NaNoWriMo Chronicles: Writing a Premise

Blog_ Premise.jpg

So, what’s your story about?

My favorite, and most hated question. I love it when someone is interested in my writing enough to ask. I hate trying to find a simple answer that makes sense. I’ve found something that falls right in the sweet spot. It leaves those who are truly interested and wanting more but is short enough to memorize and share when prompted. A premise.

A premise is a short, one or two sentence explanation of your work. Better than just finding that such a thing exists, I’ve found two simple to follow formulas that let you build a premise for your work, and I’d like to share them both with you!

Method #1 - ‘What if/what if’

Let’s look at the easiest one first. I call it the ‘what if/what if’ way to write a premise.

You simply ask yourself to create two ‘what if’ statements that address first, the character, and second the basic plot of your work. Let’s look at an example using my work for this year’s NaNoWriMo, Sacrificial.

‘What if’ #1: What if an ex-drug addict turned single mom found herself receiving shelter in the form of a second chance program piloted in a small town?

‘What if’ #2: What if she quickly discovers that she is at the heart of a dark secret being kept by the whole town?

Then you just pair them together for your premise.

“What if an ex-drug addict turned single mom found herself receiving shelter in the form of a second chance program piloted in a small town? And, what if she quickly discovers that she is at the heart of a dark secret being kept by the whole town?”

It’s a simple, effective method for presenting a basic rundown of your work. I highly suggest this method for beginning writers as it’s simple to do and remember.

Method #2 - ‘5 Elements’

This next method for writing a premise is a bit more complicated but creates a premise that rolls off the tongue and mind a little better. It requires more thought and work, as well as a more fleshed out story idea. It comes in five waves.

Character>Situation>Objective>Opponent>Disaster

Let’s use my work from last year’s NaNoWriMo as an example for this one, Among the Sands.

Character: Naresh, the Rothdariian High-Kin and Grete, the Skrit thief

Situation: Naresh has chosen Grete to be his wife and the next High-Matron.

Objective: To bring peace to both clans and to unite them as one group.

Opponent: Opposing clans and the Black Dragon.

Disaster: War

Now you have to come up with a way to tie all of those elements together in order:

“In clan Rothdarii, High-Kin Naresh has chosen his wife - Grete a thief from a poor Skrit family who wants only to protect those she loves – what will they do when war comes to their doorstep and the love they have kindled is attacked from within?”

Notice how I didn’t place all the information from the list into my premise? You only need to add in enough to help it make sense and to grab their interest.

A premise might seem like a small, insignificant part of working on a novel-length work, but it serves a dual purpose. Not only does it provide you with a statement for interested parties, but it will also act as a mantra for you to power yourself through writing 50,000 words in 30 days. It lights your way through the merk and mud that is plotting and writing. It will lead you from beginning to end when writing.

I look forward to reading your premises that you come up with for your current WIP! Share it with me below in the comments!

And keep creating!

**Disclaimer: Originally the two topics ‘genre’ and ‘premise’ were going to be together in a single post but I decided for ease of reader consumption that I would split them into two separate posts.