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A premise sentence can keep your writing on track

Ever heard the saying, “Ideas are a dime a dozen?” While it’s true that ideas can be found everywhere we look, it’s not true that every idea is worthy of a story or can sustain an entire novel. That’s why I like to write in a variety of mediums: poetry, short story, novels, even songs. Most of my ideas can find a home in one of these genres.

But how do you know if your idea can sustain a novel?  One way to do this is by writing a logline or a premise statement. Whatever you want to call it, this is a one- to two-sentence summary of your story that includes the protagonist or hero (including a type of person and an adjective that describes him), his goal, the antagonist, the main conflict, and action (plot).

In “Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success,” K.M. Weiland calls her one-liner the premise sentence. Here’s her premise sentence for her novel Dreamlander:

“Renegade journalist Chris Redston discovers his dreams are really memories of a world he lives in while he sleeps, which he will, reluctantly, have to fight to save from destruction.”

This sentence introduces the protagonist by name, profession, and even gives us a bit of his character–all in four words! The next section shows us the main plot line and main conflict. Read Weiland’s book to find out how she then uses her premise sentence to help her outline her entire novel.

The key with a premise sentence is to focus on the main plot and conflict. You want to keep it brief.

As mentioned in my previous post, “Original idea & logline: using them to write a better story, part one,” a premise statement can help us stay the course in our writing and help us pitch our book to agents later.

For more information and ideas on how intriguing loglines are made, check out my earlier post: “Three posts on how to write effective loglines.”

Occasionally, I’ll take a break from writing and go back to work on my logline to see if I can dig deeper and open up my premise even more. Writing one sentence should be easy, but as I’ve been writing my book, creating the logline has been the most difficult task of all.

For more information about loglines, check out Save the Cat by Blake Snyder.

Have you written a logline or premise sentence? If so, please share your experiences in the comments below.

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