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Nothing currently scheduled as I'm producing a romantic comedy ANNALIESE! ANNALLIESE!. See Storycraft Training link at left for the on-ling verion of my 2-3 day workshop.

"The most powerful tool in my new tool box."
Will Smith

"A total game changer. The Moral Premise gets your story (and all your characters) working for you, instead of the other way around."
Michael Jann, Sr. Writer, Tonight Show with Jay Leno

"The Moral Premise dares to suggest that movies might actually mean something."
Chris Vogler, "The Writer's Journey"

"Thanks for the great book. I will recommend it to all my classes."
Blake Snyder, WGA, Author "Save the Cat"

"An incredibly practical and helpful tool that should be taught in every film school."
Marianne & Cormac Wibberley, WGA (National Treasure and National Treasure: Book of Secrets)

"Stan, You are a light and an incredible gift! Thank you for your insight and innovation.The Moral Premise: It's Amazing!"
DeVon Franklin, VP, Sony Entertainment
Author, "Produced by Faith."

"Should be required reading, retroactively, for every working Hollywood screenwriter."
Brian Bird, WGA, Producer

"Thank you, thank you, thank you for your wonderful Moral Premise, and for all you've done for me and my writing, Stan."
Tamera Alexander, Novelist

"This is really an important book."
Derek Rydall "The Script Doctor"

"Drop all of your 'to-do' lists, get this book, and curl up for the read of your screenwriting lifetime."
Dave Anderson, President, Compass Film Academy

Aspiring or working screenwriters - I have a tip for you. Buy the THE MORAL PREMISE by Stanley D. Williams and read it twice.
Paul Lalonde, Chairman, Cloud Ten Pictures

"More than a must-read; it is groundbreaking."
Curt LaLonde

More Endorsements >>


Workshop Comments from Past Participants





Michael Wiese Productions is the publisher of over 100 books on the film trade and enjoys a good reputation in Hollywood as well as worldwide distribution. Perhaps their most successful book to date is Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. In Michael's first email to Stan with his offer, he wrote:
You've written a tremendous book. I know this because half the book is covered with my own scribblings and ideas generated from your book ABOUT MY OWN SCRIPT. (It's always about the reader. If you provide value - you have a hit.) This doesn't happen to me very often. It's the same thing that happened to me when I read the outline for Chris Vogler's The Writer's Journey that has sold well over 100,000 books. So that's my litmus test! I love your book and would be honored to be its publisher!

Overbrooks Entertainment

Stanley, The Moral Premise is the most powerful tool in my new tool box. The quality of my future films will be largely affected by YOU! Uh-oh...wait... what if they are not good?? OH well.. it's all on you!

Sr. Writer, Tonight Show with Jay Leno

This book was a total game changer for me. I thought being a successful joke writer would automatically lead to great screenplays. (It doesn't!) I’d heard script doctors talk about “theme”, and my eyes always glazed over. But Stan’s brilliant insight (and simple tools) opened my eyes wide for the first time to why we love certain films, why they resonate so deeply in us. The Moral Premise gets your story (and all your characters) working for you, instead of the other way around.

Screenwriters: National Treasure and National Treasure: Book of Secrets

The Moral Premise breaks theme down to its basic parts and then shows writers how to attack every scene using those parts. It's an incredibly practical and helpful tool that should be taught in every film school.

Author of the best selling explanation of Joseph Campbell's mythic hero concept used in movies: The Writer's Journey, Story Consultant, Lecturer, Wrote Foreword to The Moral Premise

In this dismal age in which we seem to have thrown away the moral compass, somebody seems to have found it again. I jump up and down in my classes and in Hollywood story meetings about the desperate desire of the audience for entertainment that embodies some moral principles, some guidelines for ethical living, some prescription for a healthier world and a saner life. The Moral Premise dares to suggest that movies might actually mean something, that they can be more than the brain candy that passes for amusement today. It brings us back to the vital first principles that used to make the movies an important part of our lives, and I recommend it for all those who want to bring depth and meaning into their writing.

WGA Screenwriter, Popular Workshop Lecturer, Author: "Save the Cat," "Save the Cat Goes to the Movies", "Save the Cat Strickes Back".

