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Trouble finding the premise of my half written book

by Chiara
(Toronto)

I'm working on my first novel and it's around 175 pages already and has a few main characters. I enjoy a complicated plot but I have so much going on that I'm having trouble finding my premise as suggested in your novel writing tips.


How do i know if my premise is too broad/complicated? Can it have multiple premises? Can it be something more easily narrowed down once the novel is finished and all the questions answered?

ANSWER

Hi Chiara. Without a strong story premise, it may be difficult for you to keep your protagonist focused on the end goal. Readers will only read forward if the "puzzle" of the story keeps them interested. They stay interested when they know what it is they want to know.

For example, imagine a friend telling you a story at a party. The individual had car trouble, say, on a deserted stretch of highway late at night. Once you know this, you're interested because you want to know what happened. If she tells you about trying to call for help, but her cell phone wouldn't work, and tells you that she saw lights in the distance and walked toward them, you'll remain interested because these two actions make sense in terms of the overall premise--a woman stranded on a deserted highway late at night. You want to know what happened to her. That's clear to you.

However, if your friend tells you about the cell phone, and then tells you about the wedding she went to the weekend before, and then discusses her brother's new canoe, you'll be confused at best. You won't understand what that has to do with what you want to know--what happened when she was stranded on the deserted highway. She might think all the events are related because they all involve her in some way. But this connection is not enough to hold your interest.

A story premise raises the interest of your readers. Your job is to plant that 'need to know' in their minds. That need is what makes them want to read on. So everything that happens should make sense according to cause and effect sequencing and what they want to know. You won't give them the satisfaction of knowing until you're ready--at then end of the book.

If you know your story is about the stranded woman, all the scenes you dream up and write will be about her attempts to get rescued, and whatever you write, you'll likely find a way to use the material. But if the story is only "about your friend" what will you write?

None of this has to happen neatly. You can jump all over the place as you write and worry about fitting it all together later. However, it will all fit together much better, with a lot less waste, if you know what your story is "about."

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