[Write On Wednesday] Test Your Premise

This month’s writing prompts all acknowledge the fact that November belongs to novelists. Whether you write longer fiction or you don’t you can use this month’s prompts to nudge you forward in your writing practice.

bottle on a beach short story spark from StoryADay
Photo by Vova Drozdey on Unsplash

The Prompt

Take an idea you have thought “I could write a novel about that” and test it as a short story

Tips

  • The initial Story Spark can be exciting (“what if the message in the bottle on the beach was from someone I knew?”), but it doesn’t automatically give us a story.
  • Use the Short Story Framework to help you build out from the initial premise and get the idea into the shape of a short story, with a character, a motivation, an obstacle and a sense of how the character’s choices will affect the outcome.
  • When working with an idea you think might work as a novel, don’t try to tell the whole story. Perhaps you could focus on the inciting incident, the thing that makes it impossible for life to carry on as usual for your character (it can be as simple as saying ‘yes’ to a friend’s invitation to go out for coffee).
  • If you have thought through this idea as a novel, you might have a sense of several ‘tent pole’ scenes you’ll need to shape the novel (think of Harry Potter receiving his letters from Hogwarts, or flying in his first Quiddich match, or confronting Voldemort, or the basilisk…). Try writing one of those scenes as a short story.

Will Your Idea support a whole novel?

As you write ask yourself

  • Are there other characters who would add depth to this story? Might they be dealing with similar/parallel themes and issues?
  • Are there other situations you’d love to explore with this character, that tie in to the overall goal they’re trying to tackle (inner conflict and outer)?
  • Are there other settings you can imagine for your character as they go through this struggle?
  • Have the character’s actions in this story solved their immediate problem but can you see how their first action might open up a whole other can of worms? Could you progress along this path, solving one problem but creating a new one based on their actions, in many more situations? Are all these new problems related to the character’s ultimate goal? (Or can you think of a big enough goal for them to pursue?)

If the answer to the majority of these questions is a gleeful and excited ‘yes!’, then you might have a premise that can support a novel.

If you have an ‘absolutely not!’, then congratulations: you might have the perfect premise for a short story.

If your answer is a sort of ‘meh’ or a groan, or an ‘I guess I could write a novel about this’, then it’s not a good enough idea to sustain a novel. You have to be excited about the idea. If you’re not, then you can delve deeper and make the ideas better, or you can go searching for a new premise.

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So what did you come up with?

Leave a comment to let us know what you wrote about today, and how it went!

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4 thoughts on “[Write On Wednesday] Test Your Premise”

  1. Back to Ya dystopian. A short story I wrote several years ago, didn’t know where it went. It showed. I’m excited now, it’s more planned than previously, fewer characters and more conflict. Happy writing everyone.

  2. I’m working on my first novel and it grew out of a short story that I had enjoyed writing. I’m so excited. Thank you Julie.

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