Hey Stan, just wanted you to know I received your book from Amazon and am enjoying it immensely. As a working writer for 20 years I can attest to the "elephant in the room" in many studio notes meetings on scripts -- that elephant is moral clarity -- and though we might not say its name, it's right there staring at us in the balance of right vs. wrong. How many disccusions have I been in where the "justice" meted out in a story is deemed either too harsh or too soft? -- and we all know it! How do we know? All of us, from different backgrounds, all attesting to the immutable laws that govern us as human beings? I think it is our job to promote the telling of what that means because it is our mission! It also just plain WORKS - ha! - my screenwriter side also knows that it's just better entertainment! When you hit those marks of transformation, and show how the "transformation machine" of Act Two demarcates the trip, you touch people at a very deep and satisfying level. Ours is really a noble pursuit. We storytellers wield a lot of power. So nice to be on track with it, and use that power wisely. This stuff comes from God. We are only the transmitters of the message, it's why inspiration can be tuned into, if we know where to look... and admit we're not in charge! Thanks for getting in touch and thanks for the great book; I will recommend it to all my classes!

Novelist-Screenwriter: USA Today Bestselling Author of over 50 books

I attended a Moral Premise workshop a few years ago, and the information Stan presented transformed my writing. His Story Diamond is the first resource I go to when plotting my books. Recently I hired Stan to help me with a script and with one phone call my co-author and I found a new, exciting direction to take our project. I can't recommend Stan enough!

Writer-Director & Chairman, Cloud Ten Pictures.

Hi Stan. I just wanted to take a second to let you know how much I have enjoyed your book and more recently your blog.  I have become a devoted reader, and of the hundred plus screenwriting books on my shelf (and now on my ipad) yours is the most dogeared and highlighted.  I am working on a script right now for a movie that will be going into production some time next year and I believe TMP will not only make it a much, much better story, but it has also saved me thousands of hours of the hardest work there is... thinking. Our new movie is aiming for a wide theatrical release. Again, my trusty copy of the MORAL PREMISE will be at my side throughout. Thanks for your insights. God Bless. [On his FACEBOOK PAGE, Paul wrote: "Aspiring or working screenwriters - I have a tip for you. Buy the THE MORAL PREMISE by Stanley D. Williams and read it twice."]

Film Script Advisor and Consultant,

The information and material you present should classify as fundamental knowledge to every movie maker and writer.

Writer/Producer/Director, Professor, Chair, Writing Division, Broadcast Education Association

The Moral Premise is a thought-provoking tool for storytellers in every medium, a cogent authority for the understanding of affective storytelling, and is a goldmine of foundational materials with valuable nuggets for teachers and students alike.

President, Grace Hill Media, Studio City, CA.

Stan Williams has hit the nail on the head — films with wide appeal that stand the test of time all have a moral center. If only more writers would learn that sooner. The Moral Premise can't come out soon enough!

WGA Screenwriter, Story Consultant, Screenwriting Instructor, Attorney, Author: "The 3RD Act: Writing a Great Ending to your Screenplay"

Stan, Thanks for introducing me to The Moral Premise - I'll never write the same way again!

WGA Screenwriter, Director: "Levity," "Men in Black," "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure,"

The Moral Premise is insightful, thought-provoking, and unique. I wish more people were writing the kinds of things Stan is writing. It's a much-needed, fresh approach to the art and craft of writing.

Producer, "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi,"Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Demolition Man"

A great overview of how to structure a story, and a very interesting look at story writing for the screen or novel.

WGA Screenwriter/producer, "Bopha!," "Call Me Claus," "Touched By An Angel"

Really good stuff. Stan Williams has created a new bible for screenwriters in The Moral Premise. Should be required reading, retroactively, for every working Hollywood screenwriter, and the primer on which every aspiring new scribe cuts his teeth. Cause and effect... motive behind every action... the apple in Eve's hand... the basic elements in the giant continuing narrative that is the universe."

Screenwriter, Hijacking Hollywood

This is terrific! Stan Williams book does what an undergrad and graduate education in film could not: distill what makes a movie "good" into a concise, workable theory that guides every scene. I've read all the major screenwriting texts from Field and McKee to Seger and Cooper and, though they won't tell you this up front, their methods are all based on the script containing a solid moral premise. I wish I had this book back in film school. It would have saved me untold hours of agony trying to salvage scripts that had one simple, yet fatal flaw; they lacked a moral premise.

Associate Publisher, Creative Screenwriting Magazine.

