Donald Maass talks about developing a breakout premise in his Writing the Breakout Novel. I read The Moral Premise, so this topic is fairly familiar to me, and I really get the necessity of it for our novels to have a deep meaning that can help change people, or at least encourage them to think and contemplate. Who doesn't want their stories to go beyond entertaining? To help create a new reader in one way or another? I do.
So here are some pointers that Donald Maass offers. One I've heard many times, but is definitely worth hearing again: "...frequent application of the question "What if?""
Do you pull out that "What if?" trick whenever things start getting a little too simple, eye-lid drooping boring in your novels? What about pulling it out while contemplating your book's premise? This two-word question can help writers in so very many ways. It's one to keep ready and waiting in your hat at all phases in your writing process.
Should you tend to the obvious for a premise? Donald Maass suggests not. The more unique and interesting your premise, the closer you'll be to creating a breakout novel. So how do we grab hold of unique? Pick some premises that have touched you and tie them together, or mold them into a fresh new one that is ever more powerful. Ask the what if's. Keep digging until you touch on something that resonates, something that your core feels strongly about--strong enough about to run the course of a whole novel because you've never read anything that tackled this specific premise before--and certainly not not in your crafty way.
Seek gut emotional appeal in developing your premise. Don't hold back. Dig into that pot of emotions, stir them up, and be willing to tackle them in your stories. Writing isn't for the weak.
Inherent conflict is also a must in creating a breakout premise. Is your story set in a safe place, safe setting? How can you make that NOT safe? Do so, and then you'll discover some breakout inherent conflict.
Plausibility. I believe if you follow the above guidelines, you can't help but find a plausible premise, but it is worth noting that plausibility is a must. I don't know how you can get gut emotional appeal without plausibility, though!
So there you have it--the recipe for a breakout premise. So, how do you go about finding the premises for your stories?
Surrendering to Him,