What is your Story’s Premise?

tower of books and a man interested
Image by zen via Flickr


Yesterday I sat in on a tweetchat on twitter. The link to the chat transcript is above. The subject was: The Premise.

So what is “The Premise” of your story?

Bill Johnson defines it as “the Foundation of Storytelling”. He breaks this down even further with:

“A story premise sets out a story’s core dramatic issue, the movement of that issue toward resolution, and the fulfillment that resolution sets up for the story’s audience.”

So to break that definition into even simpler terms:The Premise needs to have the Dramatic Issue of your story, the movement and the fulfilled resolution.

i.e. “Lajos Egri in The Art of Dramatic Writing goes into great detail about what a premise is. Egri’s premise for Romeo and Juliet: ‘Great love defies even death.'”

The chat started off discussing individual Premise’ for each story but then evolved into whether as writers we have an omni-Premise for our writing. I have been reflecting quite a bit on this chat and on this subject and came up with what The Premise means to me, my individual stories and my combined writing.

Do you always have a Premise figured out before you start writing a new story?

Sometimes I do but sometimes the Premise grows from something floating above my head to something solid. It grows as I talk to my characters and find out what their story is. The Premise then becomes their answer as to why I am telling their story.

Does this mean “The Premise” is unique to my story or my characters?

No. Many writers and many stories could have the same premise but this does not make them the same story. For instance if you took Romeo and Juliet’s Premise – ‘Great love defies even death’ – I can pull up at least one other great love story that has the same Premise: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Now beyond the fact that we know over 200 years separated Mr Shakespeare and Miss Bronte, we also know that these two stories are completely different from one another.

Do all stories have a Premise? and Does a story have just one Premise?

Yes. All stories have a Premise. The Premise is the core and the foundation of your story.

One Premise? This is a catch-22. You could argue that a story could have many different Premise’ but ultimately I believe there is one core Premise that is the foundation. Just like a building of brick, concrete or wood has only one foundation. A story is also a building, it is built from words and imagination.

Do I have  an Omni-Premise that is the foundation of all my stories?

Your stories may all be very different whether that be in terms of genre, category or voice. But if you look at them even closer do you perhaps see a thread of thought, call it moral for argument’s sake, that twines its way through all your stories?

I realised that for myself there is an Omni-Premise that is at the heart of all my stories. Indeed I even find that same thread winding its way through my poetry as well.

My Omni-Premise is:

Trials and Tribulations are the diamond dust that polish a noble and pure soul into a shining gem that can survive the heat of any soul-fire and through that polishing it grows into the person it is meant to be.

I realised my stories are about those characters that are viewed as externally vulnerable but have an inner core of independence, refusing to be called “victim”, are always being tested by trials and tribulations. My stories are about survival and my main characters finding the courage to survive against all odds. Indeed it is only through their suffering that my characters find their true path as survivors. I am always drawn to the darker subjects because life is not a bed of roses but a life lived without trials ensures a soul that has not been tested for its true strength. I find my reading habits all have this Premise to them. Of course I read many types of stories being the bookworm that I am but the ones that I re-read and the ones that resonate deep within me all have this surviving in the heart of trouble/darkness/conflict. I guess you could say that though I am drawn to darker subjects…I look for the rainbow after every storm. Without storms there can be no rainbow.

So what is your Premise for the story you are working on? Do you have an Omni-Premise that threads its way through all of your writings? Are you drawn to certain types of stories? Why? What sort of stories do you want to tell?

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning

Project 365 – Through my lens..Light in darkness

These are some pics that I took a couple of days ago. I particularly love the play of colours: light against dark. It is symbolic of summer and winter, sun and moon, day and night. I enjoy pictures of contradiction. Sometimes dark is needed to truly understand light. I think that can be true in writing too.

Characters need to be believable. To be believable they need to invoke sympathy in the reader. For me the most interesting characters are the  characters that have to battle their own darkness, their own character flaws. One of the best examples of these types of characters are Heathcliff and Catherine from Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.

Wuthering Heights is my favourite book. It is a story I have read countless times and will continue to read countless more. What is is about this story that makes it one of the best written stories of all time? I believe it is the true portrayal of human nature in all its ugliness and beauty, its light and shadow.

The principal characters, Heathcliff and Catherine are two of the least sympathetic characters ever written. Then why do they continue to enthrall readers? I say they are the least sympathetic but they are the most real characters on a written page. They are full of flaws and strengths. Both of them have an unswerving loyalty to one another. This loyalty is stretched to extremes and twists their characters into obsession and darkness. But somehow readers identify with these two characters.