Don't let the Ph.D. throw you – Williams has created an accessible, functional overview of classic and contemporary theories of dramatic writing. Screenwriters who strive to present the higher ideal of what mankind can achieve will appreciate his analysis of films that have succeeded on both moral and commercial levels. This is exactly what's needed in a post-9/11 society – encouragement for screenwriters and filmmakers to touch the minds and hearts of a global marketplace with positive inspiration for the collective good.

Sr. V.P. Programming, Hallmark Channel

Insightful, clear, concise and enriched with many examples, The Moral Premise analyzes the structure of successful screenplays and shows the reader how to do it yourself -- act by bloody act. Read it. With its help, vanquish fear, stoke your hope and write your story.

WGA Writer: "Little John," Hallmark Hall of Fame, CBS; Film Professor, California State University, Northridge.

A wonderful book on screenwriting. Dr. Williams has written has synthesized the wisdom of classic and modern theories of good dramatic writing into an interesting and useful process of developing screenplays of impact and depth. A careful reading of The Moral Premise provides writers with useful tools to write powerful scripts of value and impact. The screenwriter may also enjoy the benefit of applying this insightful material to their personal life with benefit. The Moral Premise is a welcome addition to the literature of dramatic writing. A valuable read for the novice. An enriching read for the pro. I think it is terrific.

Screenwriter; President, Compass Film Academy

Stan Williams has crafted what will inevitably become the must read for both new and intermediate screenwriters and novelists. The Moral Premise gives those of us who teach film, those of us who write screenplays, and those of you who aspire to become a story-crafter, a refreshing and powerful new perspective to the essential themes that surround the basic value drivers in any – better yet – in ALL great story-telling and story-writing. Drop all of your "do do" lists – get this book, and curl up for the read of your screenwriting lifetime. And for those who are helping the next generation of writers to get their "leg up" in this crazy business – I predict this book will be at the top of your recommended reading lists.

Writer/Director, "Moontrap," "Timequest"

The Moral Premise" provides a figurative "slap-on-the-forehead" followed by an "of course!" It's a complementary "Rossetta Stone," like Chris Vogler's "The Writer's Journey," to guiding a writer through the process of effective story telling. I read The Moral Premise as a favor to my friend, Stan Williams, but when I finished the book — in record time assuming they keep records for such accomplishments — I realized that it was Stan who had done me the favor. I strongly recommend that all screenwriters (past and future) allow Dr. Williams to share with them the same eye opening experience he gave me.

Associate Professor and Director Media Arts and Studies, Department of Communication, Wayne State University, Film and television theorist, critic, and author.

The Moral Premise is a real gift to teachers and students of storytelling in any medium. It positions the modern writer into the history of storytellling and narrative theory, even as it reviews and evaluates strategies for the writing process. Williams offers many examples from contemporary films, exercises for developing, identifying, and structuring a story's premise, and concrete strategies for the writing process. Most significantly, The Moral Premise focuses on the importance of a valid premise and the consistency with which that premise appears in the story's spine, in each of its characters' arcs, and in each and every scene and act.

Assistant Professor, Communication and Theater, Spring Arbor University

Exceedingly helpful for anyone wrestling with the process of story-telling for both the screen and the stage. Filled with examples of the dominant role played by the overarching moral premise. Impressively well-researched, a veritable single source reference on the long history of story-telling. His argument, though many pronged, has one objective: to stab the reader with the strikingly simple, but sometimes unsettling notion that the "moral premise" of a story is central to its resonating power. His argument should be part of the working knowledge of any storyteller. A helpful and informative resource that I will use for my courses in playwriting and screenwriting.

Professor of Theology and Culture, Fuller Theological Seminary; Co-Director Reel Spirituality Institute; Author: "Reel Spirituality: Theology and Film in Dialogue"

The Moral Premise – theme, spiritual spine, controlling idea, hidden (universal) truth, emotional through-line, informing vision – call it what you will! All effective stories have it. Williams helps film writers and critics alike understand the heart of a story. Given its strong blend of theory, illustration and practical suggestion, Williams' book is important reading for screenwriters, film makers and even film critics.

Screenwriter, Author: "A Matrix of Meanings"; Chair, Film/TV/Radio, Biola University

A well-argued, well-researched tool (and fuel!) for creating vital screenplays. Stan Williams connects box office success to enduring human virtues. The Moral Premise provides a guiding principle to drive you from Fade In to the closing credits.

