Tag Archive - Premise

Fashioning Characters Based on Plot and Premise

When I think about the many novels I’ve written, I realize I don’t always start with a plot idea. Sometimes a topic or theme intrigues me, or I’ll have an image of a character in the throes of a moral dilemma.

I remember reading about how C. S. Lewis came up with his Narnia series. He had a picture in his mind of a faun carrying a parcel and an umbrella through a snowy wood. From there, the The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe sprang into existence.

The novel I’m currently writing, a supernatural thriller called Lightning Man, also was sparked by a picture in my head. I saw a man at the top of a mountain, his arms outstretched in a kind of messianic surrender to the heavens, willing lightning to strike him for the tenth time, intending to stop a terrorist by sacrificing his life as he grips the bad guy. From there I had to ask a lot of questions to find my story, and I encourage you to do the same with the ideas that excite you.

I wove a complex plot around that character and climactic moment I saw in my head (it’s taken me a couple of years, but it’s all in place now). But it all started with a picture of a nebulous character.

For my novel Someone to Blame, I started with a word or concept: blame. I wanted to explore the ways people blame themselves and others and the damage and hurt blame causes. From that germ of an idea, a plot developed—a story about a family who’ve suffered the loss of two sons and moved to a new town hoping to start over, only to get drawn into a heavy drama that mires the town in blame and subsequent danger.

In my conversations with numerous best-selling authors, I’ve learned that their story ideas are sparked in a myriad of ways.

Though ideas for stories begin in different ways, all roads lead to one key question: Who is this story about and what is that character’s journey? Continue Reading…

Nailing Your One-Sentence Story Concept

I’m launching my new online video course this month, so we’ve been taking a look at key elements novelists need to nail in order to construct a solid story. Whether you “pants it” or plot (see my recent post on that), your story concept has to be terrific to be worth not only your time (writing it) but also your reader’s time (reading it).

How can you expect anyone to devote ten or more of their precious hours to reading your novel if the concept is blah? Not a nice thing to subject anyone to. I, for my part, don’t want to waste anyone’s time, and I certainly don’t want my novels used to help put people to sleep (I’ve watched that malaise befall my husband many a night, but, thankfully, never when reading my novels).

I’m going to pull from a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago, when I was first gathering material for my upcoming (now published and very popular) book Layer Your Novel. I’m hoping you’ll see the value of taking the time to work on your story concept to ensure it’s a terrific one.

Be sure to check out my online course, too, if you want to master novel structure. Layering, starting with the ten key scenes, is the ticket. Believe me, I’ve seen many a novelist use this method to great success (and I hear a lot of praise for it week in and week out). Continue Reading…

Three Aspects of Your Book’s “Aboutness”: Goal, Question, and Premise

Today’s guest post is by Barbara Linn Probst.

 So what’s your book about?

We’ve all had that question put to us by friends, relatives, agents, or other writers.  It’s a reasonable question for them to ask.

“Well, it’s the story of a woman who . . .”

“It tells what happens when . . .”

Nope. That’s the setup. It’s not what the book is about.

Coined by R. A. Fairthorne in 1969, “aboutness” is a term used in linguistics, philosophy of language, and the informational sciences to convey both intention and content—that is, the aim and subject of a text. Continue Reading…

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