Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Premise

It's strange how something so simple as what-the-story-is-about doesn't come to me until well after the novel is written. During the process I have an idea. Perhaps I even have some sense of the plot. Yet the premise, that summary paragraph, the truth of the story, the full concept, lays in wait in the sub-conscious. Some never find it. They go on and on about the primary conflict, the obvious issue, even when that's not really what the story is about. They focus on what happens or why it happens. Not on what the story is truly about.

Still, there's something magical about the premise. It brings a certain clarity to mind. It distills the essential nature of what you're trying to achieve. So I would strongly suggest coming up with the premise of the novel at every stage of it. You'll probably be wrong the first few times. You might be wrong every time. But at the very least it'll help you regard your tale more clearly and consistently. It'll also help you prepare for the query writing phase.

This is the premise of the Butterfly Lady as I see it:

A web of conspiracy holds a small boy's fate in thrall, for his soul has been damned to a taint that slowly but surely turns him into a monster. Jason Arneil struggles to free himself from the lies and deception that threaten to damn him and, in doing so, must flee his island home and journey by ship to Port Vedic in the hope that someone there might discover a cure for his curse. But in that bustling city, he finds only answers that threaten madness and a desperate choice between two forms of damnation.


  1. Interesting. The first book I wrote was hard to capture that in a brief statement. I started the second book I wrote WITH a brief statement. I guess it's different for all of us, and apparently at times, different depending on what we're working on.

  2. That sounds like an intriguing story idea and you should run with it. I wonder how much time you will give the boy before madness sets in?

    And I was just working on a short story when an entire novel popped into my noggin' and I abandoned the pithy tale and just yesterday knocked out the first chapter (rough) of a novel.

  3. There's nothing wilder than creativity. And nothing more distracting than a new and exciting tale.

    As for The Butterfly Lady, I actually came up with that neat little summation almost by accident. I had to have something to attract critiquers to it and so I came up with a short summary that I'm actually quite proud of. I didn't expect to sum up the story. I just wanted to give people a clue about what it was about.