How to create a story premise


Someone recently asked me where I get my ideas for my stories. What they probably should have asked me is how do I take those ideas and mix them up to make the stories I write. See, when I write, I don’t take one idea and write a story based on that, instead I take a whole bunch of ideas and patch-work them together to make a new story.

For example, a few weeks ago I was thinking, ‘I like the Harry Potter novels. I want to write something like that.’ Of course, just writing another Harry Potter novel would be boring because it’s already been done. So instead I thought about all the things I like about the Harry Potter novels.

  1. I liked that it took place in a secret magical world that was parallel to the normal world.
  2. And I liked that the main character started out young and we got to watch him grow and become a powerful leader.

IMG_0114Okay, that’s a good start. I’ll just take those parts. But,now I need to add more parts to it.

Well I really like the anime Full Metal Alchemist. So maybe I could put armored metal golems in my magical world. In fact, what if my main character was raised by a kind metal golem, one that looked really scary. It would give my young protagonist the ability to look beyond the scary or at times ugly exterior of people to see the goodness inside.

Okay, what else? Well, I recently watched the movie Song of the  See (lovely movie!) and I really liked the seclusion of the island they lived on. So, what if the main character grew up on a distant island with only her golem guardian to keep her company and that’s why she doesn’t know about magic and all her powers.

So, now I have these parts, but they still lack something. What am I going to use as glue to really bring all these parts together?

The best glue I’ve found for sticking random parts together is conflict.

FOGGY ISLANDYou might be thinking, ‘Conflict? How’s that going to work? She’s a girl that’s grown up on a pristine island with her loving and nurturing guardian. Then she’s whisked away to a magical school where she finds out she has magical powers and everyone good adores her. It sounds like she has the perfect life!’

Well for one thing, if she’s lived such a happy life with someone she loves on a peaceful island, how happy is she going to be when all that is taken away from her? That could definitely cause a little conflict.

It’s okay, a good start, but I think I could add more conflict.

IMG_0136What if the MC wasn’t adored by all the good guys of the school when she gets there? What if the school is divided into two groups: the good guys and the bad guys. And what if the bad guys are the one’s that take her from her perfect island home. What if they do this because she’s supposed to be their secret weapon against the good guys? The good guys know this and the bad guys know this. So, no matter how good she acts, the good guys don’t like her because she’s dangerous, and the bad guys don’t like her because she keeps doing good things.

Now that could cause some serious conflict!

I think that’s the big take-away I’ve been trying to say through all of this rambling. A story is made by taking different features of other stories or events that you liked and then they are glued together with conflict. I hope this was helpful.

Do you have some tips for creating Story Premises? I’d love to hear about them. Please leave a comment below.


Short story or first draft?

inside pages of the book A curious incident of the dog in the night time

Recently I’ve been noticing a trend. More and more writers have been writing short stories and then blowing them up into full novels instead of writing first drafts.

I have to admit, I’ve done that before too. In my novel, It’s a stony road through Hell, it was originally written as a short story and then years later I re-wrote it as a short-ish novel. It made a surprisingly high quality final piece. Usually I have to re-write a piece over and over again just to get it to be kind of readable, but from the short story starting point it came together fairly easily.

its-a-stony-road-through-hell-coverThe writer I heard about most recently doing this is Isaac Marion, author of Warm Bodies. Evidently, the story was originally written as a seven page short story (practically a flash fiction) and it only really covered what an internal monologue might be for a zombie. Later, he expanded on it to create an entire post-apocalyptic world for the main characters to live in. I think it’s amazing how he took just seven pages and turned it into a 239 page novel.

My short story of ISRTH started out significantly longer. I’m not sure I even doubled my word count.

But it really shows what you can do, if you have a good starting point. See, I think that’s the whole point of starting with a short story. You get to start with something that’s already good.

Writing a novel is hard. Writing a good novel is even harder. They’re big, they’re meandering, and they spiral out of control quickly. How novels are usually written is a writer writes the first draft and it’s terrible. Let’s face it, even first drafts from great authors are pretty bad. Then the writer is supposed to take this bad writing and re-write it over and over again until it’s good. The problem is your starting point is with a whole lot of bad writing.

IMG_0263In contrast, short stories are easy to write because they are so much smaller. It’s kind of like the difference between wrestling with a tiger vs. wrestling with a kitten. Best of all, short stories are easy to write well the first time around. So, if you start with a short story, you might not have much to work with, but it’s all high quality. All you have to do is expand on it.

Have you ever blown up a short story into a novel? Was it a blow-out or did it turn nuclear? Please share in the comments area below.


Can off beat characters have romance?

broken heart

I’ve been struggling with this question for months now. The main character of the novel I’m currently working on is really off beat. She’s a former goth girl that got dumped by her vampire boy-friend and now she’s out for revenge. The only problem is she’s kind of an obsessive fan-girl klutz. She’s kind of goofy. But, I want her to find love and have her story have a happily ever after ending. It’s been a lot tougher to make that happen than I thought.

Here’s a few scene’s that I think really highlight her character.IMG_0194

It was Thursday morning and I was still in bed. I wasn’t going to get up for school today, I hadn’t gotten up for school yesterday or the day before either. I was wrapped in my gran-gran’s hand-made blanket that she had made, by hand, just for me. Because she loved me until the day she died. ‘Cause, that’s how love was supposed to be, damn it!

Someone knocked on my bedroom door. Good thing I was already facing that way, because I wasn’t interested in rolling over. My dad poked his head in.

“Honey, could we have a little talk?” he asked, “Me and your mom are kind of worried.”

Our talk went something like this,

Dad: “Honey, we really think you need to start going to school again.”


Dad: “Eep, Eep, Eep!” and he runs away.

#  #  #

Once I had the mug shots hung just the way I wanted them, I drew a bullseye in red marker over Robby’s big, fat face and then another bullseye over Crispin’s snooty, jerk face.

I pointed at both of them.

“You two are both going down. You thought you could mess with me? Think again!”

“You,” I said, jabbing a finger at the Robby photo, “You are going to cry, fall to your knees, and beg for my forgiveness.”

“And you,” I said, pointing at the St. James photo, “You are going to worship me when I become an all mighty vampire queen, and then you will scrub my floors.”

“Mwa ha ha ha!”

My mom popped her head into my room, “Honey, is everything alright in here?”

“It’s awesome!” I said, a huge smile spread across my face and I couldn’t stop giggling.

My mom’s eyes darted to the pictures hanging on the wall behind me and then to the shredded photo on the floor that I was standing on.

“Um, okay. . . . Dinner will be ready soon,” she said, then slowly backed out the door.

broken heart in two 3Needless to say, trying to find a way for my main character to change enough to fall in love with someone, but not so much that she doesn’t stay in character, has been a real problem. And to make my job even harder, I for some reason decided to make her love interest kind of a snobby jerk. Seriously, why did I decided to make a tough job even harder?

If I can make this story work, I think it will be a really fun book. It just has a lot of tweaking a head of it.

Have you ever had problem characters that just don’t seem to do what you wanted them to? Are you currently working on a story that you made more difficult to write than it needed to be? I’d love to hear about it! Please leave a comment below.