Thursday, March 5, 2009

Notes On Premise

All the short stories I've written have been what I call "Premise Based". I came up with the premise and built the story around it. Novels also have premises and a novel that stays true to its premise is usually a tightly-constructed story.

For starters, premise is simple and all stories have one. It is not a complicated, hard-to-understand literary concept as some writers think. Also, it is doesn't have to be a universal truth.

A premise is a one-line explanation of your story. You can go with one condition leads to another. Or use a simple sentence that contains three things: character, conflict and resolution. Character is a trait, bad or good, such as jealousy, kindness, courage, fear. Conflict is expressed by using "leads to". The resolution of the premise can be whatever you want to prove in your story. The premise I used for The Yard Sale was "an act of kindness leads to a great reward".
In the Handbook of Short Story Writing, Dennis Whitcomb states: "The purpose of a premise is that it insures a central conflict and gives you a path to follow".

Here are some examples of premise:Ambition leads to failure at home.Selfishness leads to happiness.Cleverness leads to wealth.Revenge leads to heartache. To elaborate on one of them, we'll go with revenge leads to heartache. Jenny sees her lover with another woman! She decides to get back at him by seducing his half-brother, whom he has always hated. First, she has to win the affection of the half-brother, who is a ill-tempered hermit. Her revenge fails when she falls for the half-brother and then finds out she had been wrong all along about her lover, who had only been helping out a co-worker, who wanted to get back at a guy who'd dumped her. When the two brothers find out what Jenny's plan was, neither of them want her, thus leading to heartache. So this story proves revenge leads to heartache. Of course, you can give Jenny a happy ending as she swears off of revenge forever and gets the man she loves!

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