Founder, Motion Picture Institute Film School. Director: The Rain, Dark Heaven, Hellmaster

In The Moral Premise, Dr. Williams does for content what Syd Field did for structure. The book's "premise" is quite simply that behind every successful film there IS a formula. For those who claim that a "predictable hit" is an oxymoron, The Moral Premise proves them wrong. The Moral Premise could very well be the "holy grail" of screenwriting. To crack the code I strongly advise you read this book. The Moral Premise is an important and purposeful text that every one of tomorrow's filmmakers needs today!

Ethics Specialist. Author, "What Do You Stand For?"

Each of us has a need to make our lives matter. We strive to lead better lives through the positive examples of others. Their struggles inspire us to live out of our highest aspirations. Stan's "Moral Premise" causes us to ponder our own principles, and realize that the pursuit of virtue not only leads to hope, but to a life that matters.

Writer, Editor, September 14, 2006, From Customer Reviews


This book is not only a must-read; it is groundbreaking. Dr. Stan Williams has uncovered the blueprint for creating successful screenplays and film treatments like no one has done before and willingly shares the precious details with readers. While the book appears to be initially written for screenwriters and film makers as a primary audience, the concepts and strategies Dr. Williams carefully walks through have implications for so many other things including the art of storytelling, training and education, business and marketing and much more.

After first providing a conceptual understanding of how the moral premise plays a major role in successful stories and films, the author dives much deeper and provides you with the DNA to create your own success. Just as the most memorable stories and movies seem to withstand the test of time, the concepts, intricate formulas and methods in this book are also likely to withstand the test of time for many years to come.

San Diego, CA; From Customer Reviews

WHY I LOVE THE MORAL PREMISE - September 11, 2006.

Most respected screenwriting books acknowledge the fundamental need for movies to embody a theme, one which expresses a truth about our human condition and provides the cornerstone for a story's unified action. This concept is crucial for a story's success at the box office, and audiences can easily sense when it is lacking. Dr. Williams dives into this screenwriting tradition by consolidating the various manifestations of the "theme" idea, emerging with the Moral Premise concept that elucidates the heart of a story better than any of its conceptual predecessors.

Oddly enough, Williams' simple but powerful Moral Premise idea brings back the old ideas of virtue and vice. These two concepts have long been pariahs in our culture; stashed away for fear their use would bring back the totalitarianism of an objective standard for right living. The loss has been ours. Dr. Williams illustrates the power these concepts hold in helping us to understand the psychological spine of stories, which under girds and drives the external action of all stories. I believe that it is imperative for the aspiring screenwriter to understand the psychological spine of stories through the Moral Premise concept, and it is equally important to heed the practical steps Dr. Williams illustrates for the incorporating it into stories. The Moral Premise provides the storywriter with a deep source of unity, design, and inspiration for their stories. I encourage all writers to tap into this source.

Chicago, IL; From Customer Reviews

IN ONE WORD... I read an interview with Stanley Williams wherein he claimed his concept of a moral premise would provide a more dynamic story for both screen AND fiction writers. Game as I am for a lesson in how to improve my writing, I purchased THE MORAL PREMISE and afforded it the opportunity to wow me.

The result? [in one world] WOW!

This book is fantastic. THE MORAL PREMISE doesn't advocate a religious or moral lifestyle for the writer who would apply the ideas therein. What it does push, however, is the idea that the truly great stories have at its core a moral premise, a statement that amounts to nothing more than a conflict of two opposing values. It can be as simple as, "Bigotry leads to injustice, but equality leads to justice." You then structure your story around this one premise, with every character playing to either end of the spectrum. The end result is a bigger sense of purpose instilled in your story that will move your audience in ways that most books/movies don't accomplish.

That's just the nutshell version of the technique; trust me when I say it's much more layered. And yet, it's not difficult to grasp or execute; I've already applied it to my stories with phenomenal results. Williams does front load the book with theory, as most writing books do, but his theory proves to be riveting as he constantly fuses it with practical application. Probably more important is that he backs up his findings by analyzing a ton of movies. In this way, you learn that much quicker how to correctly incorporate a moral premise into your story. I give THE MORAL PREMISE 10 stars, and highly recommend it if you want to take your story to the next level.

