What fuels a story is similar to what fuels a man. Although stories aren’t dead or alive, they’re the breath of us. They capture a little bit of our soul power. When writing a story, you’ve got to ensure it’s properly infused with this essence. The soul of a story is it’s premise. Although we started with the bones of a story, we need the soul of one, too.
A premise is the mission statement of your story. Think of it like a thesis statement you wrote for any critical analysis papers. For your novel, it’s a single sentence containing characters, setting, and central conflict. It begins with the ideas that come when you ask “what if?” For example, what if our world was in so much turmoil because it was incomplete? What if this world’s other half was its existential soul mate, a universal counterbalance to all the mundane in this reality?
The what if questions counter what is expected out of a story by you and your audience. Considering what’s expected anchors the plot for the reader and the author’s goals. Transitioning from wild “what if’s” to structured “what’s expected’s” identifies viable ideas. Characters, conflict, and plot solidify with concrete expectations. These questions distill the book’s essence, guiding the writer to the next question. The premise defines these expectations, simplifying the answer to, “What’s your story about?” A straightforward, one-sentence answer prepares you to eventually sell your novel, too.
There are other helpful things to consider, aside from possibilities and expectations. Try to include 4-5 trigger points in your plot. Ensure that these points have at least two difficulties which push characters out of their comfort zones. Identify your protagonist as soon as possible to determine any other important characters in the novel. Make sure these characters have problems of some sort that push toward trigger points.
Brainstorming is critical in meeting your possibilities and expectations. The best ways to brainstorm are:
- make space for daydreaming;
- don’t self-censor;
- quiet your mind;
- focus on senses;
- listen to the creative spirit and/or your gut.