Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Story Premise You Can Love and Cherish: 10 questions

Few things are more important to getting attention for and selling your story than the premise. But, as mentioned in the last post, your premise, whether it is a phrase or a paragraph, is a foundation for productive writing. I recommend taking two weeks to formulate a premise for a book or screenplay, and that's if you are someone who is tuned to noting down ideas and connecting key concepts in interesting ways.

Getting the premise right is essential, so I've put together ten questions you can use to test yours:
  1. Are you passionate about the premise? Is the concept one you want to delve into? Will it lead to answers that will matter to you?
  2. Do you know who you want to share your story, findings, or thesis with? Who is the audience for this and what compels you to bring this material to them? Do they share your passion or will they need to be lured in?
  3. Are you the right person to write this? Stretching and getting into areas that make you uncomfortable is fine (perhaps essential for the most valuable work), but can you gain the knowledge, perspectives, insights, and emotional connections that will make your version distinct, essential, and true?
  4. Is your premise clear? Does it include all the elements (e.g., for a logline), and are these specific, evocative, logical, and accessible? Is it complete enough?
  5. Is it the right time for you to write this? Has the idea fermented long enough? Have the ideas been pushed to the limit? Do you have enough information and understanding to start? Have you developed background and a few focus areas (theme, character, plot points, arguments, questions)?
  6. Do you have good reasons to write this? Have you put together a list of 10-20 arguments to present to yourself when you enthusiasm and confidence wane?
  7. Is the premise rich enough? Does it support a book-length investigation without padding or adding adjunct material?
  8. Have you investigated comparables? Are there similar books, movies, or other media around? Do you have something new or under-explored to add? Could one of these provide a good model for your work?
  9. Is it marketable? Does it fit a particular genre? Does it catch the zeitgeist? Does it have appeal? Does it exploit your platform?
  10. Have you chosen the best medium? Why a novel or a script or a nonfiction book or a play or graphic novel or a speech?
It may not be necessary to have good answers to all of these before you commit to your premise, but reviewing these questions may reveal holes or deepen your understanding of what you intend to undertake. For many writers, who have a long list of possible books, more than could be written in a lifetime, this list can help with prioritization. And the greatest value might be shortening the list. It is very easy to spend too much time on topics that are flashy or popular, but not high quality.

No comments:

Post a Comment