Friday, April 29, 2011

Plot vs Premise - The Eternal Struggle

                Alright boys and girls!  This week's lesson is on the essential framework of your story, the plot.  Or is it premise?


                What is the difference between to two?  That's a damn good question.  To answer it, I would like to bring up something my marketing professor would always ask:

                "Are we looking or are we seeing?"

                Another good question.  Simply put, one perceives the issue from the outside and the other from within.  This can be extrapolated to deciphering the difference between the plot and premise.  A story's premise is a vague description of what is to be expected and the plot has much more details.  When describing your story, normally someone would ask "what is the premise of your story" which pretty much means, "tell me everything about your story using little to no effort." 

                Now that we have this useful information...  What do we do with it? Knowing the difference is actually a crucial step.  If you are going to pursue the professional path to becoming a writer, then knowing how to efficiently and effectively convey your premise to your potential agent/publisher is a must.  I'm not saying I'm the authority when it comes to this matter, but it definitely helps to know the difference.  The best way to think about the premise is essentially everything you would write in your query letter.

                Agents and publishers alike read hundreds upon thousands of queries from young and hungry writers (like mine!) every year.  If you want to sell your story, then you're going to have to create the best possible query letter/premise that will steal their attention (and hopefully their heart as well.  More on that later).

                Once you've sold them on your premise, then they're probably going to ask for a synopsis, usually about 1-2 pages or so.  And so we've arrived at the second portion of our less.  A synopsis is where you're going to describe your plot in as much and little detail as possible.  Agents and publishers are testing you yet again at this point.  They want to see not just how well you can tell a story but also if you can do so with such little space.  The demands of creativity are unforgiving at sometimes but hey, if everything came easy, then nothing would be worth having.

                Once you know what an agent and publisher wants to read, it is up to you to craft it in the best way possible.  Time to you let your creative juices flow.  Crafting a query letter and/or synopsis can be just as taxing as writing your story.  Of course anyone would love to be able to sit and talk with an agent, pitch their story in person, and allow the passion of their thoughts pour through.  Sadly, this is not standard protocol.

                But a guy can dream!

                Since we are unable to sell our stories in person (or give an agent/publisher our 'word' that it's a good story) we must show them our creativity in writing.  After all, how can they believe you're a worthy writer if you can't even sell them on a simple pitch?

                Well, today's lesson is short and sweet.  I hope we all learned something today.  Always think about your readers above all else.  The premise is your hook and the plot steals the show.  Even after your story is written, there is still plenty of work left to do.  Creativity never sleeps.   Now we've all learned something today!

                "Remember your training...  And you will make it back alive!" - Starship Troopers


Post a Comment