Thursday, March 7, 2013

Focus on Premise - by Rita Karnopp
     If you are aspiring to write the breakout novel, what should you know?  The Breakout Novelist by Donald Maass, is by far the best book I’ve read about this subject. 
     In chapter one of The Breakout Novelist I learned about premise, and below is an excerpt I’d like to share with you.
     “A ton of craft goes into any novel, much more so, I suspect, with a work that can grip the imaginations of millions of readers. At a certain point in the process, even the process of organic writers, choices are made: Story paths are selected, scenes are tossed out, new layers are added. Those choices can make a story larger, deeper, more memorable, or not. You may experience that process as outlining or revision, but whatever you call it, it is planning your story.
     Planning a breakout-level novel sounds like magic. It’s not. Notions for stories come to everyone, all over the place, all the time. The trick is not in having a flash of inspiration but in knowing how to develop that scrap into a solid story premise, and, as important, in recognizing when to discard a weak premise that will not support the mighty structure of a breakout novel.
     Breakout premises can be built. It is a matter of having the right tools and knowing how to use them. A breakout premise need not be narrative; that is, a mini outline. It can be something smaller, but if so, it must have the energy of a uranium isotope.
     It could be the cold bright light of a November afternoon, the feel of a black-edged telegram in a mother’s hand, the putrid smell of a week-old corpse in the trunk of a BMW, a woman’s sworn oath before God that she will never go hungry again. In short, a premise is any single image, moment, feeling, or belief that has enough power and personal meaning for the author to set her story on fire, and propel it like a rocket for hundreds of pages.”
     I found that information edgy and inspiring.  Again, if you are considering writing that breakout novel, reading The Breakout Novelist by Donald Maass is a smart first step!

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