Friday, October 12, 2007

It's been a while

This quarter in the club we've been listening to the John Truby's audio series on screenwriting. The first week we delved into how to develop a premise line for your story.

Here is an outline of the handout of what we discussed:

Story Kebab: Creating Premises

From Jon Truby’s screenwriting series

Premise Line- Is a story stated in a single sentence. A Premise Line includes some sense of the inciting incident, characters and sometimes the outcome of story. This idea is derived from the screenwriting industry and is used to summarize the entire plot into an easily pitched single concept. Since most producers don’t like to read scripts, writers have to cleverly craft a single sentence to get anyone to be interested in their work.

Thus the premise line or log line was created.

Coming up with a premise line also helps writers to plan out what they’re going to write and establish a theme before they commit time to actually writing the story. That way the writer never loses sight of the original idea, and has an opportunity to make big changes quickly.

Ways of coming up with premises:

First, try to come up with an idea that may change your life. Explore your thoughts to find out what you really believe in and what you care about. One of the ways to find out what you’re interested in is to simply write a list of things you would like to read or watch on the screen. Don’t worry about fixing mistakes or carefully planning the sentences. This is a brainstorm; ideas don’t need any real structure.

Another idea is to write all of your premise ideas on the same sheet of paper. Look for patterns in this list such as repeated character types, problems or moral arguments.

Next, you should put down all of the characters you can think of on one sheet of paper, and then try to determine who’s your best character amongst these ideas. Not the nicest, but rather the most interesting character. A person you feel compelled to explore or who fascinates you.

Thirdly, you need to get an idea of what the central conflict is going to be. You find the central conflict by asking yourself this question: Who is going to be fighting whom, about what? When you are able to answer that question, you will have the premise line of your story.

After successfully writing a premise, the next task is to come up with the cause and effect line of that premise, to better hone in on what the story is really going to be about.

Bad example: A man falls in love, and fights his brother for control of the winery.

Fixed Example: By falling in love, a man defeats his brother for control of the winery.

Other Examples:


Now it’s because he falls in love that he’s able to fight his brother for the winery.

Other Examples:

The Godfather: The youngest son of a mafia family takes revenge on the men who killed his father and becomes the new godfather.

Casablanca: A tough American expatriate rediscovers an old love only to give her up so she can help her husband fight the Nazis.

Star Wars: A young man uses his skills as a warrior to save a Princess and defeat the evil forces of a galactic empire.

Next, you must figure out the central moral choice for your hero. In most stories the hero will make one major choice towards the end of the story. That choice defines the overall theme of the story.

When you are trying to come up with the central moral choice for your hero, the choice must be between two equally valid decisions. A positive and negative option is not a choice because the hero will go for the positive all the time.

Example: love versus honor.


  • A Premise Line is a single sentence which expresses your story
  • Brainstorm all of your ideas on one sheet of paper
  • Brainstorm all of your characters on one sheet of paper
  • Look through your ideas and pick the most interesting ones to make your story.
  • Decide who is going to be fighting whom, about what.
  • What is the central moral choice of your hero?
  • Revise your premise line carefully until you are satisfied

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