Monday, January 16, 2012

Randy Ingermanson's Take on the Moral Premise: Part One

Last September, all the buzz at the American Christian Fiction Writer's conference was on two things: e-books and the moral premise. Here, Snowflake guru and writing mentor, Randy Ingermanson, shares his take on the concept in a very helpful way. Here is part one of a three-part series this month. Enjoy! ~ Annette

 Creating: The Moral Premise -- Part One
by Randy Ingermanson

Here are the kinds of novels I hate to read:

* Novels that aim to make me change my politics
* Novels that aim to make me change my religion
* Novels that aim to make me change my scientific views
* Novels that aim to make me change my mind on ANYTHING

I read fiction to have fun, not to read a diatribe, a sermon, or a polemic.

How about you? Yes or no on preachy fiction?

That's what I thought. It's unanimous.

This is why I was extremely leery when I learned a few months ago that one of the main speakers at a forthcoming conference was going to speak on "The Moral Premise." The last thing I wanted to hear was that we novelists need to be writing moralizing books.

As it turned out, my fears were groundless.

The speaker at the conference was Stan Williams, Ph.D.,the author of the book THE MORAL PREMISE, and a fascinating guy. (He has a degree in physics, which is always a good sign.)

Stan's basic idea is that a movie (or any kind of fiction) will fail when it is based on a "moral premise" that the audience believes is false.

Audiences will suspend disbelief on lots of things, but they bring in certain bedrock assumptions about the way the universe ought to operate. So do you.

You exert ultimate power over the universe which is your Storyworld. You know the drill. Great power, great responsibility. Don't screw up.

I spent some time talking with Stan at the conference and was extremely impressed with his ideas. I highly recommend his book for anyone who wants to put a strong theme into their fiction but doesn't want to come across as didactic or moralizing.

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

Big difference.

This article is copyright Randall Ingermanson, 2011.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 28,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.


  1. I love this pesky guy. Thanks for the reminder on the moral premise. I'm about to apply it to my newest plot next week!

  2. Great article. I can't wait to read the next parts. I've always used the hero's quest in my plotting, which is what Stan Williams uses as his structure for showing the Moral Premise, but I never had the part about the Moral Premise crystallized so clearly. Duh! It was sort of like the missing link in the hero's quest. I'm using this method for the first time as I'm writing my latest book and am loving it!


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