Where young people (and others) come for on-going discussions on creative writing.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Idea versus Premise, Cloudy versus Rock

Writers Need to Take Breaks
Here's the thing, ideas are everywhere. I mean everywhere. All you have to do is open a newspaper or turn on the news or chat with a friend and BAM! You have an idea for a story. But that's the trouble. Ideas practically jump off the walls at you, they lurk around corners and under rocks, behind your kid sister's weird smile or your brother's sarcasm or your mother's look--you know the one. The trick is learning how to lasso one idea and make it work in a story--more specifically a plot for a novel, a story, flash fiction. Ideas are slippery and can be unruly. So, I don't tend to speak about ideas when it comes to story writing.
I prefer to think about PREMISE.
What's the difference? An idea is not concrete. It's cloudy and chock full of variables. A premise is rock. A premise is a promise. It is the controlling construct the writer is going to prove (or disprove) through the mechanics of telling her or his story.
For example, let's look at The Wizard of Oz. Okay, the IDEA is to tell the story about a girl who is unhappy and wants to run away but is stopped by a tornado. Cool idea but so what. What is at the heart of the story. Where's the value in telling this story. Frank L. Baum set out to prove that  "There is no place like home" by telling a story about an unhappy child who gets swept up in a tornado and taken far away. Now the idea has a goal. Dorothy has a goal. Do you see the difference. It wouldn't have worked to simply allow Dorothy to go to Oz without making a point and having a moral premise on which to build the plot. An idea is a good jumping off  place, but until you attach a premise to it, you only have an idea. Oh, I'm not saying to disregard your ideas. Nope. Write them down in your handy, dandy notebook, tap them into your phone because you will never know when the premise that goes with that idea will show up.
So the next time a good idea pops into your head, take it a step further and ask yourself what am I trying to prove with this. And then write the story. BTW, your premise doesn't have to be correct, or popular, you simply have to prove it.
Make sense?

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