What I love about Wuthering Heights is this: the characterization of human flaws. It is far easier to want to write characters that are good and kind, characters that readers can like. Then why did Emily Bronte write and create characters that most people would find abhorrent? I believe she did it because she was not a writer who shied from the truth of the world. Emily Bronte did not shy from the truth of human emotion. The fact that at its most extreme love can become possessive and obsessive. The fact that love can change people for either good or bad. The fact that passion can drive people to conquer even the cords of life and death.

To many readers Wuthering Heights is a tragedy. To me I see it in another light. In the end not even death could separate Heathcliff and Cathy. In the end their love outweighed their petty humanity and overshadowed their flaws. Wuthering Heights is a love story of the ages. But unlike most stories it tells the truth of love. It tells that love can be brutal and painful. It tells the reader that sometimes love does not have all the answers. It tells the reader that sometimes true love is more than the human condition can contain. This is all told through the views of Heathcliff, the “villain” in the story.

Another key element of her writing that Miss Bronte uses is the setting. The setting is as dark as the characters. It sets the scene beautifully. This story could not be set in a city nor could it be set in a farming village. It needed to be set somewhere without borders, somewhere dark and wild, somewhere where nature rules over people. To me this is symbolic of the love and passion that rules and overrules both Heathcliff and Cathy.

Emily Bronte shows us that it you can write about flawed characters and still have readers be enthralled by them. No matter how many times I read the story of Wuthering Heights, I want the ending to change. I want their love and their passion to bring them together in life. I want the story to lighten. But I also understand if the story was different it would not have the power it still has so many years later after it was first published. This was a book that was written under a male pseudonym because publishers of that day could not believe that a woman could write about such a dark subject or create such dark characters.

Emily Bronte was a writer and a woman who did not shy away from the darker things in life and the darker facets of human nature. She was a visionary before her time. She was someone who understood human love and the flip side of that human emotion. Wuthering Heights is an embodiment of human nature. Her characters, Heathcliff and Cathy, are complete 3d people. They are not perfect cut-out characters. They are people who feel passionately. The writing is so flawless that instead of remaining characters in a book, they are people. That is something every writer should seek after: creating characters that are so believable as human beings that they cease just becoming characters. They become people we love and hate. That is why I love Wuthering Heights and why I believe Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw are two of the best characters from literature.

My Favourite Quotes

Image via Wikipedia

Those of you who know me will know that I am a confessed quotes junkie. If you didn’t know that, now you know.

These are some of my favourite quotes:

No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world’s storm-troubled sphere…
I’ll walk where my own nature would be leading: It vexes me to choose another guide.” –Emily Bronte

Sometimes we love with nothing more than hope. Sometimes we cry with everything except tears. In the end that’s all there is: love and its duty, sorrow and its truth. In the end that’s all we have – to hold on tight until the dawn.”
– Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts

“Aerodynamically the bumblebee shouldn’t be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn’t know that so it goes on flying anyway…If you think you can, you can. And if you think you can’t, you’re right.✓”
-Mary Kay Ash

I Dwell in Possibility
– Emily Dickinson


Every experience God gives us
Every person he puts into my life
is the perfect preparation
for a Future only He can see.
– Corrie Ten Boom

The purpose of life is to live it,
to taste experience to the utmost,
to reach out eagerly and without fear
for newer and richer experience.
– Eleanor Rooseveldt

Write from your heart

Write from your soul

Make the best of your talent

And don’t Ever let it go

Not for anything…

The adventure of life is to learn

The goal of life is to grow

The nature of life is to change

The challenge of life is to overcome

The essence of life is to care

The secret of life is to dare

The beauty of life is to give

The joy of life is to love. – William Nathan Ward

today is your day

to dance lightly with life,

sing wild songs of adventure,

soar your spirit,

unfurl your joy. – Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. – Helen Keller

I took the road less travelled and that has made all the difference.          – Robert Frost

We will only understand the miracle of life when we allow the unexpected to happen. Every day God gives us the sun and also one moment in which we have the ability to change everything that makes us unhappy. – Paulo Coehlo

There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle. – Albert Einstein

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. – Ernest Hemingway

You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say. – F Scott Fitzgerald

You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.   – Mark Twain

“Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.”
Rainer Maria Rilke

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

For everything there is a season
And a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to throw away;
A time to tear, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate,
A time for war, and a time for peace.
– Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
– Soren Kierkegaard

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.
– Emily Dickinson

Here is the test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.
– Richard Bach

Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
William Shakespeare, Macbeth, 1606

The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.
– E. E. Cummings

What are your favourite quotations? What words of wisdom inspire you?