This post is intended to be the sequel to Story Concept—What is it and Why is it Important? If you haven’t read that yet, you can find it at https://hineswriter.wordpress.com/2016/05/13/story-concept-what-is-it-and-why-is-it-important/.
This will be the conclusion of my tiny series (Two posts) on what I like to call “pre-story structure.” I call it that simply because it is such a pain to fix after your story is written, or even while your story is in the works. This is the stuff that should come first.
So what is story premise? According to Larry Brooks, whose book, Story Fix: Transform Your Novel from Broken to Brilliant, I will continue to use in this post, story premise is, “The vision for the story, without which you end up in chaos, hosting a wrestling match between your ideas and inspiration.”
So it’s important. But what is it?
If you’ve read my post on Story Concept, you’ll know that concept is the platform from which your story is built. Think of premise as the structural beams on top of the platform from which your story is then constructed. It includes main characters, general story arc, and dramatic tension. It’s your story in “preview format,” as Brooks says. It’s what’s written on the back cover. So yes, it’s very similar to concept in that your story is built directly off of it. This leads me into my second question.
Why does premise demand its own writing classification?
The reason that premise demands its own writing classification is because it is so important for your story to be compelling, both in simple format and in more detailed format. Defining your concept is how you discover whether your story idea has worth by itself on its most simple level—basically, whether your story is worth telling. Once you’ve done that, defining your premise is how you decide whether your story is compelling—or intriguing—enough to snag a reader who reads the summary on the back of the book.
It is important that these two things are separate. Because without a good concept, your premise will sag, and lumping the two together may create an average synopsis, stuffed with interesting trivia that make it seem better than it is.
The only way to really effectively evaluate your story idea is to strip it down to its bones, categorize it into concept and premise. That’s the closest you can get to assurance of a good story as a writer. Because if your concept and premise are compelling to you, they will be to someone else too.
So take some time, and write out your story premise! In order to craft a premise, simply take your concept and add your main character, their goal, the conflict, and the stakes. Next week I plan to begin my series on general story structure, and in that series, I will discuss good characters and conflict, including a whole bunch of other things such as story beginning, climax, result, and resolution. All the elements of great writing, fiction in particular.
For now, I hope this was helpful. For more information on concept and premise, check out Story Fix, by Larry Brooks, at http://www.amazon.com/Story-Fix-Transform-Broken-Brilliant/dp/1599639114. Where I’ve written two 600-word summaries, he’s written chapters on the subject.
As always, be sure to let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Happy Writing and Happy Father’s Day for all you dads out there!