Editing & Premise

This angry Chicken has nothing to do with the rest of this post.

Now that I’ve got a working draft for the episode, it’s time to edit. Editing is, by far, my favorite part of the creative process.

Think about any competition show you’ve ever watched. American Idol, Forged in Fire, Hell’s Kitchen – doesn’t matter. Chances are you’ve been entertained by a competition involving a skill that you know nothing about. I’ll bet that lack of trade knowledge didn’t stop you from judging the competitors!

Editing is the same way. Often it’s easy to know when something doesn’t read write or seem interesting. Fundamental understanding of story-telling elements will enable you to make corrections that fix the problems you find. If you try and make corrections sorely based on feel, there is a chance that you continue creating the same problem in a different way.

Writing is no different than any other skill-based task that we perform in our lives. Your story is an engine. The knowledge you attain pertaining to writing is your tool set. The more engines you build, the more likely they are to work better and more efficiently.

Each scene, no matter how mundane, will always incorporate and be judged by the following categories: Premise, tone, conflict, character arc, plot points, formatting/grammar, and dialogue. There are probably more, but these elements come to mind.

Your premise is the heart of your story. It’s the little description you read about a movie on Netflix before you decide to watch it. There are premises that are universally appealing, and there are premises that fall flat and die before they even get out of the gate. When you pitch a publisher or an agent, they want to hear about your premise before you submit the body of your work. If the soul of the story doesn’t appeal to their interests/market, they will not ask you to submit your story.

A lot of writers make the mistake of thinking that you can write a great story first and then find a way to summarize the plot into an intriguing premise later. This generally doesn’t work.

The most powerful tool I’ve found to grade the strength of your premise is to verbalize it to people close to you. The first time I tried to write a book and tell someone what it was about verbal diarrhea spilled from my lips. You will be able to tell instantly by the expression on another person’s face whether your idea has some legs or whether it was born with a debilitating genetic defect.

The premise is the question. It’s the driving force behind the story and should contain the major story-telling elements within a single sentence. The conflict should be inherent and natural, the tone should be felt, and the genre should be evident.

My premise for episode 5 is this:

Ryan discovers an anonymous love note hidden by his missing wife and learns some secrets are better left unknown.

It raises questions: Who wrote the note? Was his wife unfaithful? Why did she hide it? Was the writer responsible for her disappearance?

The conflict is inherent and the plot can be assumed: Ryan must confront the writer of the note.

The genre is all obvious: Mystery. A sense of danger is implied by the act of the note being hidden.

Anyways, this was sort of a rambling post. But today I get to edit and play with colors that are already on the palette. I enjoy that much more than staring at a blank canvas.

Have a wonderful day creating and pursuing the premise that consumes your own life.

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