Monday, May 24, 2010

Myra Johnson - Novelist

Hearing from other writers who have read The Moral Premise makes my day. I'm humbled and thrilled. (See the COMMENT to this post. These are writers who were recommended to The Moral Premise by their agent, Natasha Kern.)

The other day I received a SASE from Myra Johnson requesting the Moral Premise bookmark. Included was her business card and a nice little postit note that read:
Thank you! Your book has made a huge impact on my writing! Myra Johnson. 

Myra writes romance novels (that's her writing cave in the picture from her website). Here's what he has on the first page of her website which you can access by clicking on the title of this post above:
In real life and in the books I write, it seems life and love are always on a collision course. It hurts like crazy when life in the real world rains all over our romantic dreams. But I still believe in love, which is why you'll find enduring messages of forgiveness and reconciliation in my stories. Messages of hope. Messages of faith. Messages of God's unconditional love . . .

Because romance gets messy when life and love collide!
Isn't that the truth.

I don't hear from many novelists, so I kept digging. On her "books for writers" page I found a blurb about the Moral Premise. You can read it HERE for yourself.

Thanks, Myra, glad I could help. Good luck and God Speed on your writing.


Myra Johnson said...

Wow!!!! I am extremely honored! Thank you!!! It was actually my agent, Natasha Kern, who first directed me to your excellent book. She is a huge proponent of using The Moral Premise to guide and shape our fiction.

My copy of your book is filled with yellow highlighting, and I keep a chart of virtue-vice pairs on my bulletin board for quick reference.

Mary Connealy said...

I've used The Moral Premise in my work a lot, too. Also at the suggestion of Natasha Kern.

Missy Tippens said...

The same goes for me! I followed Natasha Kern's recommendation and bought your book. It's been a huge help! I'll be doing a program for Georgia Romance Writers in August where I'll talk about how I use your book in planning my proposals. Thanks for your excellent guidance!

Stan Williams said...

Myra, Mary, and Missy: I am deeply honored and thrilled that I've been able to help.

Mary Connealy said...

I have a question.

Since I've been trying to be more deliberative in my use of The Moral Premise, I've wondered if you think the PREMISE comes first or the story.

I'm not putting this into words very well. Natasha told me I have a good ... I'm struggling to say this right ... I instinctively use a good moral premise.
When she told me this, I'd never heard of the term.
So now I'm trying to be more deliberative in my use of the moral premise, except I've found, toward the end of my books that, though I picked a moral premise and followed it and had the Moment of Grace, etc. At the very end...oops, the moral premise I've been so deliberately accenting isn't the moral premise at all.

So I have to go back and focus on the REAL moral premise, rewrite the MOG, etc.

So, which comes first in your opinion, the moral premise or the story?

Does this make any sense?

And keep in mind I'm a writer, so if I can't write this so it makes any sense, that is a very sad thing.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Stan, The Seekers have obviously been passing your book around, LOL!

Myra had chatted with a bunch of us about it privately, then Natasha brought it up in Seekerville.

It kind of blossomed from there. Thank you for taking a simple premise and giving it a workable prototype for so many.

And although I generally make fun of Myra, Mary and Missy (mostly Mary, she's pretty hard-shelled), I'm avoiding that now because it's your blog.

But I brought you homemade snickerdoodles. Fresh.

Myra didn't, I noticed.

Tsk, tsk.


Stan Williams said...


LOL! Yes, I'll keep it in mind that you're a writer, and therefore.... very funny.

I knew exactly what you meant the first time, because the issue your raise was one of the first objections to writing The Moral Premise in the first place.

The fear by a few of my critics was that writers (especially "message" writers, e.g. Christians, et al) would come up with a moral, and then build an artificial story around it, preaching it into the ground, and thus end up with a horrible story but a great sermon. God Save Us from ourselves.

I'm not sure why those that thought that might happen would be worried. Stories created thusly would never see the light of day. Hopefully the writer might learn a lesson by doing it. Actually, there'd be two lessons learned: (1) writing stories that way (wanting to preach) do not drama or entertainment make. And (2) they might learn something positive about structure in the process.

It is entirely possible to start with the MP first and create a story around it. But my experience in writing is that in doing it that way (MP first) you'll be "searching for inspiration" for the physical story hook. And as the adage goes, you can't search for inspiration, it has to find you.

I'm leading seven Catholic home school teens through a story-writing symposium. We meet once a month for 3 hours, over two years. The first class is all about keeping a journal, and being observant of all sorts of things around you, people, emotions, events, weird characters that you could never invent (truth is stranger than fiction). I show them my box of journals I've kept for over the past 50-years. I crack one open, read a few sentences, and WHAM-O! there's a story from some strange observation I made years ago about a cabbie who couldn't wait to retire so he could go back on the bottle. (Business trip to Milwaukee, 1989)

That's a long way of saying my preference is to look for those crazy, ironic, interesting, intriguing, mystical, alluring events, or people, or situations and out of that craft a physical spine for the protagonist who must do something, attain some goal, etc, but doesn't want to for good reason but must... you know the drill. And once you have the physical story line and it's related (marketing) hook (e.g. ex-nun with a sarcastic wit takes up with gentle, giant biker dude and finds true love on the cross country ride....actually a true story if you know Barbara Nicolosi) --- then go back and contemplate what might be the moral premise at work in that story. AND THEN, build the other characters and their MP goals around the physical hook.

The MP is the subliminal, psychological, under the radar motivation that drives characters to do things. But it's never (in the movie business) the reason someone will go see a movie. The motivation for going to see the movie is the ironic, intriguing physical situation.

BUT, in romance novels could it be that the MP (or some articulation of it) is the hook that attracts readers? I don't know. That's what I hope to learn from you ladies. I'm a guy, what do I know?

That's my preference and opinion on what comes first. But, it really doesn't matter how you get there (we're all wired differently -- see chapter 4 in TMP). I suppose it can be iterative (as you mentioned your example) on a particular project or different from project to project. If you're motivated to write something about "secrets" and how they can both give life and destroy... then it's worth looking for a hook. Other times you'll find that hook -- (roller derby champ takes up with ballroom dancer -- that has me smiling -- (Music, maestro, please: "Which is the boy? Which is the girl? Which one is Blanche? Which one is Roy? What, with the duplicate hair. Just when you kissed Blanche you discover that's Blanche over there." -- Stan Freeberg, Pay Radio Vol 1) -- and work in the other direction and find TMP.