Mastering The Technique Of Writing With A Premise

Most of the writers in my classes, when first exposed to the idea of writing with a premise in mind, take a look at what they are writing and try to find a premise for it.

Don't do that.

First, see a half dozen movies and try to describe them in terms of their premise. Ask yourself, What is this story about? Then ask, What happens to the characters in the end? That's all there is to it.

Say we both see the classic The African Queen. You say the premise is Vengeance leads to true love and happiness and I say it's Answering the call to patriotism leads to victory. This doesn't mean that one of us is wrong. It is a desire for vengeance that leads Rosie to become suddenly patriotic and in the end Rosie and Charlie, the heroes, do have a victory, but they also end up being in true love and happy. The important thing is the chain of events would be the same. In essence, we'd both be saying the same thing and that's what's important.

You will quickly see that most successful films have a strong premise and the premise will be effectively and economically proved. There will be character development, ironies, and surprises, and the premise will be well worth proving.

Next, see how the story would change with a different premise. Which sequences could be dropped? What would have to be added?

The next step is to start creating stories with a premise in mind. Simply come up with a premise and indicate by mapping out the complications how it is to be proved. Do one or two a day and in a few weeks you'll have writing with a premise in mind mastered.

From then on, you'll be like an Egyptian stonemason with a chisel. You'll have the tool that will help you craft magnificent masterpieces that may last through the ages.

Having mastered premise, you'll then need a strong narrative voice, which, happily, is next on the agenda.

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