Secrets of the Morality Genre

Download the Morality Genre Cheatsheet

Do you want to write a story that satisfies your audience by delivering a righteous outcome? Or what about a story that evokes pity from the audience for a flawed protagonist? Or maybe you want your audience to experience contempt for a corrupt character and feel satisfaction when they are punished? If any of these ideas appeal to you as a writer, welcome to the Morality Genre, where selfishness is pitted against altruism and self-sacrifice competes with personal gain. Examining the teachings of Shawn Coyne, Norman Friedman, Abraham Maslow, and Robert McKee has brought me fresh insights into the Morality Genre, and I’ll share them with you here. As a Story Grid Editor, I believe we write better stories when we understand and meet the expectations of genre. Need to get familiar with the Story Grid’s genre categories first? You’ll find a refresher here.

What is a Morality Story?

The Morality story is an arch-plot (Hero’s Journey or Virgin’s Promise) internal genre with a single protagonist whose inner moral compass actively changes (or actively refuses to change) along a spectrum that runs from selfishness to altruism. 

Why write a Morality Story?

According to Shawn Coyne, “We all fall. We all have moments in our lives when we know in our heart of hearts that what we’re doing or have chosen to do is morally corrupt. [Morality] stories inspire us to change course and get back to our better natures.” Audiences are fascinated with the hero-villain. Maybe the hero-villain lets us experience our own politically incorrect fantasies with impunity, effectively liberating us by expressing the dark side we suppress. Maybe seeing wickedness played out triggers moral outrage in us. Morality stories teach us how to make critical evaluations about the trustworthiness of others. They teach us how to improve ourselves, reach a higher level of evolvement, move closer to self-transcendence, be a “good” person, or at least be perceived as such. Writing in the morality genre can be the catalyst to change and to preserving the ideas we hold in esteem. Writers are the most powerful people in the world. We shape how audiences think and what they say. We point audiences in specific directions and, through entertainment or presentation of facts, we occupy their time and thoughts. The world needs a unifying force and Morality stories remind of what we share in common, what we’re here to uphold: do good or suffer the consequences.

How do I write a Morality story?

We might brainstorm an entire first draft or outline and then revisit the genre. Or we might construct the first draft by working directly toward meeting the audience’s expectations of genre and then find ways to innovate upon the tried and tested stories. You can engineer a story with the ideas put forth here or you can use these ideas to examine an improve an already existing story. Either way, if you are careful to integrate the concepts I’m presenting, you’ll have a story structure that works. While it is not necessary to do so, writers often begin with a Controlling Idea. A story’s Controlling Idea (sometimes called the theme) is the lesson you want your reader to come away with. It’s the meaning they will assign to your story. Each of the main content genres has a generic pair of controlling ideas, one if the story is prescriptive–that is a positive story that shows the reader what to do–and one if it’s cautionary–that is a negative story that warns the reader about what not to do. (For everything about Controlling Ideas, see Chapter 34 in The Story Grid book, or The Big Takeaway)

What’s the Controlling Idea of a Morality Story?

If your story is prescriptive, your Controlling Idea is positive. It might look like this: Good triumphs when the Protagonist sacrifices worldly, selfish values in favor of the needs of others. If your story is cautionary, your Controlling Idea is negative. It might look like this: Evil reigns when the Protagonist pursues selfish needs ahead of the needs of others.

The Morality Genre elicits Core Emotions.

Controlling Ideas help the writer elicit Core Emotions from the audience. The Core Emotions of a Morality story are satisfaction, pity, and contempt. Audiences choose Morality stories to experience righteous satisfaction at the proper outcome for the protagonist, whether negative or positive. They want to feel pity for the tested and contempt for the unrepentant but righteous satisfaction when the punishment comes. (See Subgenres) As we see in the Story Grid Gas Gauge of Need, a Morality story arises from the protagonist’s need for self-transcendence. In the words of Abraham Maslow, “Transcendence refers to the very highest and most inclusive or holistic levels of human consciousness, behaving and relating, as ends rather than means, to oneself, to significant others, to human beings in general, to other species, to nature, and to the cosmos. Rainbow pyramid depicting Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs with labels The Morality protagonist’s primary goal isn’t safety, love, or esteem. Their want may be power, riches, control, etc. (status attained or maintained by acts of dominance) but their need is self-transcendence, a shift from corruption and selfishness to altruism and self-sacrifice for others.

