If your Character asks you, “Am I the Drama?”;
Say,” No, it’s Premise, it will always be Premise!”
A statement or idea that is accepted as being true and that is used as the basis of an argument.
Writing is an easy task until you start doing it. Do you sit knowing what you have to say? Or do you get to know in the process of writing? It is complicated, isn’t it? But let’s talk, about how we are going to understand the importance of premise in the craft of good writing. Here, we mean good writing as to any form of storytelling.
If I intend to make things simple, I would dare to say, your Premise is a conclusion that you wish to make evident to your reader/ audience by the end of the story. The conclusion should not vary. Of course, there can be varying insights into it, yet the conclusion should remain the same.
Let’s take an example of one of the most famous plays, Macbeth by Shakespeare.
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth kill Duncan in their love for power and the throne. Macbeth kills Banquo for the future threat he poses. In order to be ensured of his position of power, Macbeth ends up killing more people. Lady Macbeth ends up dying because of remorse and guilt.
It was ambition that led to the downfall of Macbeth. Everything was drenched in his ambition which led to his conflict and crisis in the play. So what’s the premise? Can we say, “Pitiless ambition leads to one’s own downfall?”
Let’s talk about one of the most famous movies, 3 Idiots written by Rajkumar Hirani, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, and Abhijat Joshi.
Rancho, Raju, and Ferhan- are 3 college friends navigating their college life in an engineering college. Raju and Ferhan end up struggling with their academics despite being intelligent. Their peer, Chatur ends up scoring always second as Rancho tops every time. In the end, Rancho is the most sought-after scientist in the world and Chatur loses the bet.
What’s the premise of this story? It talks about excellence and how it results in success. Every attempt is successful if made in true earnest of understanding and working through it. Can we say, “Excellence leads to success?”
Let’s talk about the short story A Bet (attach the link to its pdf) By Anton Chekhov.
A young lawyer and a banker got themselves involved in a bet where the young lawyer staked fifteen years of solitary confinement in exchange for 2 million pounds. The banker, by the end of fifteen years, would end up broke if the young lawyer ended up fulfilling the bet, that he had so successfully seemed to have completed. In order to escape the ruin, the banker decided to kill the lawyer. However, he did not kill him as the lawyer renounced the 2 million dollars by the end of the story.
What’s the premise here? The story stands on the idea of the morality of capital punishment versus lifelong confinement. We witness a full transformation of the young lawyer and realize how lifelong confinement can change a person.
Can we say,” Lifelong Confinement can lead to Eye-Opening and Fruitful Transformations?”
Take any good story, screenplay, or novel and you will have one clear-cut premise for it. That’s how you separate the wheat from the chaff.
Lajos Egri states in The Art of Dramatic Writing while discussing premise, “No idea, and no situation, was ever strong enough to carry you through to its logical conclusion without a clear-cut premise.”
You need to know where are you going with your writing. What emotions do you want to evoke and why do you want to evoke those emotions particularly? And that comes with a clear idea of the premise at hand.
If I can take a bit more liberty, I won’t shy away from saying that you do not need a unique premise for your storyline. Even though your premise resembles hundreds of other writings’ premises, your take would be different. Your observation for life would be different from other writers’ take on a similar premise. It is the intimate knowledge of your observation regarding your premise that will help you understand and write your story in a nuanced manner.
Aert! Alert! Alert! It’s some homework time.
Grab your pencil and a sheet of paper. Your mind teems with stories. Yet, you just do not know how to paint them in words. Start it here. Try to write that story’s theme in one line. Be precise. Very precise, actually!
When you write the premise, your character and structure will have a foundation that you can go back to when you hit an impasse. Every good writing reached a certain block. Ask the masters themselves!
“If you have a clear-cut premise, almost automatically a synopsis unrolls itself. You elaborate on it, providing the minute details, the personal touches.” - espouses Egri.
To complicate matters a bit further, your character must carry the premise in his/her growth as the story arcs out. Your premise involves a plot, character, and conflict. It is not something different or apart from them, it represents them.
It is imperative to understand that your premise should not differ or come out differently from your plot, character, or the crisis it holds. All these should simultaneously unroll with the premise as the centric idea. Behind the character’s action, plot, and conflict, the premise should be unfolding in it, not with it. “With” is an external, tangible pointer, that makes discrimination, we don’t want that, do we?
When you are down in your writing, and your character asks you, “ Am I the Drama?”
I hope, you know why and what would you say to your character.