COMING UP WITH a story idea is the first part of writing a great book. But not all ideas are created equal… For an “idea” to support a full book, it needs to have the crucial elements of a compelling narrative – and we can test this by seeing if our idea can be expanded into a “premise”.
A premise is, essentially, a few sentences that describe the core elements of your story. that is:
- The protagonist, or hero / heroine
- The antagonist, or villain / opposition
- The core conflict, or “what are they fighting about”?
- The stakes, or “why should the reader care about the outcome”?
If you can expand your idea to cover these four aspects, you’ve got the beginnings of a compelling story – that hits all the right emotional notes. From there, it’s time to start planning the outline – or “how does all this happen from start to finish”. And we do this using the Story Engines seven-phase structure, which we’ll cover in the next video.
For now, take a look at the video and think about how you can take a basic idea (like “Jaws in Space”, or “Stay-at-home Mom Recruited as a Spy”, or “Enemies Fall in Love” or whatever your idea might be) and expand it into a full premise. You only need a few sentences, and remember – this premise is just for YOU. You don’t have to show it to anybody! It’s designed to help you focus on the core elements of your story, and help you flesh out the narrative into a full scenes list and outline.