July 15, 2009

"The Premise" is not just a theme!

Just had a great discussion with another writer regarding "theme." I had been using the term "theme" to describe what Egri calls "the premise." My fellow writer was quick to point out that a "theme" in and of itself cannot stand as a good story. Character and plot must be worked out first. Only then can the theme work in context.

Her point is excellent, which is why I believe Egri chose to call it "the premise." Why? Because the premise is made up of character, conflict, and resolution. Better said, theme, the characters, and the plot are all intertwined in what Egri would call the premise.

A writer writing about "love" as a general theme won't get very far without a solid plot and good characters. A properly formulated premise, however, will capture all of those things:

Love, unrequited, results in heartache.

The premise reveals what the characters must embody while it also reveals how the plot must be driven to its finish: heartache (which, you'll note, is the resolution of the premise!).

Man #1 loves Woman #1, but she loves Man #2. We can now hone in on our characters knowing that we have the basis of our framework. We also know the conflict (namely, that love will be unrequited), and how we wish to resolve the conflict (heartache).

What other examples might you think of?

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