Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Moral Premise

The premise of your novel is a statement or proposition that infers or follows as a conclusion. Premises set up reader's expectation. They look to the usual outcome of the statement or proposition and believe they know how it will end. Twisting a premise offers an unexpected ending that surprises readers sometimes to their dislike and often to their surprise.

If you have never read the short story by Shirley Jackson, The Lottery, you would benefit from doing so.  It is a classic twisted premise and provides an excellent example of how a premise sets up an expectation and how a premise that is not following what is excepted will be a surprise to readers. This often creates a novel that is hard to forget.

The movie and novel The Hunger Games is a story providing a thoughtful commentary on a moral premise. Defining the term, moral premise, in regards to film, Stanley D. Williams, Ph.D, in his book, The Moral Premise, says, "the Moral Premise is what the story is all about at the implicit level, or what a logician might define as the conclusion of the film’s argument. Egri points to Romeo and Juliet's premise: “Great love defies even death;” and to Macbeth’s premise: “Ruthless ambition leads to its own destruction.”
Note that these premises are moral in nature, they naturally make judgments of what is right and wrong, that is, love is right, ruthless ambition is wrong."

The moral premise then deals with morals and values and the basic point of expected truth or conclusion. The video below--about 5 minutes--is a thought-provoking analysis of The Hunger Games. It is well-worth your time not only for his take on the moral premise but learning how a moral premise permeates a story and becomes it's backbone.

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