Here is how Coyne describes the shift:

Selfishness Masked as Altruism to

Selfishness to

Putting a Single Person’s Wants/Needs Ahead of the Self to

Putting a Group’s/Tribe’s Needs Ahead fo the Self to

Sacrificing the Self to Benefit All of Humanity

Notice that there’s something worse than selfishness in our value shift list. In a Morality story, the “negation of the negation” is Selfishness Masked as Altruism. Being selfish and calling it altruism in pursuit of one’s goal is worse than simply being selfish. It’s the Morality equivalent of damnation.

Genres have Obligatory Scenes.

Coyne describes obligatory scenes as “must-have scenes for paying off readers’ expectations as set up by the conventions of the genre.” If you leave out an obligatory scene, you’ll have a story that probably doesn’t work.

What are the Obligatory Scenes

of the Morality Genre?

Each subgenre has its own Obligatory Scenes but here is what they all have in common:
  • A shock (negative or positive) upsets the hibernating authentic self of the protagonist. Every story has an inciting incident that disrupts the protagonist’s ordinary life. What that incident disrupts depends on the genre. The inciting incident of a Morality story is a challenge to the morals of the protagonist. It must put them under pressure.
  • In overtly refusing the Hero’s Journey call to change, the protagonist expresses inner darkness.
  • The protagonist’s refusal of the call complicates the story and the call comes a second time but in a different form.
  • The protagonist faces an All Is Lost Moment and either discovers their inner moral code or chooses the immoral path. Whether or not the protagonist ultimately accepts the call depends upon the subgenre, the kind of story you want to tell.
  • The big event (climax) of the story is when the protagonist actively sacrifices self in service of an individual, a group, or humanity (positive) or consciously chooses to remain selfish (negative). This Core Event is your main determinant of the subgenre.
  • The protagonist faces literal or metaphorical death and either loses the battle but gains self-respect, meaning, and peace; or wins the battle but loses those things at great sacrifice. In all internal genres, there is a paradoxical ending.

Genres have Conventions.

Coyne explains Conventions as, “elements in the Story that must be there or the reader will be confused, unsettled or so bored out of their skull that no matter how beautiful the sentences, they’ll quit reading. Conventions are not obligatory scenes…they are specific requirements in terms of the Story’s cast or methods in moving the plot forward (minor revelatory turning points that must be there but can be woven into the story at the writer’s discretion).”

What are the Conventions of the Morality Genre?

Each subgenre has its own Conventions but here is what they all have in common:
  • The protagonist has a spiritual mentor or sidekick, for better or worse. This character may lead the protagonist astray or encourage moral behavior.
  • There is a seemingly impossible external conflict. A strong Morality story can generate an external secondary genre naturally by simply meeting this convention.
  • The protagonist is tormented by ghosts/memories/events of their past. Whether they are able to overcome these and make the right choices, in the end, depends upon your subgenre.
  • There is a foil for your protagonist. This is the character who embodies the ideals and attributes opposite of your character. This character exists to show the reader the other path your protagonist could have taken.
  • The protagonist receives assistance from unexpected sources. Some examples are the characters who tell the protagonist “the truth” such as the ghosts in A Christmas Carol and Hamlet, Eldridge calling out James in The Hurt Locker. They can also be the characters who enable the protagonist, like Harling (the protagonist’s drug dealer) in Flight. Note: If you are having trouble writing this one, again look to your secondary external genre and see if you can meet this one through the needs of that story and integrate. It’s always a good idea when you can overlap your Obligatory Scenes and Conventions from your primary with your secondary.

What are the Subgenres of the Morality Genre?