Script editor extraordinaire" (Belgium), From Customer Reviews


Before Syd Field, Lajos Egri was one of the most influentiual screenwriting gurus - except he never intended to be. Writing about theatre plays, Egri developed the `premise' as his main writing tool, a three-word phrase, which contains the theme of the play (for instance: love conquers all). Keeping this premise in mind, the writer makes sure that every scene expresses this theme in some way.

Williams updates and adjusts this theory to screenwriting. His contention is that the most successful scripts use a premise which is a moral truth. Updating the concept, he expands it by focussing on both a virtue and a vice (virtue leads to x, but vice leads to y). In this way, the writer focuses on the conflict between the two values, and avoids getting lost on the thematic level. Williams provides eight steps for structuring your story material, which includes choosing the virtue and vice, determining the arcs for the protagonist, antagonist and main secondary characters, and then determining the dramatic beats to support them. At the end, you'll have most of your story figured out.

The Moral Premise is an interesting, theme-driven approach to screen writing. A few points to keep in mind though: moral laws vary enormously from culture to culture, so this system should be most effective for `domestic' (i.e. culturally related) markets. In some cases, it's pretty hard to relate the premise to the main storyline, as in the original Die Hard. And some huge box office hits revel in amoral, even immoral themes.

Salt Lake City, Utah; From Customer Reviews


Describes the reason why stories are told and retold, and reveals what makes one story a classic and another a waste of time. Williams provides a clear theory for analyzing stories in any medium, as well as a usable methodology for creating a plot skeleton. Other story theory books dwell upon teaching the reader how to use software or narrowly focus on the meta-myth. This text explains how to find the soul of the story and how to verify that it "speaks a universal truth".

An excellent reference for anyone hoping to write or improve the quality of their writing.

Derek Rydall
Founder,",, Author of "The Script Doctor", "There's No Business Like Soul Business," "I Could've Written a Better Movie than that!",, From Customer Reviews


This is really an important book. In an age where so many people are distracted by what's on the surface of entertainment and media, this book reminds us that the real reason we make and watch movies -- and in many cases, the real benefit of them -- is the underlying moral premise (or 'message') of the story.

Like life, what's being said and shown on the surface, is rarely what it's really about. The true hero's journey is an inner one, a psychological, emotional, spiritual adventure from one state of character to another. And all the obstacles and struggles of the story aren't there merely to create more action and entertainment, but rather to peel away the layers of the character, to dramatize the 'moral premise' of the piece, and ultimately transform the character and (hopefully, in some small way) the audience.

What Dr. Stanley Williams does in his great book, THE MORAL PREMISE, is show us how this is done in film. What he also does is show us how this same idea has been taught (and is being taught) by all the major teachers on story -- from Socrates to Syd Field.

More than anything, what I personally appreciate and agree with in this book is that most films of enduring quality and success have at their center this moral premise. At a time where it seems as if the studios are looking for ways to create bigger and bigger FX extravaganzas, this book reminds us (and hopefully them) that it is the heart and soul of story, not the special effects, big bugets, or even A-list stars, that make a film great and, in many cases, commercially successful.

Read this book. And make your stories, no matter the genre, as clear and meaningful as you can!

Asst. Publisher,, From Customer Reviews.


I cannot say how glad I am that this book was written. Anyone who calls themselves a filmmaker (or a movie reviewer) should be required to read this book. At a time when we are spending so much money on movies, we are sorely uneducated on what makes a truly good or bad film.

While this book may not be for everybody, you will not be disappointed if you do get it. There is a lot of material and it is deep, but it is also easy to follow. It is not overly technical and asks nothing more than the reader having an open mind and a strong interest in good movies..."

Romance Novelist, Seekerville.

I wanted to tell you that I realized as I was judging the "RITA" contest for romance authors, the difference between a nice book and a wonderful read was how well the moral premise was woven into the fabric of the story. The skill and art of that made a huge difference to me and while it's something I always 'knew', it wasn't something I could name. But that was it, in a nutshell. The intricacy of a story well-told no matter what the topic is huge to a reader. Thank you for advising us in Seekerville, and to let you know that your thoughts and lessons really do have an effect.

Screenwriter/teacher/columnist, HollywoodLitSales, From Customer Reviews

A must read for any screenwriter. Stan Williams does an outstanding job of cutting through what you think your screenplay is about and getting to the heart of what your screenplay is REALLY about.

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