Hi everyone. a writer's muse is a tough taskmaster. When I first started writing I had NO IDEA all the elements were involved in its craft, creativity and marketing.
Ouch. Of course I did it all wrong. My first book had two chapters of beautiful (I thought) narrative and descriptions. Luckily when I switched computers, I didn't really know how to save on an A Floppy Drive, so I lost the whole novel. All 300 pages of it. Although the rewrite was much better (I did learn a little) the book is still making its home in the bowels of my computer.
So, I thought I might talk a little about different aspects of writing a fictional novel. Tonight I'll start with premise and theme and how they effect your story.
PREMISE AND THEME
Good evening everyone. Tonight’s theme is – clears throat to get everyone’s attention – premise and theme. I’m dealing with this subject, because it’s one the most confusing aspect about writing tht novel, I’ve encountered
My examples for this workshop comes from my new novel Waterlilies Over my Grave which comes out November 15th, In the Arms of the Enemy and novels by some well-known mystery writers.
My premise for this workshop is: Premise leads to a tighter, better constructed and a more meaningful novel. The dominating themes are: themes and premise.
I chose this subject because knowing your premise and anticipating your themes help keep you on track.
Do most writers even KNOW what their premise and theme is before they start writing???? Well – clears throat again – No. I didn’t. But, most writers do have some core idea of what interests them in their fictional goal. A direction in which to travel. Besides, sooner or later, if you want to sell the story, you may have to describe your story in one sentence. (like a blurb? or a slightly longer synopsis) This should help.
After reading definitions in various craft books and talking with various authors, I came to the conclusion that not everyone is on the same page. I'll tell you what I think and let you dispute and discuss at will, while I go out and get drunk.
Some claim premise is the story goal. It’s cause—what the people do to make the ultimate consequence.
So: A story’s Causes & Effects, the triggers that lead from one event to the next, comes from your Premise.
Or: If you do ____________ this ___________ will happen.
The words "leads to" and/or "defeats" are necessary in order to focus the sentence. And that’s what your story is all about.
A good premise can usually be expressed very simply, and many films can be simply from a short sentence describing the premise. For example: A lonely boy is befriended by an alien; A small town is terrorized by a shark; A small boy sees dead people. A frightened psychologist and her newly adopted town is terrorized by her obsessed, psychotic ex-husband. (Just another way of wording Waterlilies. (maybe a little long)
I'VE TAKEN THE FOLLOWING FROM WIKEPEDIA
The uniqueness or compelling nature of a film or novel premise is often a key element in selling it, especially during the initial pitch. However, truly original, compelling premises are fiendishly difficult to come up with, and may take a writer many months of thinking and reading. Unfortunately, most premises are either derivative (Die Hard in space), contrived (two black guys must dress up as white girls) or simply dull (A man has an extremely boring job). However a compelling premise is absolutely no guarantee of a film or screenplay's quality, nor is a derivative or lacklustre premise the kiss of death.”
I liked that definition. It just tells you what the darn thing is about.
Here are two premises from my last two WIP’s.
Waterlilies Over My Grave:
Obsession leads to death and destruction That particular emotion starts the story and is the center for all that happens as a result.
Here is Anna Karinina’s premise: Unfaithfulness and lack of commitment in your marriage leads to a life of misery and destruction. The key words here are “leads to”
According to the Wikepedia “The premise of a film or screenplay is the fundamental concept that drives the plot.
In the Arms of the Enemy
A man searches for a killer (cause) only to fall in love with his chief suspect (effect)
That is my premise for In the Arms of the Enemy.
A couple investigate an old murder (cause) only to be threatened by a new threat of new murder—their own. (effect) from “Sleeping Murder” by Agatha Christie.
THEME is the message or messages the author wants to convey.
THEME DEFINED IN WIKIPEDIA: In literature, a theme is a broad idea in a story, or a message conveyed by a work. This message is usually about life, society or human nature. Themes are usually implied rather than explicitly stated. Deep thematic content is not required in literature; however, some readers would say that all stories inherently project some kind of outlook on life that can be taken as a theme, regardless of whether or not this is the intent of the author. Analysis of changes in dynamic characters can provide insight into a particular theme.
Some common place themes: Love conquers all, there’s no place like home (guess what movie that’s from?) Liars never prosper, Good will triumph over evil.
Stories can have multiple themes. Most do.
BACK TO IN THE ARMS OF THE ENEMY:
PREMISE: A man seeks out a killer only to fall in love with his primary suspect.
THEME: 1. Events and people are not always what they seem. 2. The end doesn’t justify the means.
Some resources have stated themes in terms of one word:
So: If you want a one word thematic description, then my theme in the Arms of the Enemy is about: Deception, Betrayal and Justice. Justice being the instigator of deception and betrayal. Betrayal being the instigator for the need of justice and deception.
AND as this is a romantic suspense the theme carries for both the romance and the story.
I’ve found the two clear messages in The Arms of the Enemy because: 1. things are not always what they appear to be; the hero is deceptive to the heroine. he's not what he's pretending to be. to the hero, the heroine is not the villainess he supposed and he deceived her (something he had to pay for, of course. He's probably making it up to her every day in their passionate marriage. LOL) Also, the hero's ex-wife is not what she appeared to be either. So, hero, heroine and villain all were incorporated into the themes.
In Agatha Christie’s “Sleeping Murder” a young couple move into a house where the wife unknowingly lived when she was a child. Soon, PREMISE: the couple are investigating an old murder mystery and are threatened with new personal danger. (CAUSE AND EFFECT)
Theme: Let sleeping murder lie.
Crime does not pay, even crime committed eighteen years ago.
Or in one word: This story is about Sleeping murder (also title of the book)
HERE ARE SOME THEMES AS EXPRESSED BY WIKIPEDIA:
The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom Themes include:
• All things are connected, no matter how random they seem
• Hate does harm to the "hate-ee" and the hater
• That even the most menial of things has meaning
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee Themes include:
• The coexistence of good and evil
• The importance of moral education
• The existence of social inequality
Okay, let’s look at MOTIF: SHOW OF HANDS: HOW MANY OF YOU HAVE EVER HEARD A RICHARD WAGNER OPERA? YOU KNOW ALL THOSE RECURRING MELODIES WHEN SOMEONE IS PRESENT OR SOMETHING IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN? YEP THAT’S MOTIF. HOW ABOUT IN FILMS. GONE WITH THE WIND FOR EXAMPLE. THE TARA MUSIC IS A MOTIF. EVERYTIME SOMEONE THINKS ABOUT TARA OR TARA COMES UP ON SCREEN IT’S MOTIF IS PLAYED.
Motif in fiction is the symbolisms that expresses and reinforces your theme. In Waterlillies one motif is drowning. The killer wants to drown his victim. The heroine is drowning in sorrow, the hero is drowning in bitterness, the villain is drowning in obsession. So water is an important motif in the story as are lilies. Lillies in vases, in paintings, water being spilled etc. Rain and storms. there’s little reminders in a pictorial sense of your theme. Lilies, incidentally, are the main flower found at funerals.
So, on that morbid note, any questions? I hope this is coherent. My head is ready to fall on my keyboard.
Cheers all. Let me hear from you. i'd love to start a conversation on this topic.