The Redemption story is probably the story you think of when you think of the Morality Genre. When written well, audiences love it. This story stands the test of time. The protagonist starts low and ends high. The protagonist begins by knowingly doing wrong and choosing to mask their weakness with respectability, but ends by making a better choice (becoming virtuous: generous, merciful, honest, faithful, etc.). The protagonist begins in “damnation.” The story can culminate in an internal win, an external win, or both. Other examples of this story are The Scarlet Letter, A Christmas Carol, Casablanca, Kramer vs. Kramer, Terms of Endearment, Rocky, Good Will Hunting, Cars, True Grit, A Slant of Light, American History X, The Hustler, Drugstore Cowboy, and Schindler’s List. I propose there is a second type of Redemption story, where the protagonist doesn’t slide from selfishness to altruism, but where they’re attempting to make amends for a single action for which they feel guilt, shame, and remorse. In this case, the protagonist starts “in the middle” and ends high. An example of this story is the novel and movies The Four Feathers where we meet a British officer, Faversham, at the point where he quits the army instead of going into battle. Once willing to fight for his country, he is disgraced in the eyes of four characters close to him. In the end, he sacrifices himself to save them, proves his altruism, and restores his honor. Other examples of this story are They Came to Cordura, Slingblade, and Seven Pounds.


The protagonist starts either high or low, ends low, and is punished for it. The protagonist begins as the bad guy (cynical, deceptive, complicit, unethical) you’re likely rooting for. An excellent example is The Crying Game where Fergus, a lackluster terrorist with more heart than the other members of his gang, kidnaps a soldier but ends up sacrificing his freedom for the girlfriend of the hostage. The protagonist is essentially an unsympathetic character with repugnant goals (like upholding effectual truth or world domination), admirable only for their strength of will and sophistication (the “Machiavellian” hero-villain), and they suffer a well-deserved misfortune. The protagonist might believe that, in a world filled with bad people, one must learn to be bad. They might believe that our commonly held virtues (secular and/or religious) are incompatible with the skills one must demonstrate to protect those virtues, like a “good soldier” who must kill to protect the freedoms back home. They believe one must be strong and clever in order to succeed. They might believe it is better to be feared than loved. They frame all their choices as the best bad choice rather than irreconcilable goods. The audience follows these scoundrels with interest as they exploit unsuspecting fools, the naive, and overzealous moralists. Most Punitive stories rely on our investment in the shared morals of our current social structure. The protagonist eventually gets what the audience thinks they deserve: being exposed, imprisoned, injured, banished, or killed. The final punishment of the protagonist then returns the audience to a morally acceptable position. Our belief that justice will be done is restored. Examples of this story are Hedda Gabler, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Wall Street, Scarface, and Bonnie and ClydeYou’ll also hear this subgenre in many rap and hip-hop lyrics. Need insight into your punitive character’s thinking? Read The Prince.


There are two types of Testing stories. I like to refer to them as the temptation stories. The plot provides many tests to the willpower and tenacity of the protagonist who has a number of progressively complicating opportunities to uphold their morals or give in to corruption. Here, a moral character is tested to the extreme.


The protagonist starts high and ends high. A moral protagonist is pressured to compromise their principles. Whether by outright corruption or factors such as poverty, misogyny, racial inequality, etc., the protagonist wavers on the edge of the best bad choice decision but ultimately remains steadfast. They understand that compromising their ideals would be easy but it would the wrong choice. Consequently, the character loses significantly in some other way, such as financial, socially, or romantically. Examples of this story are For Whom The Bell Tolls, Goodfellas, and Cool Hand Luke.  Alternatively, the moral but flawed protagonist may choose the wrong path but learns their lesson before it is too late. Friedman calls this the Reform Plot. Examples of this story are The Last Temptation of Christ, Fatal Attraction, and The Scarlet Letter.


The protagonist starts high and ends low. Also known as the Degeneration Plot or the Tragic Plot, this is the story where the good guy goes bad, where a strong protagonist suffers a loss, can’t recover, and finally resigns themself to weakness. This is not a common story. We may think this is an old tale, maybe even a stale one better left to Biblical times, but there are fresh ways to innovate this subgenre. For example, The Surrender story of The Crime of Father Amaro is one of the top grossing films of all time in Mexico. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is considered one of the greatest American films of all time. In more recent times, the act of surrendering is often to some form of addiction or crime ring. Some other examples include The Hurt Locker, Tender Is The Night, Carlito’s Way, and The Godfather.

