Mighty Example

Let's take a look at another story we're all familiar with. Samson and Delilah. If you don't know the story, you can find it in the Book of Judges in the Bible.

The way it's told here is not exactly the way it's told in the Bible. This is more like the version told by Hollywood, in the 1951 epic starring Victor Mature and Hedy Lamarr. Let's call it the damn good version.

Samson and Delilah is the story of a man who is loved by God and given superhuman strength, becomes a hero in battle, is corrupted by carnal love, and loses his superhuman strength, whereupon he repents, his strength is restored, and he achieves a great victory over his enemies, dying in the process.

What would Samson's premise be? How about Repentance leads to a glorious death?

When you make a story statement such as Repentance leads to a glorious death, what you are really saying is: God's love leads to great strength, which leads to heroism in battle, which leads to haughtiness and arrogance, which lead to temptations of the flesh, which lead to betrayal, which leads to defeat and disgrace and blindness, which lead to repentance, which leads to a restoration of superpowers, which leads to a glorious death. The premise Repentance leads to a glorious death is just a shorthand way of stating it.

In other words, a premise says that through a causal chain of events, one situation will lead to another and will eventually lead to a resolution.

Here's how we'll prove the premise of our damn good version:

THE PROLOGUE: An angel visits Samson's mother, who's been barren, and tells her she will have a child—a Nazarite, a blessed child. (This shows that Samson is special, that he's loved by God.)

THE OPENING INCIDENT: Samson is a young man, on his way to town to court a woman. He meets a lion and tears it apart, "as a man tears a kid." (Shows how brave and strong he is.)

THE INCITING INCIDENT (the event that comes into everyday life that brings the change and starts the chain of events of the story): Samson is about to marry a Philistine woman. There's a little fracas at the wedding feast and the bride's father takes the . bride back, so Samson sets fire to the Philistine's cornfields. (To show how the trouble starts.)

FIRSTCOMPLICATION: The Philistines—3,000 strong—come over to the Israelites' camp, seeking revenge on Samson. Samson, with the now famous jawbone of an ass, kills 1,000 of them. (To show how mighty Samson is, advancing the plot.)

SECOND COMPLICATION: The Philistine king is beside himself with anger. He orders an army of 10,000 raised to teach this punk a lesson. But Delilah, a gorgeous call girl, convinces the king he can save a lot of dough by sending her instead. (To show she's greedy.)

THIRD COMPLICATION: Delilah shows up and introduces herself to Samson. He falls for her wiles. (Showing how he starts to go bad.)

FOURTH COMPLICATION: Samson becomes a lush. (Shows how Delilah corrupts him.)

FIFTH COMPLICATION: Delilah has fallen for the poor slob, so she goes to the Philistine king and exacts his promise not to harm Samson if she's able to get his secret. (Nice dramatic growth on her part.)

SIXTHCOMPLICATION: Delilah tries to wheedle the secret of Samson's great strength out of him. (His resistance shows he still has a shred of loyalty to his God.) But she finally manages to learn that it's his hair!

SEVENTH COMPLICATION: She cuts his hair; he loses his strength. (Shows his fall from grace.) The Philistines take him prisoner.

EIGHTH COMPLICATION: The Philistine king keeps his word and does not draw his blood, but puts a hot poker in his eyes and blinds him, then ties him to a grinding wheel.

NINTH COMPLICATION: Delilah, horrified, begs for forgiveness. Samson gives it, and begs forgiveness from God. Gradually his hair grows back. (Shows Samson's return to God.)

TENTH COMPLICATION: The Philistines, having a celebration, bring Samson to their temple to mock him. Delilah leads Samson to the building's main support pillars, which he pushes over, killing his enemies and gaining his glorious death. (The premise is proved: Repentance leads to a glorious death.)

We've shown how Samson came to be loved by God, how strong he was, how he got corrupted, how he lost his strength, how he repented, and how he achieved his glorious death.

You could also say this is the story of a man corrupted by lust who repents and achieves a glorious death, because it's a causal chain of events. Or you could say that the premise is Being chosen to be a hero by God leads to a glorious death, and you'd be just as correct. Either way, the meaning is the same; the same chain of events occurs to prove the premise because the premise is a shorthand way of stating what the chain of events is that leads the characters through conflict to the conclusion.

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