There is no formula for constructing premises, but according to Egri, every good premise should contain an element of character which through conflict leads to a conclusion. A coward goes to war and becomes a hero. A brave man goes into battle and becomes a coward. Samson has his hair cut and loses his great powers, but he gets them back. When you formulate your premise, remember the three C's: character, conflict, and conclusion. A dramatic story is the transformation of character through crisis; the premise is a succinct statement of that transformation.
Is it okay, you may wonder, to use a premise that has been used before? Absolutely. Premises are free for the taking. Flaubert's Madame Bovary and Tolstoy's Anna Karenina have the same premise (illicit love leads to death). So do scores of lesser novels that have made it in the market place. How many novels could be written on the Samson and Delilah theme? Dozens and dozens. Ever read a story in which a plain but deserving girl finally marries Mr. Wonderful? It has been done a trillion times and will be done a trillion times more. So steal all the premises you want. Every novelist in America could write a novel, say, with the premise "greed leads to fulfillment" and no two would be proved the same way.
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