What about Characterization in a Morality Story?

This is a tough one for many writers. We ask, “How can I write a likable character who has substandard morals?” and “Can a reader have empathy for the bad guy?” Make your protagonist cunning, interesting, charming, intelligent, and/or funny and we’ll follow along. One of my favorite examples of a writer investing us in a character is the film The Crime of Father Amaro. The opening scene is of a young man embarking on a long bus ride into the jungle when suddenly the passengers are robbed by bandits. After the criminals escape, the young man comforts an older man suffering greatly at his loss. The young man gives the sufferer all the money in his wallet, asking nothing in return. We like this guy. We think he’s overly naive and worry something bad is going to happen to him on this dangerous journey. As it turns out, he’s a new priest assigned to an area where his mentor is a jerk and corruption runs deep. Spoiler Alert! By the end of the film, our protagonist has impregnated a young woman, forced her into an illegal abortion that kills her, blamed the tragedy on her ex-boyfriend, shamed him in front of the church, and seized control of the church region from his debilitated mentor. We feel pity and outrage. (Testing/Surrender). Note: In this film, the bad guy gets away with it. Except for possible eternal damnation, he’s not punished. General American audiences hated the ending of this film. It broke from the genre. Another example is the Jack Nicholson character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He’s quick-witted, charming, and he does his best to encourage his fellow patients to be their best selves and look toward freedom. He’s also a pedophile.

What are some companion genres?

At the Story Grid, we suggest pairing the Morality Genre with an external genre. The Morality Genre isn’t a common genre today and perhaps that’s because a majority of audiences tend to prefer more external stories (Love, Action, Crime, etc). Used as a paired genre, you can counter and support an external genre and create some really dynamic plots with more depth, interest, and innovation than writing in only the internal or external genre. Here are some examples: Performance: Rocky, Trading Places, and Whiplash Action: Gran Torino, Cars, American History X Thriller: The Verdict, Slingblade, Fatal Attraction Crime: Gloria, The Godfather, Carlito’s Way, Wall Street, Goodfellas War: The Hurt Locker, The Four Feathers Western: True Grit, They Came to Cordura Love: Seven Pounds, Kramer vs. Kramer, Terms of Endearment

Putting it all together:

Now you know the basics of the Morality Genre and are armed with the tools you need to write better Morality stories. You can meet the expectations of the genre and engineer (or reverse engineer for editing) your story. You can write the narratives that better prepare your audience for the challenges of a well-lived life. Don’t forget to test your protagonist for values of selfishness and altruism and to compare your story to the masterworks (other successful stories in the genre). Check your story against The Story Grid book and the Morality Genre secrets I’ve given here. Use what you learn to edit your work and finish that work-in-progress. The world needs your story. We need hope. Need some extra help completing your manuscript? Grab a spot on my calendar for a free half-hour consultation so we can determine how I can best help you meet your story goals. Interested in other articles I’ve written on genre? Check out these links: Secrets of the Performance Genre, Secrets of the Status GenreSecrets of the Society GenreSecrets of Writing MemoirSecrets of the Crime GenreSecrets of the Worldview GenreSecrets of the War GenreSecrets of the Action GenreSecrets of the Thriller, Part One and TwoSecrets of the Horror Genre , Secrets of the Western Genre, and Secrets of the Love Genre, Secrets of the Big Idea Book, Part One, and Part Two. I wish you the best of luck and hard work with your story.

