Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Romance Writers & The Moral Premise

A few blogs ago I wrote about Myra Johnson and her "gang" of romance writers. Well, I didn't know they were a gang then, just a few I thought. Then she asked  me to be a guest blogger for Seekerville, the blog site for The Seekers, "a group of fifteen unpublished and newly published Christian writers."

The first writer on their bio list, Mary Connealy, "writes romantic comedy with cowboys."  She's married to a Nebraska rancher. Yep, they sure do sound like a posse out hunting for .... romance. This should be fun, a few are sending me romance novels they've published, for me to read before I write for them.

Myra was kind enough to send along a couple of links to Seekerville Blog posts that referenced The Moral Premise. One was a Guest Post by their agent Natasha Kern where she shares her critical understanding of novel story structure and elements. It's a very enlightening read, and about mid way she has some nice things to say about TMP.

Aside from TMP, however, she gives stellar advice to all writers about lessons that need repeatedly to be learned.
There are two that I am always harping on to writers, but here Natasha shares these pearls with fresh words: Here is a description of how a commercial novel is structured from Dean Koontz:
(1) The author introduces a hero (or heroine) who has just been or is about to be plunged into terrible trouble. (2) The hero attempts to solve his problems, only slips into deeper trouble. (3) As the hero works to climb out of the hole he’s in, complications arise, each more terrible than the one before, until it seems as if his situation could not possibly be blacker or more hopeless than it is—and then one final unthinkable complication makes matters even worse. In most cases, these complications arise from mistakes or misjudgments the hero makes while struggling to solve his problems, mistakes and misjudgments which result from the interaction of faults and virtues that make him a unique character. (4) At last, deeply affected and changed by his awful experiences and by his intolerable circumstances, the hero learns something about himself or about the human condition in general, a Truth of which he was previously ignorant, and having learned this lesson, he understands what he must do to get out of the dangerous situation in which he has wound up. He takes the necessary actions and either succeeds or fails, through he succeeds more often than not, for readers tend to greatly prefer fiction that has an uplifting conclusion.
 Then this description of the protagonist:
The protagonist(s) of a novel must meet certain criteria in whatever conventional or odd ways is true to them. Each must:
be bigger than life in some way, have a special quality
be admirable in some or many ways
be likable and competent
be worthy of the reader's respect and interest
be emotionally engaging for the reader
be committed by necessity and character to achieving a goal
be unable to walk away from conflict, challenges and trials (motivation)
be the initiator of the action of the novel
have fewer allies than enemies; have a rough row to hoe from beginning to end
create change and be changed by the events of the novel in an emotionally charged and logical way through each plot turn and challenge
learn something that will provide an ‘aha’ for the reader
There is plenty more, and here's the link again to Natasha's post that I've titled: Keys to Successful Novels, and then the link to the Natasha Kern Literary Agency.

Here are some highlights from the comments sections about TMP (this is the paid commercial):
Everybody, PLEASE get yourselves a copy of The Moral Premise right away. Natasha recommended it to me a few weeks ago, and I devoured the book in two days, highlighting important points on every page.

Of course, now I look at every novel, TV show, and movie with an eye for the underlying moral premise. Sometimes it's obvious, other times not so much.

But between Natasha's explanation and Williams' book, it's like finally discovering the key to a fundamental principle of writing that I somehow always knew but forgot how to use. (Myra Johnson)
 Later Julie Lessman:
I am currently reading The Moral Premise at Natasha's suggestion as well, and on the first four or six pages, ideas how to improve my latest manuscript started popping up so fast that I was scribbling them down on napkins, church bulletins (I read it in the car while my husband drives). I cannot say enough about this book, and as Mary told me, it will change how you look at writing AND watching movies!
Later Julie wrote a post LESSONS OF THE WOODSHED - AN AUTHOR'S JOURNEY TO TRUE NORTH. In Lesson No. 2 she discusses TMP. Then there are the numerous compliments in the comments section of the post.

Ladies, I'm thrilled that your posse found the book, and it has helped your writing. I look forward to reading some of what you've written...if I can wrestle the books away from my wife, Pam.


Myra Johnson said...

A "posse," eh? Never quite thought of ourselves that way! More like a band of Survivors who help each other escape "Unpubbed Island."

We are all so looking forward to having you visit Seekerville in a few months, Stan! And we really, really appreciate the kind mention on your blog!

Hope you (and your wife) enjoy our novels!

Mary Connealy said...

I'm sending a book. I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for mentioning Seekerville.

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Mary's comment reminded me to mention that I'm sending a book as well.

Thanks for mentioning Seekerville.


Stan Williams said...

Dear Seekers...I don't have your list, so maybe Myra will pass this offer on for me. Now, while I'm not promising to read all the novels sent to me by October...I will read parts of all that are sent... and then I'll make you a deal. I'll trade you. One of your books for a David Lewis Crawford DOUBLE DOG DARE CD's that I produced last fall. Very funny family songs about kids and spouses.... the fodder for good stories. Perhaps you know a way to help me promote David's great songs and witty family-kid lyrics. I pitch him as Glen Campbell meets Alan Sherman (of Hello Fatder, Hello Mutder.) Be sure to send me an address so I can mail you the CD and lyric booklet. Check out his website here: More pictures and all the lyrics in advance at the Press Kit linnk.