If you’re an aspiring writer, it’s important to learn how to ensure your story has a strong premise. A strong premise will help you create compelling characters and an intriguing plot and give your story enough depth to help you get published someday. In order to ensure your story has a strong premise, ask yourself the following questions about each character you create, each scene you write, and each plot twist you introduce: What does my character want? What is keeping him from getting it? Why can’t he just walk away? And what happens if he gives up? One of the first things that you need to figure out when writing your story is what the premise of your story is.
It sounds pretty obvious, but if you don’t know what your story’s about, then you have no way of keeping it on track and developing your plot organically. Keep reading to learn how to ensure that your story has a strong premise from start to finish.
Before you start writing your novel, it’s important to outline its premise. The premise of your story is what will lead you through each step of writing your book. It’s essentially an introductory summary of your entire plot, not including any details.
For an idea to be considered a strong premise, it must include these three components:
- It should answer the question, What?
- Explain how the main character goes about solving the problem
- Establish why this situation matters to readers
An example of a weak premise would be: Amy falls in love with her new neighbour when she sees him at the dog park.
A more robust version would be: Amy falls in love with her new neighbour when she sees him at the dog park and realizes he has been stealing food from her house.
Notice how this second option gives more information about why Amy’s interest in him is justified.
Giving background information that provides insight into the protagonist’s actions is key to making sure the reader understands why they’re rooting for them. Not only does this provide a backstory that makes Amy seem more human, but it also hints at future events why is her neighbour stealing food from her house? If she solves this mystery (which we know she does), there might be some kind of retribution or justice that follows. You can’t have a good story without stakes!
It’s no secret that first impressions matter, but when you’re trying to build an audience for your writing, it can be tempting to make every part of your story count especially if you’re under a tight word limit. However, just because there are only 750 words in your average novel doesn’t mean that each and everyone has to be gripping from start to finish.
While writers are taught early on in their education about starting their story with a bang and adhering ever more closely as they work their way through the premise is often an afterthought or something that gets tacked on at the last minute. But what is the premise, and why should writers care about making sure it sticks out like…well, like something worth reading?
The premise is your book’s raison d’être: it’s the core idea behind everything else. The protagonist will have their own personal reason for embarking on this adventure, which will guide them along the way and inspire them to take risks they might not otherwise have taken. In other words, without a strong premise driving everything forward, the protagonist would never really have anything compelling enough to do.
A premise is something you present to your audience upfront. It’s typically used at the start of a book, but it can be presented in any form the title of your film, an episode description on TV Tropes, and so on. The main purpose of exposition is to introduce your story’s premise so that’s what we want our premise to do as well. Before you even put your fingers on the keyboard or swiping hand on phone screen, ask yourself: What’s my premise? That’s different from asking yourself: What’s my plot? A plot is simply how your story will unfold. So it doesn’t necessarily include information about where things are going, but rather more about how they will get there.
For example, if you’re writing a science fiction novel set on Mars, then the answer to What’s my premise? It would be It takes place on Mars. If you’re writing a psychological thriller set in Oregon and California, then your answer might be A woman goes missing while visiting her sister.
The reason this question is important is because that’s not just your story–it’s also the thing that hooks readers and keeps them reading. You need to give them some kind of incentive to keep reading, otherwise, they’ll likely stop within the first chapter or two.
The rising action
In movies, novels, plays, and other types of narrative fiction, rising action is one of four major parts that compose almost every story’s structure. (The other three are exposition, climax, and falling action.) It is often referred to as rising tension. This term refers to what happens when you introduce important new plot points that keep your audience anxious about what will happen next. In literature classes, these events are also known as foreshadowing. Before you get started on constructing your fictional story’s rising action part two-part structure, ask yourself: how many people can be in on my secret? Or: how many things can go wrong before they start going right again? Don’t worry about creating too much suspense or worry about leaving clues. The answer to both questions should always be all the possible scenarios that could take place!
You want to make sure there is enough suspense, so readers stay engaged with your story until the very end but not so much that it feels overbearing. If you’re just starting out writing fictional stories, try taking an inventory of your favourite books and TV shows and see if they follow this general pattern.
Before you even begin writing your story, make sure it has a climax. You have no story without an inciting incident that sets up an action-filled confro2ntation between your protagonist and antagonist. The goal of every scene should be for things to build towards that point where your hero must confront her worst fears to reach her ultimate goal. If you don’t have something big enough to get readers on their feet, they won’t stick around until the end.
Finally, after all of that struggle and suffering and growth, your hero achieves something great. This is your denouement, the conclusion of your story. But what does it look like in practice? Well, let’s go to the Rocky movie. In Rocky III, Rocky finally has his chance at revenge against Ivan Drago (his Russian rival who killed Apollo Creed). The culmination of all three movies results in an epic 15-round fight. Though he wins and triumphs over evil once again, he receives an injury during the fight that sidelines him for months…and that’s what ends up being his ultimate character development moment: his frailty becomes clear as we watch him grieve over not being able to compete anymore.
When writing your story, ask yourself if it has a strong premise. If it doesn’t, what can you do to create one? Make sure that every scene moves your story forward and develops your character in some way. In traditional drama, every scene should contain conflict that challenges your protagonist—when faced with obstacles, does he learn something about himself or fail spectacularly (or both)? Good stories have always done those things and always will. Without those elements, all you have is a plot; there is no point of interest for an audience unless they connect emotionally with characters who are facing challenges and overcome them somehow. Adding character development in every scene will strengthen not only your storytelling ability but also your story as a whole.