Download the Morality Genre Cheatsheet

About the Author

Rachelle Ramirez helps writers develop their stories and believes stories are our most important catalyst for change. She received an MA in psychology from Goddard College and attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago's Masters in Creative Writing Program on a merit scholarship. Rachelle served as the executive director for a national writing community before becoming a Story Grid Certified Editor. She is honored to have edited the award-winning fiction of some amazing authors but her favorite work is with first-time novelists and narrative nonfiction writers. She recently edited Shawn Coyne's book, Action Story: The Primal Genre. She is currently writing The Story Grid Guide to Genre with Shawn Coyne and hosting an upcoming season of The Story Grid Podcast. Her forthcoming novel is White Grrrl, Black Sheep. Contact Rachelle to schedule a free 30-minute consultation on your story at
Author Rachelle Ramirez


Jordan McCollum says:

Hi, Rachelle! Great article! Let met see if I’ve got this straight: a morality story, especially a redemption story, might look similar to a worldview > maturation story, but in a maturation story, the protagonist doesn’t realize they’re living life wrong or making bad/unhealthy choices, and in a redemption story, they’re aware they’re living life wrong initially. Is that about right?

Irene Allison says:

Rachelle, this is a wonderful article. Thank you so much! I especially appreciated your thoughts on weaving an external genre into the Morality Global Genre (and some great advice on how to do it). Also very helpful is the breakdown of each of the morality sub-genres and their particular nuances. Thanks too for all the film and novel examples you shared of the different pairings. This is really very helpful.

Recently I’ve seen 2 films on Netflix that focus on the Internal Global Morality Punitive Genre, both with an external “buddy bonding” sub-genre.

One, the Irish film, “A Patch of Fog”, has the protagonist gets his just deserts (and we enjoy the fun and irony of it).

The other, a Scottish film, “Calibre”, has a decent protagonist lose his moral compass and spiral horribly downward.

Both films are brilliantly acted, shot, scripted, and directed. But I must admit that “Calibre” was hard to take, especially seeing this once decent character fall into damnation. It struck me that that might be one of the reasons that the Morality Punitive Genre (with protagonist starting High and finishing Low) is less popular today (we just keep hoping he’ll do better and we feel awful when he doesn’t).

Don’t know if you’ve seen the wonderful film, “A Good Year”. It’s billed as a Romantic Comedy, but I think it’s a Global Genre Morality Redemption story with a secondary external Love genre. The reason I think this is that the protagonist starts out a real crook, gets shaken up and tested in every way, and only after he “sacrifices” everything does he win love. It’s a little gem of a film, extremely well crafted. And this combo of genres really raises the romantic comedy aspects in a very effective way.

Thanks again for you article. I loved it!

Rachelle Ramirez says:

Hello Irene, I have not seen the film, A Good Year. Trust your gut about what story stays on top. I hope you;re moving forward on your work.

cap10voodoo says:

Thanks for the great insights into the Morality genre. Learned some important keys.

After reading The Story Grid and going over genre, I’m a bit confused on what a thriller really is. Is the movie Sling Blade a thriller? In The Story Grid, the focus on crime thriller throws me for a loop. There are a lot of obligatory scenes like ‘hero at the mercy of the villian’ that are mentioned, so my guess is some of these scenes are crime specific. If this is the case, what are the strictly obligatory scenes for a thriller without the sub-genre Crime? It almost seems like any genre could have thriller elements.

Rachelle Ramirez says:

Interesting that you should ask this question. I’ve been poking the Thriller Genre myself. It’s a mash-up between crime, horror, and action. Sometimes I think it shouldn’t be a genre in and of itself and should be a subgenre of Crime. I’ll upset Thriller writers with that idea and I don’t want to negate the role these great stories play, it’s just that the obligatory scenes, conventions,value shifts, etc are pretty similar in each genre. I’ll work on a Secrets of the Thriller Genre for an upcoming post. Yes, Slingblade is a Morality (internal genre) story and a Thriller (external genre). They work great together. Is that what you are writing?

Rachelle Ramirez says:

Check out my new blog post on the Crime Genre.

And here are some ideas of how the Crime Genre differs from the Thriller Genre:

Crime’s core emotions are intrigue and security. Values range from tyranny to injustice to justice.

Thriller’s core emotions are excitement and fear. Values range from life to death to damnation.

The Obligatory Scenes of Crime differ from that of the Thriller.

