Tag Archive - Premise

2 Key Factors in Successfully Outlining Stories

Today’s guest post is by Andrea Turrentine.

If you intend to write a novel, I can tell you most publishers may ask you for an outline and a few chapters.

Outlining may be unavoidable, especially for new writers.

It is also pointless to debate the efficacy of outlining because no doubt most of the best pros do it.

Atwood. Rowling. Martin. Patterson. Gaiman. Sorkin. Rhimes (She doesn’t need to now but teaches her students how she did so when she started out).

If it works, it works. That’s right. I’m taking a hard stance.

What we are going to look at is about outlining in practice. So, while devout pantsers may wish to leave, don’t! I may yet convert you. Continue Reading…

Writing Scenes with a Purpose

I know this may sound silly and obvious, but your scenes need to have a purpose. Thing is, so many scenes that I edit and critique seem purposeless. Or the purpose is irrelevant to the premise. Or to the plot. Or doesn’t help reveal anything of importance about the characters.

I remember Donald Maass talking at his weeklong breakout novel workshop about this. He said something like, “You can’t imagine how many middle scenes I’ve read in novels that accomplish nothing.”

Same idea. Your scene shouldn’t just be entertaining or tense or exciting to read; it has to serve a specific purpose in light of your overall plot and premise. Every scene.

So how do you go about this?

Well, first thing: plot our your story, and make sure you have a riveting, fresh premise. If your premise is boring and predictable, it’s going to be hard to write a story that’s not boring and predictable. Continue Reading…

Is Your Premise Worth Your Time (or Anyone Else’s)?

Most fiction writers are clear about the inciting incident or initial disturbance that has to come near the start of their novel. Yet, I see way too many novels in which there really isn’t a strong impacting incident. Or it’s in the wrong place.

I do many fifty-page critiques on novels that have fifty pages of setup. Backstory. Telling, for example, all about how the characters met, fell in love, got married, etc. What is the stated premise? It might be about a man who has something precious taken from him and must face danger and horror to get that thing back. Huh? What did the first fifty pages have to do with any of that? Nothing.

That inciting incident often isn’t there. I imagine it shows up at some point later, but that’s way too late. The inciting incident has to come at the start of the story. It launches the story. Catapults it. You don’t want your story sitting in that little catapult bucket for weeks just waiting for someone to hit the lever and send it flying.

A ship’s voyage begins when it’s launched. Not when it’s sitting dry-docked for weeks, waiting.

Every great story is about some character in his ordinary world that gets veered off in a new or specific direction due to some incident. Michael Hauge nicely calls this an opportunity. Life is moving along, and suddenly an opportunity presents itself, for good or ill—or both.

Whether it’s a parent’s kid getting kidnapped, a violent storm blowing into town, a ship of mutant dinosaurs or zombies that land on shore, or a young woman meeting a hot man, novels need that inciting incident to launch the premise. Continue Reading…

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