The Moral Premise

I heard about this on the Seekerville blog. Agent Natasha Kern posted on this fascinating subject.

Honestly, I hadn't considered the moral premise of my stories. Theme, yes. Values, yes. But not the moral premise.

This post is worth reading, though a little long. Also, The Moral Premise blog looks like an interesting place.

How do you treat morality in your stories? Is the moral fiber of your MC the driving force behind the character's decisions, and thus their story? Do you think theme and moral premise are the same? (Susan did an interesting post on this, though I couldn't find it in her archives. Maybe she can tell us.)


You know, I never think about themes and premises in my writing. Maybe I should. Maybe if I did this, thought of plots and themes and what would really sell fast, I'd be on the NYT bestseller list *laugh* - instead, I write character-driven stories and novels, and these characters do their thing as they will.....but, in doing this, there are "themes" and "premises" that arise and take shape: some of them I didn't even know until someone pointed them out, some I thought "well dang, look at that...." once I'd completed the work.

THere is the universal conscious that unites us -- there is the human condition that provides for themes and premises in our own lives- and thus links us...there also the situational in our own personal lives that will make us say "that's my life .... I get this...I've lived it...." and for each person who reads one particular work, each one may "get" something else from it that is their universal consc.

I think Tender Graces has a morality story, but not because I consciously put it there. But, most all things have a "morality story" - because we see our world in that way....we want a Just world....a world that makes sense.

Dang, I need to shut up - who knew I'd write all that *laugh* I probably didn't even answer the question!
Hi Kathryn,
First, I don't think themes top the NY bestseller list, do they? LOL The only one I think I've read on that list is Nora Roberts, and she's def. character driven. :-)
But I agree completely with everything you said. I don't like books that are all about some theme or moral, but I do think after we write our stories we can look back and maybe fine tune what's already there. :-)
Great comment! I loved it. Write as much as you want, any time. :-)
Stephanie Faris said…
There's always some underlying theme/moral in a story but the best authors make it subtle. Nobody likes to feel like some message is being crammed down their throats. I've learned a lot from watching kids' movies with my boyfriend and his daughter. Everything is geared toward teaching kids some lesson...but if it's done right, they don't even know they're being taught.
I totally agree. Inspirationals can be tricky too because I don't like feeling "preached" to, but at the same time I want to have a spiritual thread.
Kids movies are good. Great example!
Debra E. Marvin said…
I'm not sure if Moral premise and theme are the same. I didn't think so but I'm going to read up your links.. It's good to think about. I know what the theme of my WIP is and it's like a big top tent over the whole story. Thanks for the links Jessica.
Hi Debra, yeah, I'm not sure they're the same either, that's why I wanted to see.

I love your new pic! Very nice. :-)
Hi Jess -

Thanks for the link. Can you give me a hint on the content of my post? I'm drawing a blank. With over 200 posts, it's difficult to recall a specific one without a bit of help. :)

Natasha's post provided a lot of insight into the structure of a novel. I realize I need to plug some serious gaps in my knowledge of the craft.

Katie Ganshert said…
I've heard about it! Thanks for the link. I'll have to pop on over and read it. I know she's offering a class/workshop at the ACFW conference about it. Are you taking that class?
Unknown said…
I have found in some of my favorite books, and now in my own writing, that the moral dilemma is the conflict that matters the most to me in literature, over and above the active plot conflict. I like to see how different authors, and therefore characters, deal with moral problems.

As for setting up a moral premise, I think that's much easier for expressly Christian authors because a great deal of our market already know the premise. We don't have to set it up so much. But still, one of the most difficult things for me in writing religious fantasy is balancing what the reader should already know and what I need to tell them!
Tana said…
This is actually something I've been turning over in my mind lately, I'm writing YA for the Christian market and it's a fine line. My MC goes to church and youth group wed. nights so if it gets preachy it's from the youth pastors perspective.
Tabitha Bird said…
Morals are great things to have and better thing to let others work out for themselves. I think this is true of life and of writing. I enjoy being able to let my own views seep through in my writing, but I aim to make it subtle. I try not to tell others to pull up a chair cause I got somethin to say! I don't like it when other books do this either.
Keli Gwyn said…
I remember Natasha's post, which included much valuable information. It's one I wanted to read again, so thanks for the link.
Hi Susan,
Natasha's post was incredible! So much to learn. I need to go reread it.
As for the post, I'll hop over to your place. :-)
HI Katie,
Oh yeah, I'm taking it! I love the concept and think she (or whoever came up with it) is really onto something as to what makes a novel awesome.
I couldn't imagine writing Christian Fantasy, just because of all the world-building! *shudder*
:-) I like to see how characters deal with morality also. It def. adds conflict to the story.
Thanks for stopping by. :-)
Hi T. Anne,
Yeah, preachy is really tricky. I'd imagine even more so for YA. LOL Have fun with that!
Hi Tabitha, I don't care for preachy novels either. :-) But it is interesting to see how a character's morals affect their decisions, and how possibly those morals keep the character from getting what they want most.
I need to read it again too, Keli! It was awesome. :-)
I try to base my book on moral dilemnas and how they are resolved or maybe left unresolved. I love Jodi Picoult's books as she always does an excellent job doing this.
Terri Tiffany said…
Good comments! I'll check it out, though I tend to write by the seat of my pants too:)
Jody Hedlund said…
Hi Jessica,
So I just found your blog post in my dashboard, but it's the first time I saw it! The blogger ghost is still hiding things from me!

I like the idea of moral premise. I always try to summarize the theme of my book in one sentence and I suppose that's a similar idea to the moral premise. Maybe?
we're going to have to share our workshop notes! i don't think i'm going to kern's workshop. thanks for the link. :)
Hey Jeannie,
I'm all for sharing! :-) Who are you going to?
Jody, I think it was my blog! Wah. Yesterday it posted like normal and in the evening only two people made it over. So I figured everyone might hate me because maybe I put my foot in my mouth or something, OR it didn't post in anyone's dashboard. So LOL, I just reposted it and I think that helped. Hmmm...
Hi Donna and Terri,

You both love Picoult, don't you? She definitely gets to the heart of moral dilemmas. A great writer. :-)
Karen Hossink said…
Indeed, the moral fiber of my MCs is VERY important to me. *grin*
Unknown said…
The morals of my characters were important to me from the first word I typed. Huge driving force of my book. ;)
* said…
Ahh, theme and moral premise. I think I need to go back to college now.
anita said…
Wow! What an interesting and thought-provoking post. I write secular romance, and some would think that those are devoid of morals. But since so much of who I am as a person is reflected in my writing, and I'm in fact a Christian and a moral person, it's going to come through regardless.

Morals even played a part in my vampire fantasy. :-)

Now I'm writing a story about a courtesan and a recovering laudanum addict who are both trying to find the good in themselves--to feel worthy of happiness. So I guess morals and theme are bound to be entwined in such a premise. We'll see how it all plays out!
You guys are so funny! :-)

Terresa, no worries. I think most of this comes through subconsciously. :-)
Danyelle L. said…
I think that in life, and in stories, people's motivations tend to come from their moral values. Very interesting question. I shall have to ponder longer. :)
Unknown said…
There is morality--one of them is to tell the truth about a character. A character can redeem from any place you've put him or her. But in the beginning the character's immorality, the strength of their words (swearing, anger etc.) the truth written there is, in my opinion, a writer's definite moral attribute.

Popular posts from this blog

No One's Perfect

Very Naughty Blogger

Formulaic can Rock