The core event of the Crime story is the criminal is exposed, brought to justice, or gets away with the crime (caper,/heist). The core event of the Thriller, is the “Hero at the Mercy of the Villain.” It’s the All is Lost Moment when the protagonist unleashes their inner gift.

Unlike Crime stories, the Thriller has a False Ending. There must be two endings in the Thriller.

In the Thriller, there is an All-Is-Lost scene in which the protagonist sees the antagonist as unbeatable. In a Crime story, there may be a speech in praise of the antagonist but they are not necessarily viewed as unbeatable.

In the Thriller, there is a clear “point of no return;” the moment when the protagonist knows they can never go back to the way things used to be with a precise moment when the protagonist’s world is knocked out of alignment. In Crime, the protagonist might not meet this convention.

The core event of the Thriller is the victim at the mercy of the villain scene rather than the exposure of the criminal or the solving of the puzzle.

In the Thriller, there is a scene where the protagonist becomes the final Victim. They may or may not stay alive. Not necessarily the case in Crime.

How do Crime Conventions differ from those of the Thriller?

In the Thriller, the atmosphere is portrayed in considerable detail, becoming alive and immediately threatening meant to create excitement and fear. Not always the case in a Crime story. In a Crime story, the setting is often what determines the subgenre rather than the mood of the story.

In the Thriller, the protagonist is actively trying to stay alive by rendering the antagonist useless, rather than in Crime, where the protagonist is trying to solve or pull-off a crime.

In a Thriller, lives depend on the protagonist’s defeat of the villain. A Crime story is about bringing the antagonist to justice for a crime already committed or getting away with a crime. In Crime, justice being served may or may not overtly prevent future crimes.

While a Crime story contains elements of suspense (suspense is a form of narrative drive where the audience and the character know the same amount at the same time), The Thriller centers around suspense and the audience is kept in perpetual discomfort because the villain seems to attack randomly and never rests. Crime stories rely more on tension (tension results from the unresolved story events and unfulfilled wants and needs of the protagonist as the result of conflict.)

Editor Tip: For creating tension, create a protagonist who can’t refuse to act due to the cost of inaction (internal or external) and consequences for acting. This is the “best bad choice” challenge that forms the crisis of scenes, sequences, acts, and the global story.

In a Thriller, the antagonist can’t be reasoned with. They are intent on annihilation, devastation, or power at the expense of others. In a Crime story, an antagonist’s reasoning ability is irrelevant. They may even admit to their crimes and express remorse after being exposed.

The protagonist is the final victim in the Thriller. In Crime, the protagonist doesn’t necessarily become a life and death victim. They only need be manipulated by the antagonist.

In a Thriller, the villain must make their actions personal for the protagonist. The villain needs the protagonist to get the MacGuffin and thus must victimize the protagonist to get what they want. In Crime, the protagonist doesn’t necessarily become a victim.

In the Crime story, the antagonist must be brought to justice or the protagonist must complete their attempt at committing a caper/heist. In a Thriller, justice can mean death, banishment, or imprisonment rather than exposure of the criminal. In a Thriller, the antagonist can get away (injustice), especially in a series, but the protagonist must be out of immediate danger with some sense of victory (win but lose, win for now).

Faith Nelson says:

Thank you Rachel. I came to this article quite late but I am so stoked. We (Beth Mitchell, Kara Veeder and I) just foolscapped the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid for the kid lit group in LUYC. We were split on the internal genre. I was pretty sure the internal genre was Society Worldview Maturation. Kara and Beth thought we really needed to look at Morality Testing as well. Wow. After your article, I am revising my opinion. At least, there is a strong case for both internal genres – Worldview Maturation and Morality Testing. The story has the foil you just talked about, the numerous failed morality tests, the torment around the cheese on the basketball court, the funny protagonist aspiring to be ‘cunning’ and famous and so on. The only thing that isn’t nicely wrapped up is whether it’s Morality Testing Triumph or Morality Testing Surrender. Do you read kid lit at all? If yes, have your read the first in the Wimpy Kid series? I am trying to fit our foolscap over this article. That’s the only area where it’s a bit off. Thanks for the wonderful article. Story Grid editors Rock!!!

