What Do You Have? An idea, a premise or a plot?

Today I had two ideas that I jotted down on my annual list.  Yes, I keep a list.  It helps me move forward with my current project but also gives me plenty of food for thought when it comes time to develop something new.  Although I call everything on the list an idea, I’ve long known that some of them are significantly more fleshed out than others.

Then I read one of Janice Hardy’s Fiction University posts from back in May.  In “The Difference Between Idea, Premise, Plot and Story,” she discusses just that.

An idea is that bare bones spark of inspiration.  In my case, the bare bones offerings can be anything from a first line to a character or even the plot problem that launches the whole story. What can I say?  My brain is a bit scatty.  You never know what it is going to throw at my feet.

“A boy attends a boarding school for wizards.” Who knows?  That could have been the idea that launched Harry Potter.

A premise is the next step.  As defined by Hardy it is “a general description of the story you plan to tell, and what the story is about.” It offers just a bit about the character and begins to develop the story, going as far as to describe the story problem.

“An orphan struggles to claim his magical heritage at the school where his parents once studied magic.”  We know now just a bit about the character and the problems he faces.

The plot describes the central conflict.  It gives you some idea what the main character needs to achieve to be victorious.

“Orphaned Harry Potter finds himself at wizarding school, the same one his parents attended, where he must claim his birthright and prove that he has the same right to be there as everyone else.  This will mean making friends and proving his skills in a world he never imagined could exist.”

I have to admit that most of the ideas I write down are either basic ideas or maybe premises.  Every now and again the basic plot pops into my head.  More often than not, I have to spend some time working with the idea to get that far.  But that’s okay.  That’s half the fun of working up a new story!



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