When I am writing, I am usually writhing in pain.
The beloved dramatic code is very exciting to unravel because we want the reader to keep asking, ‘and then what happens?’, but what is the reason for all the fuss? That brings us to the dreaded and bandied word called The Premise.
What is the premise for the story? Why does this story occur? Is there a process?
All writers don’t plan and plot the story’s premise in advance. Some people like me write spontaneously, from a past memory or an incident witnessed during childhood, zeroing on something that stayed imprinted in the mind. Others might still come up with a generic premise or story idea, like Valentine’s Day or A Winter’s Morning.
There could be hundreds of stories written in the world on these ideas. What should a reader expect then from your story?
The reader expects a different story of course, but it can be based on a generic premise. What makes the story unique depends on many factors. For example, how about a Valentine’s Day that turns out to be a day of Hate not Love, or A Winter’s Morning that is unusually hot because something has gone wrong with the weather?
Character, setting, event, outcome – all these can be differently handled and visualised by the story-teller based on only one all-encompassing question: What happens?
Short stories, often deemed the toughest ones to write and sell, actually enthral readers all over the world because of this very question, “what happens”, within the shortest possible time.
The challenge of the writer is to ensure that when he or she starts to tackle a generic premise, the story turns into an original narration and unique insight that is solely fuelled by the writer’s own experiences and sensibility. If as a writer, you can condense your answer to “what happens” in a single sentence, then you have a point of view, an insight and an outcome before you start on the actual process of writing.
New-age story-tellers don’t always have tight endings that are predictable or have been written before. But it is not about the ending. It is how you present the ending to a generic premise, and what you focus on as a writer, will make the subtle difference to the reader. The impact of an open ending of a story can change with a single sentence. For example, “And as he stepped on the bridge, he saw her standing there” instead of “He stepped on the bridge where she was standing.”
As a writer, when you write the first one, it fills the reader with hope even though you left the ending open. In the second version, it says nearly nothing that can be stretched in one’s imagination. A good story must have a plot, just like an elaborate novel, irrespective of how you’d like it to end.
Never compromise on “what happens” next. The Premise is sacred ground. Walk on it.