What is the story question? Premise, theme, call it what you will.

Do androids dream of electric sheep or have feelings? What happens when a mother is a sister and tries to keep it a secret? What do you do if your long-term memory is shot to hell and you are trying to remember?  What are you willing to sacrifice to save your town?  What are you unwilling to sacrifice to save your family?  Your life? What would your do to follow military orders to the letter against your  better sense? Or not?

The premise of your story is what gets the audience emotionally involved. The premise makes the audience care because your protagonist has made a commitment: right or wrong, but a commitment.

Without a premise/theme the story is just a sequence of events. So just as you know the end before you write one word of your story, you keep the premise in mind as you write each scene.  How does the premise affect the protagonist?  The antagonist? How are minor characters caught up in the machinations of the protagonist trying to work out her challenge?

You want the audience to feel, feel, feel—to get involved in the story. Car chases, exploding helicopters, silent jewel robberies, monsters creeping up behind are all exciting for the moment, but when the audience really cares about your story is when there are stakes, stakes that count from a moral perspective.

Quickly state the theme/premise of your current story.  If you can’t, you probably need to dig deeper to the root of your character’s dilemma.

Try stating the theme of your top five films—the ones you have watched more than once.  Odds are you will find the theme is what drives the emotional pull in the story.  And the emotional pull is what gets the reader/audience involved.

2 thoughts on “What is the story question? Premise, theme, call it what you will.

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