A Quick Study in Concept and Premise

I love when I come across awesome quick examples of badass storytelling in action. Movie trailers, descriptions on Netflix, and my new favorite place–People magazine. People has a section each week where they recommend a few books, and novels are always in the mix.

This past issue I read a book description that had the perfect example of Concept and Premise. So I wanted to share it with you to give you a quick study in how to use Concept and Premise to elevate your story to a new level.

Before I get into the example, let me first review what we’re dealing with here:

  • Concept is the landscape that your story happens on
  • Premise is the Antagonist (or Antagonistic Force) that you introduce

Without these two things, all you have is a story idea. And while you need that too, on its own it’s not enough to make a story.

Before I Go

The example I’m going to break down is the description in People magazine for the book, Before I Go by Colleen Oakley. (And let me just point out that this is Oakley’s debut novel. A shining example of what’s possible when you know how to write a story that works.)

Here’s the description People magazine offered up for this book:

“In this spirited and original debut, 27-year-old control freak Daisy Richmond learns she has just months to live—and becomes obsessed with finding her husband a new wife.”

Totally brilliant description. In one sentence, you get a very compelling Concept and Premise. And that’s what it takes to get published (traditionally, and it’s the standard you should hold your story to, even if you self-publish).

The Concept here is that the Protagonist has only months to live. This is the landscape (think “setting”) the story will unfold on.

The problem is, most writers don’t push that far with their stories. Most would have been inspired by the idea of this Protagonist only having a few month to live and run with it.

But what you’d end up with if you did that is an episodic, day-to-day account of Daisy’s life before she dies. Might be interesting to some, but most people will call it a dud and put it down before reaching the end.

There has to be something in there to elevate the story to the next level—an Antagonist, a journey or problem that needs to be solved (one that actually has a specific solution). The author of this story remedied this need by adding in a Premise: the dying Protagonist is going to spend her final days finding a new wife for her husband.

The addition of a Premise brings this story to a new level, giving us inherent conflict, stakes, tension and a vicarious ride that a reader will want to go on. You need all of these things if you want your story to work.

Want Help?

The self-paced Story Roadmap Workshop will help you take the idea in your head and turn it into a Concept and Premise. You’ll also create your characters, design your story structure and build a scene-by-scene roadmap.

And as a bonus you get a 60-minute call with me, so I can give you feedback on the work you do using this workshop.

>> Learn more about Story Roadmap


Image courtesy of Lidyanne Aquino 

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