5 Minutes a Day: Premise

One of the things that you need to know before you write your novel is your premise.  Simpley put, your premise is what your novel is about.  Think of it as a mini-outline. This can be a huge help when either you outline your lovel or get to work because you don’t d outlines. Either way , a premise can help you stay on track.

Some of what you might want to include in your premise:

  • Who is your POV character
  • What is the story about
  • What does you character have to do
  • What is at risk if she fails.

I have to admit that I froze up in trying to consider these items and work up my premise. Somehow it was just too much to pull together.  Then I read author K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel in which she suggests that you ask yourself a series of questions.  Each of these questions became a five minute task.

What if…?

This one is a chance to explore various ideas.  Noodle over your characters and in general what the story is about and jot down whatever comes to mind.  I came up with things like:

  • What if a former foster child is accused of a murder he didn’t commit?
  • What if a volatile figure in local politics is killed during the May Festival parade?
  • What if he put it around that he and Emmie had had an affair?
  • What if he had stolen money or somehow cheated the church?

Not everything that you come up with like this is going to make it into your story but as you play with these ideas some of them will strike you as doable.  I quickly eliminated the first one but decided that the other three could work if I reshaped them a bit.

What is expected?

What are the things that your readers will expect?  Some of this may be impacted by the type of story you are writing or who your characters are.  Again, in five minutes I came up with four ideas

  • It is expected that someone will die.  Because my story is a cozy mystery.
  • It is expected that the main character or people close to her will be suspects.
  • It is expected that she will follow false leads.
  • It is expected that people will mislead her although some may do it unintentionally.

This line of thinking lead to the main suspect for the mystery so it definitely paid off.

What is unexpected?

I have to admit that I didn’t do as well with this since I only came up with one – It is unexpected that Clara will be willing to lie to the police to cover for a suspect even if she thinks the person might be guilty.

After considering these three questions, like me, you may be ready to write your premise.  Surprisingly, after struggling with it for days, I git it done in from five to ten minutes.

Spend five minutes a day for a week brainstorming answers to the questions above and then give your premise a try.



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