One of the writers in our group told me I have ‘catch phrases’ and when prompted here are three I was told I use often:
“No conflict, no story.”
“I can’t teach you how to write.” (Nobody can) and this one about ideas:
“An idea is not a novel”.
I like to explain the last one with the image of trying to pour a drink into a napkin; you need a glass.
An idea needs a glass.
I call the glass a premise, a construct. An idea without something that holds the characters and all the story’s bits and pieces together will disappear into the writer’s flimsy double-ply sheet of imagination.
Oh it can be a really good idea, one that grabs an entire crowd with a solid pitch. But then try expanding that idea over two hundred and fifty pages with fully rounded characters involved in executing a well thought out plot.
What keeps the idea from fragmenting, dissipating, losing relevance or simply falling apart? Let me answer with another question:
Why do actors concentrate on motivation to help understand and stay ‘in character’?
Actors seek to learn the motivation that drives the characters they portray to in order to fulfill a dramatic arc.
Writers seek the premise of a story to learn what events will best drive a narrative necessary to fulfill a dramatic arc.
An idea is a powerful thing but on it’s own it’s not enough to supply all the dynamics of a plot’s beginning middle and end.
How does any idea turn into something more substantial? Give the idea some scope. Make sure it starts out with a purpose, has space to grow into the conflicts that create a good story and allows for a resolution that fulfills that purpose.
Give the idea a premise.
A premise is the platform that supports the promise a writer makes to the reader and the fulfillment of that promise throughout the duration of the story.
The premise speaks of the writer’s conviction that the story will deliver a satisfying ending. Good stories based on good ideas have to have payoffs.
Shakespeare knew how to deliver a good story.
He started out with an idea about two young people who fall in love and who have parents that forbid them to marry.
So, if they run away and get married, that’s the end of the story. The whole thing takes about a paragraph.
But Shakespeare had more in mind with this idea; his plan was a five-act play full of intrigue, conflict and a heady dose of suspense. Will somebody have to die for these poor kids to be happy?
The premise for Romeo and Juliet is love conquers death and it exists in every scene of the tragedy. It’s like everybody is jammed into a tight space and nobody is going to be let out until the premise is fulfilled.
The premise is a promise and the promise has to be kept. It’s the glass and everything and everybody’s in it, not a drop spilled until the satisfying end when the audience drinks up and says ‘ahhhh’.
A premise should not be hard to find in a story. It should be there, lurking in the actions and dialog of characters and in the overall feel of a story.
Lajos Egri, a man who may have written more about premise than anyone else makes it sound easy. He says a premise should come from what we believe in, things about which we hold strong convictions.
It is idiotic to go about hunting for a premise, since, as we
have pointed out, it should be a conviction of yours. You
know what your own convictions are. Look them over.
Perhaps you are interested in man and his idiosyncrasies. Take
just one of those peculiarities, and you have material for several
premises. Lajos Egri
In every one of our writing workshops we start by asking for ideas. Ideas are what drive us and the more we come up with the better chance we have of pursuing at least one good one.
It is in that pursuit that a writer discovers what is needed to turn ideas into novels. A premise is a powerful start.
Keep writing, never quit.
Christina for PenPaperWrite www.penpaperwrite.com
Do you have an idea for a novel and want a way to bring that idea to life? If you live in or near Atlanta GA join me for the NEXT 60 Scenes Writing Method 1-Day Workshop Saturday MARCH 11th
Sign up HERE only 10 spots available.
“If you can write 60 scenes you can write a novel.” Take your idea and watch it unfold over the visual landscape of a storyboard using the three act dramatic structure. Take your idea and feed it into an Outer and Inner Journey scene by scene until your novel is there in front of you.
Spend one day and learn the skills of a lifetime. Learn more www.60scenes.com