Story Writing: Premise vs. Plot | Kit Campbell | Skillshare

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

6 Lessons (20m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Story Elements

    • 3. What is Premise?

    • 4. What is Plot?

    • 5. Differences and Uses

    • 6. Project and Wrap-Up

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About This Class

Have you heard the terms "plot" and "premise" but are unfamiliar with what they mean? Or have you heard them, but aren't quite sure what the difference between the two are? These are both important concepts to understand when you’re writing stories.

This lesson is designed for people who are new to fiction writing or people who are looking to supplement their self-taught experience with more formal terminology.

We'll work through both concepts, talk about the differences, and then play at coming up with premises of our own and talk about organizing our story ideas.

Supplies you’ll need:

  • Your imagination
  • Some place to write things down (paper, word processing document, Cloud document, etc.)

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Kit Campbell

Writer/Editor/Lover of Cephalopods


Hello! I'm Kit Campbell, author, editor, book formatter, self-publishing coach, and manager of Turtleduck Press. 

That's a bit of a mouthful, so the take-away is that I've been writing my whole life and have been around other authors for the last 17 years. And something I've noticed is that writers are lovely people, who run a wide gamut of personalities, likes, and preferences, but as a whole they tend to be better at the creative part rather than the process.

That's where I come in. I'm not going to promise to teach you the perfect formula to write bestsellers, but I will help you better understand writing as a process, and I will help you find the process that works best for you, from keeping track of story ideas, to figuring out how much planning you'll need befor... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Hi. Welcome to storytelling premise versus Plus, do you remember back in high school when they said, In order to break the rules, you first have to understand what they are? Well, you don't have to understand story elements to rate, but if you do, you're gonna be able to give your stories more death and be more on top of the process. So I'm Kit. I'm a hybrid author, which means I'm both traditionally and Andy published, and I also worked as a book editor and a manager for a indie publishing press for the past eight years. So this video is part of the rhetoric motivation. Siri's so being a writer myself and being around other authors, I'm knows that writers tend to be really good at the creative aspects, coming up with ideas that coming up with characters, plot twists, that sort of thing. But what writers are not good at his process? So what the writers motivation Siri's is designed for is to help writers find the best process to help them reach their goals. Things like figuring out went, if it reading into their schedule or how to break down their goals so that they're attainable. This course specifically is for beginning and intermediate authors. People are either new defection or have heard the terminology, but aren't quite sure what it means. And it's also first or people who want to understand story elements better. So knowing what premise and plot is helps you understand where you are in your writing process, and it also can be helpful when you're done with your book. We're selling the book or for marketing the book. So by the end of the class you will know what premises you will know. What plot is. You will know. The difference is between premise and plot, and then for a project. We're going to come up with five premises of our own so that you can get going on the reigning process. All right, see you next video. 2. Story Elements: all right, so the first thing we're going to discuss his story elements. So what is the story? Element story element is a building block for storytelling and is an essential part of a story. Most stories, at least the ones that work, have a number of them. These are things such as your characters or the people in your story, the setting, which is the place in time that the story takes place and the theme, which is the belief or position the story is trying to underscore. I do want to point out that is not necessary to be conscious of your story elements. Well, you are ready. A lot of them are instinctive, especially if you're well read. But knowing what they are and being able to plan them out and play with them can help you achieve greater range in effect on your story. So, as you can probably guess, premise and plot or both story elements well, some story omens air less important, and you can get away with telling a story without them or without being conscious of them both. Promising plot could be found in most if not all stories we're related to each other in that they both have to do with the invents of what happens in the story. But they're different because of their similarities. People tend to use them interchangeably or be confused between them, but they're not quite the same. In the next video, we'll look specifically at premise. 