Okay, here we go – we’re off our journey! But…wait! What kind of journey are we going to take? I hike in the Himalayas? A beach vacation in Cancun? Skiing in Vermont? How about a canoe trip in Minnesota? (come visit me!)
Before you take your first step, you need to know what your journey is all about! And that means – PREMISE. A premise is simply a 2-5 sentence blurb of your story. It’s zeroing in on the MOST important elements of your book – the stakes, the fears, the dreams, the theme and plot, and the main players. You’ll use your premise to grab your editor’s attention in your query letter, or pitch at a conference. And you’ll paste it above your computer as your write as a guidepost for your journey, so you want to make it compelling and exciting, and interesting, using strong words and high stakes.
In other works, the premise boils down the most important aspects of your story, the biggest interest catcher, into a short paragraph.
For example here’s a sample blurb from Happily Ever After:
Mona Reynolds longs for two things – forgiveness and Jonah, the hero from her favorite
book. But, getting either is about as likely as her father rising from the dead. But when a stranger breezes into town, is he the fairy tale she’s been searching for…or a villian who will break her heart?
Tells you a lot, right? (I hope!) It tells you that Mona likes to read, that her father died,
and that there’s no way she’s going to be forgiven. The theme of the book is forgiveness,
and it is about her getting her dream man. It tells the editor just what the conflicts are, and what the theme is in the book.
Here’s one from Tying the Knot: (If you aren’t familiar with these books, go to my web
site, there are blurbs and first chapters there. www.susanmaywarren.com)
Noah Standing Bear has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. But when
He sees a woman gunned down, can he help her find healing? Worse, when it happens again, what will it cost him to save her?
And here’s the one from The Sovereign’s Legacy (I’m just full of shameless
promotion today, aren’t I? Sorry!)
Royal daughter Oksana can’t believe her father entrusted her life to a lowly peasant. Peace-loving Mennonite merchant Anton Klassen is paralyzed by his charge – especially when he falls in love with her. Can two people from different lives find a way to protect Russia’s most valuable secret?
In a premise I like to start out with the highest stakes, the point at which the editor or reader might care about the outcome. I boil down the action to the most important, the climax, wind it together with their deepest fears or needs, and ask an emotion question that will propel the editor to further reading.
Tomorrow, I’m going to go through step by step instruction on how to write a premise, but let’s see if you can guess what movies these premises are from:
She just wants to prove that she can be a Pulitzer-prize winning writer. He wants to be at the top executive at his ad agency. But when two high achievers are thrown together to achieve their own goals, they just might discover that falling in love is the greatest prize of all.
She gave up on her future, believing her true love dead, and agreed to marry a king. But when her fiancé returns, ready to fight for her, can she believe in love, even when it seems the past has repeated itself? And will he be a man of his word – even beyond the grave?
Okay – those focused on the romance part of the story. Let’s try one without romance:
He believes he can prevent war with his information about a Soviet secret. But what if he’s wrong? What if, in fact, he instead pulls the trigger on World War Three? Just how far will one man’s beliefs take him….and the rest of the world?
Send your answers to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org (I’ll post the correct combination on Friday!) Anyone who gets ALL THREE correct will go into a pot, for a drawing at the end of the week of a hot off the press copy of my new book, Taming Rafe!
And, be thinking about the stakes – emotional and plot – of your story for tomorrow’s Book Therapy! By the end of the week, you should have something to post above your computer and point you in the right direction!
See you tomorrow!