First Step: The Premise
I have a question for you, Widbook user. How do you start a story? I’m curious — do you have only a singular idea or a structured purpose? I’m asking because there are several ways to start a book, two of which are the most common: a free idea or a premise.
Personally, I am an admirer of the free idea, which can be used when a book arises from a sparkle, so to speak, and not even the author knows which paths the story will cross, and not even what kind of destinations the characters will encounter. The free idea method is as breathtaking as it is dangerous, though. Dangerous in the sense that if the writer gets lost on where to go with the story, it could be a waste of time and pages. Fernando Sabino, a famous Brazilian author, said that in order to produce the 300 pages of “O Encontro Marcado,” he wrote 1,300 pages. And he is a master writer!
The seemingly safer way to start a story is with a premise, which has a simple definition: it highlights the main character, the story problem, and hints at the resolution. In other words, try to think about these five elements:
1 – a plot
2 – the protagonist
3 – an objective for which your main character will try to reach
4 – the antagonist
5 – an antagonist’s objective opposing to the protagonist
This may seem very simple. And I agree. But let’s give some credit to the premise; maybe this simple first step can guide your story to the depth of the literature you’re writing. These five elements are part of the essence of nearly any story.
So what’s the premise of your story? Can you list the aforementioned five elements? It’s a good exercise to help strengthen your writing and one that you can share with other Widbook users for their feedback. Another thought-provoking question to get you moving in the right direction: What’s the premise of your favorite novel? If you can list these elements, it can help you when it comes time to create your own premise.
By Jr. Bellé*
* Junior Bellé is a Brazilian journalist who writes in Widbook‘s blog weekly on tips and tools to help your writing. Here, he offers an exercise on creating the premise of a book.