3. What is Premise?: So the 1st 3 element we're going to look at is premise, so a premise is simply your story idea. This is often the base idea that made you want to write a particular story, such as a love story involving a young widow. Or what if we had achieved spaceflight in the 18 hundreds? Alternately, it could be a high concept idea that your story could be condensed down into like Law and Order, but in Space or Hamlet Meets High School Musical. So we're going to go through some examples now. I won't pretend that I know what the author was actually thinking when they started working on the story, but I've gone through and pick some likely premises for books and movies. So let's start with Harry Potter. We all know Harry Potter. The premise for Harry Potter might be poor Orphan finds out he's a wizard who defeated an evil wizard when he was an infant. Alternately, it could be a magical world hidden among the real world. The thing about premises are that they are an idea, and any number of ideas could spark a story. It could be the character. It could be. The world, and it could be something that happens in the story. So to move on next, we've got the Hunger Games again. You probably know the Hunger Games, but in case you don't it So young adult trilogy about a dystopian world where Children are forced to fight each other to the death. And that's a premise for it as well. A dystopian world where chair Children are forced to fight each other to the death. Moving on Let's do Jaws Jaws premise. Could be shark attacks people in a small town for the Avengers. We could do superheroes team up to fight a big threat. And for friends, the premise could be single twentysomethings living together in New York City. As I mentioned before, these are just some of several potential premises for these stories. So why do I need a premise? There's two main reasons you'll need one for a story, story creation and marketing. A story premise is the idea, and you need an idea to start planning out a story as we mentioned before. This can be anything from I'd like to read a story about vampires to There aren't enough stories with whales solving mysteries to. I'm going to create a world where gravity is only half of what it is here on Earth to I wonder what this person was thinking when they did that thing. Your premise in this case is the idea that gets you going for marketing. Ah, premise can be used to sell your story to a potential agent or publisher, or, if you're self publishing a reader. In this case, you can use your premise as a hook to catch someone's attention. This premise may be different than your original premise, especially since stories tend to evolve as you work on them. So let's talk about finding premises. Where do you find you? Your premise. You knew it literally anywhere, because the premise is just your story idea. You can find it anywhere you look. Inspiration is all around us if you've trained your brain to look for it. Some ideas on where to look include writing prom's news stories, television, other media, people watching, overheard conversations and music. So that's premises. Next, we'll look at what plot is 4. What is Plot?: So now that we've got premises down, what is but you're plus is made up of the events that happened in your story. This is everything from when the book opens to when you're at the end, all the twists and turns, the unexpected revelations, the overcoming of obstacles and the facing of demons. So let's go over some examples of plot. I've picked two stories that are old enough that there's no excuse for being spoiled at this point. First, let's look at Star Wars, and we're talking the original Episode four A New Hope, however you want to refer to it. So what I've done here is I've listed the plot points so droids escape from Princess Lays Ship. The droids air captured by the Doha's Luke Skywalker's uncle buys the droids. Luke finds the message for Obi Wan. Luke sets off to find Obi Wan and is attacked by sand. People will be one saves. Luke tells him about the rebellion. Tries to get, look to go with him. Luke feels he can't leave, but returns home to find his aunt and uncle. Dead look goes with Obi Wan Duma's Eiseley, where they secure passage with Han chewy. They're attacked us the leave, tattooing and so on. It keeps going throughout the entire story. For another example, I've selected Pride and Prejudice, the A and a miniseries with Colin Firth being my personal favorite version. So for private purchased the plot points go Another field is Let it last. The Bennet Sisters meet Mr Bingley and his friend Mr Darcy. Mr Darcy is rude to Elizabeth. Mrs. Bennett wants to see Jane married to Mr Bingley and sentence her to visit another field where she is caught in the downpour and falls ill. Elizabeth goes to take care of her sister and sees a lot of Darcy. In the meantime, Jane Heels and Sheen Elizabeth had home their cousin, Mr Collins comes to visit and to find a wife and so on from there. So as you can see, the plot is literally what happens in the story. So why is plot important? Well, without a plot, the story literally doesn't go anywhere. In fact, it's pretty dang hard to have a story with no plot. A story can have very little plot, or it can have a plot that doesn't have enough conflict or forward momentum. to keep people reading or can have a plot where the stakes are very high. But it's not really a story if it doesn't have a plot. The story without a plot is a story where nothing is happening. I should add that your plot does not have to be in order. In the book itself, it's perfectly all right to tell a story out of order or mixed to plot lines together or tell story backwards. Even the important thing going in is that you know how the events go so that you can manipulate them for the reader in a way that makes sense in the end. So pluck creation is really something that is individual to you and may even vary from Project project. Almost all writers fall somewhere on a scale between a plotter and a pan. Sir, A plotter is someone who plans everything out before they start ready. Whereas a pant, sir, is someone who plans almost nothing out and discovers the pot Well, they're writing. Very few people are 100% plotter or 100% chancer. In my case, I tend to play out my short stories more because they're short and the beats need to be more exact and usually use looser framework. When doing my novel potty planning Your plot is knowing as outlining, and I'll have some outlining classes for both novels and short stories coming soon in the next video. Now that we know what premises and what plot is well, look at the differences between the two. 5. Differences and Uses: Now that we know what promising plot are, let's look at the differences between the two and also at some of their uses. So the main difference between pardon premise is level detail. Each gives about what happened in the story. They both deal with