Rachelle Ramirez says:

I haven’t read all of the books but here is my take. Diary of a Whimpy Kid, book one, is a genre meld and this is why it’s confusing. It begins as a Status/Sentimental story, transitions to a Worldview/Maturation story, dives into a Morality story, floats back to the first two and ends on both Morality and Worldview/Maturation. The chaotic feel you get from the book is partially created by this. The rest is pacing and the tropes the writer borrowed from the Action Genre. Almost every story for this age group has a structural framework of Worldview. So, if my life depended on it and I had to pick a genre I’d still have a tough time with the first book. I’d say the overall series is a primary Worldview/Maturation plot with a secondary Status/Sentimental Genre. Why? The story uses the tropes of an action story without the threat of actual death. The threat is social death (pretty much the same to a tween or teen) which is from Status. You can read more about the Status story in my blog at
Let’s keep in mind that every book in this series is different. Some lean more toward morality (book one) and some lean more toward Status or even Love/Courtship (buddy love included). I can’t imagine a series being a Morality series because we’d just lose patience with the rotten kid and we need to see him redeemed. Greg is moving up the hierarchy of needs in each book, 2 steps forward and one step back. Morality is a kid knowing his choices are wrong but demonstrating the behavior anyway. Greg doesn’t fit this picture throughout the series. He keeps making mistakes. He doesn’t do what we want him to do so that he moves toward meeting his need and he keeps working toward his want. He needs to grow up. Here is my post on the Worldview Genre: I’d look specifically at the inciting incident and the climax and compare the two for the character’s change. Best of luck in your group.

brainnoms says:

Hi Rachelle,

Thank you so much for such a great article! I’ve been trying to figure out what kind of story mine is for a while now, and after reading this, I think I’ve hit the mark (Morality-Redemption tied with Action-Rebellion/clock).

One question I had about the obligatory scenes above is how the second call to change correlates to things like the all is lost and final climax. You mention that the call comes in a different form, but I’m not sure what that means. For example, if the first time they have a chance to help someone, they don’t, would the second time being able to help the same person in a different way or would it be another chance to help someone else in a similarly unselfish manner? Does the second call align more with crossing the threshold, or is it closer to the All is Lost moment, or even climax? I’m going to get Gran Torino and Good Will Hunting from the library, but was hoping you might be able to provide some examples/dive in a little more.

Again, thank you so much for such a thorough article. I only started working with the Story Grid within the last couple months and it has already changed my writing life in a significant, all positive, and irrevocable manner.

Thank you!


Rachelle Ramirez says:

Hello Abby, It’s great to hear the article was helpful. You’re on the right track. After the protagonist refuses the first call, something progressively more complicated happens (2nd call) and forces them to accept the challenge/adventure. The acceptance if this call launches the middle build. It is how they cross the threshold. Welcome to the Story Grid tribe.

damian frizzell says:

Hi Rachelle, thanks for your great article. I was all firmly fixed on my first draft being a Status Genre story (your other informative article) but now I’ve been reading this I’m not sure. Am I correct that they have many similarities? Is it just case of me perhaps picking one and sticking to it? Could these too genres (Morality and Status) be weaved together as companion genres – and if so, should one be more dominant than the other?
Thanks! Damian

Rachelle Ramirez says:

Hello Damian. Yes. There are a lot of similarities and they can overlap. But choosing one as the internal is important. If you’d like to get on the phone and chat about your story, I’d be happy to do so for a free half-hour consultation. We should be able to clearly determine your genre and the overlap in that call. You could also ask specific questions here and I will respond within 24 hours. I’d be happy to help.

Damian Frizzell says:

a call would be great thanks! I assume I just specify I want to speak to you on the )‘schedule a call’ form? (Also I’m in the UK…does that matter? Thanks

Rachelle Ramirez says:

Most of the Story Grid Editors do a free half-hour consultation. You can go through Story Grid or shortcut to our individual websites. I am at We do Zoomchat or Skype for international calls.


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