises about how you've helped with her writing. Your website describes the various levels of coaching you offer. Can you give us any advice about determining the point in our careers when it would be most beneficial to invest in your coaching services?

Myra Johnson said...

Well, I tried to insert the hyperlink for Stan's coaching page. Let me try again.

Stan's Coaching page

Myra Johnson said...

MARY, don't hurt yourself.

Debby Giusti said...

Great question, Myra. I'm interested in the coaching info as well.

Stanley D. Williams said...

Coaching Tip: With Tamera, and recently with Francine Rivers (to drop a name), I'm best useful when you have the fodder of a story idea (based on some solid research) and the setting and main characters identified and even partially described, but are not sure of how the major beats of the story should flow. For $250 I read 5-10 pages of such notes you send me that describe your STORY FUNDAMENTALS (or the best you can figure them out) and then we get on the phone and spend 2-3 hours beating out the major arc of the protagonist and a few other minor give you a solid frame of bones on which to put flesh. That particular option is not on the Story Coaching page, but I've done that a lot, and it turns on the lights in the writers I've worked with. There is much more, and I'm convinced the writer's block does not exist when applying the MP rightly.

Stanley D. Williams said...

I'm gone for the day, folks. I'll check in tomorrow and see if there are questions or comments I need to respond to. It was great being with you.

Piper Huguley said...

Hey Myra *waves*!

Don't forget Debby that Tyler Perry bought part of Ft. McPherson to turn into a movie studio as well. Atlanta is truly becoming the Hollywood of the south.

Thank you for the tip about Precious, Mr. Williams! I haven't seen any of these movies, but I am going to make time to study their structure soon. Thank you for visiting Seekerville!

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

This is a brilliant post, Stan, and deserves reading again and saving. Thanks to Mrs. Williams for dropping by. Enjoyed reading her comments. I watch films not only to be entertained but for structure and to discover a moral premise somewhere in the story. I especially like films based on a true life story. Sadly, many popular films are too graphic and lack that moral premise found in a Christian film. I agree that every Christian should see PRECIOUS and for the reasons you mentioned. Thanks for your comprehensive post and thought provoking words.

Natalie Monk said...

Hi, Stan. Thank you for giving us these examples for infusing our writing with irony. I enjoyed the read and the challenge to braid irony into every part of my writing.

I would love to be entered to win a copy of The Moral Premise.

Chill N said...

I can already tell I need several days to study and absorb this information. What a fantastic quote: "Probable Impossibilities are preferred to Improbable possibilities". Sounds like something Star Trek's Mr. Spock would say :-)

Thanks for the post!

Nancy C

Vince said...


Would the below be irony?

Fe E

Myra Johnson said...

PAT JEANNE, one of my biggest problems with what could otherwise be really good movies and books is the gratuitous bad language or sex. There's only so much I can subject myself to before I'm on overload.

Myra Johnson said...

NATALIE, I'm always challenged by Stan's insights. Makes me want to work even harder at being a good writer.

Myra Johnson said...

Stan and Mr. Spock--love it, NANCY!!!

Myra Johnson said...

VINCE, you crack me up!!!!!

Trixi said...

Maybe this is why some books stand out more than others to me....irony! It gives it depth, feeling and meat (if that make sense, lol)! Great insightful post for this avid reader! :-)

Mary Connealy said...

Myra, no one had to get the shock paddles. Thank heavens!!!

Irony? Maybe? cut from Fire and Ice:

He sat down in a chair around the corner from her, within grabbing distance, so maybe he wasn't completely sure she wouldn't decide to shoot him. That made her feel a little better.

Mary Connealy said...

VINCE Excellent abuse of the letter AAAAAAA

Good work! :)

Donna said...

Thank you, Stan. I have expected irony to work itself into my WIP. I'm not sure why. I will use this as a guide to infuse it into my work.

I would love to be entered to win a copy of TMP.

Myra Johnson said...

Hi, TRIXI, I know I've sure learned a lot from Stan!

Myra Johnson said...

MARY, you are the Queen of Irony!

Myra Johnson said...

DONNA, sometimes the best irony is the accidental irony! :)

Loves To Read said...

Interesting post and great tips!

Missy Tippens said...

Thanks for the info on coaching!

Jamie Adams said...

I wasn't able to stop by earlier today but I fully enjoyed this post!

Vince said...

Accusations And Allegations
About Abuse?


Atop all awards, "A", always allows and accepts all applications, approbations and articulations, although abusive, affably and admirably.


Barbara Fox said...

Oh my goodness- Until I read this post I just thought I was the product of a cynical mind. Such a relief to find there is value in it after all. Thanks

Myra Johnson said...

Greetings to our late arrivals! Hope you found Stan's post as thought-provoking as I did.

And, of course, an A+ to VINCE for his unending supply of witticisms!

Janet Kerr said...

I have this book. All this information is so valuable & will take time to go through. Amazing!

bonton said...

I enjoyed your post, Stanley - thank you!!

Please enter my name in the drawing for Myra's book - thank you!!

Stanley D. Williams said...

You are all very welcome. I enjoyed all your comments, and thank you for exceeding my expectations of a great blog and center of learning. Although, I'm not sure how any of you get any work done with this blog coming out every morning. LOL!