what's happened, but a premises, vague and applaud is detailed. Because of that, several stories can have the same or a similar premise. So as an example, let's look at a farm boy must leave his home to fight evil. I bet you can think of at least one a story that fits this premise, but I bet you can think of more as well because this is a pretty standard one, especially in fantasy stories. The low boy destined for greatness the nobody who meets Challenge after challenge to defeat some great evil. This premise can cover everyone from Photo Baggins and lower the rings to Luke Skywalker and Star Wars to Air Gun in the series of the same name. Once you begin to look at the plot, which is the events that happened as a reminder, you can see the differences between the stories, but they can look pretty similar at the beginning. So a premise gets you thinking it's a planning tool. The idea that jump starts the story generation a plot gets you writing. It's a map, a plan of how you're going to get your your main characters from the beginning of the story toe where they need to be at the yet. So how does one use premise in plot as prevalence? Lee discussed their very useful in the story creation phase, when you're thinking about what story you want to write and then actually reading it. But beyond that, there are also useful in later phases. Specifically, when you're trying to get other people says that such as agents, editors or even readers to look at your story. Both promising plot can be used to answer the question. What's your story about? But in different ways you'll need to. You'll need a completed plot to rate submission materials such as a query letter or synopsis, or to write a book description to entice readers to pick up your story. A Promise X More is a hook in later phases, just something to pique people's interests. How many times have you picked up a book because the idea sounds cool. Remember that both the premise in the plot are not static, and you can change them as necessary to fit the stories and your needs. The premise of plot you start out with at the beginning of the process does not need to be the same one you're using when so in your book, at the Egg in the next video, we'll talk about our project for the class. 6. Project and Wrap-Up: So now that we understand plucking premise, we're gonna make up some premises of our own. So just to remind you promise is the idea that you need to get ready so it can be literally anything. But we're gonna go over a couple of different types of premises in case you need some help getting started. So the first type we're gonna discuss is the what if sort of premise. And this is literally what if this happened? So you see it a lot in speculum fiction like science fiction or fantasy and a lot in the sub genre of alternative history. But you can use it with any generate you want. So it could be What if the Earth is the last colony of an alien species, or what if two people who live next to each other I grew up in full in love? Or what If you wake up tomorrow and the son has disappeared, so another kind is the high concept premise, and this is where you take things that already exist and use that to explain your idea. So it's stuff like Hamlet in space or the Bourne Identity meets Pretty woman. You're not going to when you write your story directly, right? The idea. But you're gonna take the aspects of the story that already exists that you like and apply it to in your situation. And then there is the situational promise, which is when this happens, something else happens. Or even more basically, what would happen if this happened? So it could be something like When Jane's husband leaves her, she decides to get revenge. Or what would happen if all the trees turned blue? But, I mean, as we talked about earlier, it can be anything you can do your character's first, so you could be like, I want to write about someone dealing with cancer or I want to write about an older sister . You can start with your world, such as a world where everyone has moved under the ocean to deal with global warming. Or, I mean, it could be a thought, uh, events, anything, really. So the only important thing is that the premise get you a story idea that you think you could get awful story out of. So our project is come up with five premises, you can use the three types. We just did You could do your own thing. Um, but five. You There's no limits beyond that. You can do it in your normal genre. You can just go wild and do whatever Donna you want. Um, but feel free to use any of the types of premises we've talked about here. And also, I know that people worry about other people stealing my ideas so you don't have to post them here if you don't want to. But I do want to remind you guys that a promise is Justin idea. And as we looked up at in the premise video, you can give the same off her for this the same idea to multiple authors, and you're gonna get a different story out of it. My writing community and I actually ran this as an experiment a few years back and ended up with wildly different stories off the same premise. But you need to do what you feels comfortable to you, so post them if you like or don't. But even if you don't post them here, you should put them somewhere so you can find them later. If you'd like to push the project a little further you can go ahead and expand your premise into a plot. Um, I will do forthcoming videos about Got lining, but basically, a plot needs a character, a conflict and stakes. And if you have those, then you can start to write your story. Um, feel free to use either pen or paper core computer for your premises, but I would keep them someplace where you're gonna easily find them again. So, you know, don't just cripple them on a napkin somewhere. You can get a notebook and keep everything in the notebook. Or you could have a word or Google doc that you store your ideas and but keep them someplace that you're gonna be able to find them again. So that's it. Now you know what promising plot is. So go out there and fill the world with your stories.