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Advanced Plotting ~ the PREMISE

-----Original Message-----
Could you tell me more on plotting story points? I can get the big story idea well enough, but I run into a snag deciding the whole causality thing -- A leads to B, leads to C, …etc."
-- Mad about Plotting
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ah, so you wanna know how to put all the theories together to make a story, do you? (Gee, you couldn't pick the easy stuff could you?) Okay...

A story's Causes & Effects, the triggers that lead from one event to the next, comes from your Premise.

Just for the record...
A Premise is NOT a Concept!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The Premise is the theoretical / emotional problem that your story is trying to illustrate and answer. It's the glue that holds the whole thing together. It's the Purpose of your story.

A Concept is HOW you intend to illustrate that Premise, it's the story you wrap around it.

Example: The 'Matrix':
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Premise: Knowledge vs. Ignorance
Concept: "What if we were all living in a computer-generated dreamworld?"

See?
-- On with the tutorial...

Using a Premise...

In 'The Full Metal Alchemist':
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Edward decided to bring his mother back to life – against the laws of Alchemy. He learned the hard way exactly why you Didn't do that. His entire story revolves around this massive Wrong Decision that looked like the right decision when he decided to do it.

The Premise for the entire series is Right vs. Wrong.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
All of the characters throughout this long and convoluted story are involved in dilemmas of right actions verses wrong actions, and then dealing with the consequences of their decisions.

How to Use this:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
• Each pivotal Character should represent a different reflection of the Premise - the Story's theoretical / emotional problem.
• Each Cause is an event where your characters make a decision in an attempt to Fix their individual theoretical / emotional problem.
• The Effect is the results - whether or not their action / solution works, works temporarily, or doesn't work at all.
• Those results lead to the Next Attempt at trying to solve their Problem.

How it works:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
In 'The Matrix':
Each Character is a different reflection of the Story's theoretical / emotional problem.

Each character is a representation of the Matrix's Premise: Knowledge vs. Ignorance. The meanings behind the characters' names are the biggest clue as to what facet of Knowledge each character represents.

Neo means New, reflecting that he's completely ignorant of what's really going on.

Morpheus means Dream, reflecting that he follows his dreams -- blindly.

Trinity stands for the triple Goddess, the Maiden, Mother, and Crone which represents feminine intuition.


Each Cause is an event where one your characters makes a Decision in an attempt to Fix their individual theoretical / emotional problem.

Neo, the main character, is faced with one problem after the other. Each one forces him to make a Decision. "Do I want to Know, or do I want to Ignore it?" < -- the Premise

The Effect is whether or not their solution works, works temporarily, or doesn't work at all.

When the entire cast is caught in a trap set by the agents, each character makes a different choice on how to deal with the problem.

• Neo just follows along. He has no clue what so ever about what's going on around him.
• Morpheus's dream is that he will find 'the One' whom he thinks is Neo. Choosing to follow his Faith in his dream, he sacrifices himself so Neo can escape.
• Trinity, named for feminine intuition, makes her choices based on her emotions. She is emotionally attached to both Neo and Morpheus. When Morpheus makes his sacrifice, she is unable to choose between them and freezes in momentary indecision.

Those results lead to the Next Attempt at trying to solve their Problem.


To solve the problem of Morpheus's sacrifice, Neo makes his decision based on what he has learned. He takes responsibility for losing Morpheus and decides to go get him. Trinity also feels responsible for Morpheus's loss, and as second in command of the ship (mother figure to the crew,) she is determined to bring him home.

Together, they run to the rescue.

And so the story continued on to the next dilemma.

-----Original Message-----
"I know you said you work backwards from your climax, but I don't know how to settle on the climax either. So how do you do it?"
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Climax is where you Apply the RIGHT Answer to the story's Premise, the theoretical / emotional problem.

This works best if you make it the LAST thing anyone wants to do.

In 'The Full-Metal Alchemist':
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The last thing Edward wants to do is leave well enough alone. He is determined to use Alchemy to fix the problem he caused by using Alchemy in the first place.

In 'The Matrix':
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The last thing Neo wants to do is believe that he's the savior of the world, the One. He is determined to keep his head down and simply survive, as he's done all his life.


-----Original Message-----
"What questions do you ask yourself to get yourself moving in the right direction?"
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Plot = Momentum

To generate a basic Plot, I set up my three main characters...

Adversary – (Antagonist), the one making the most trouble.
Proponent – (Protagonist), the one trying to keep things the way they are.
Ally - The Companion to one or the other who is at odds with both.

I ask each of my 3 characters Three Questions:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
1 Who am I, what am I, and what do I do?
2 What do I want?
3 What's the worst possible thing that could happen to me?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The 9 answers to these questions give me the Major turning points for the story. In order for the plot to be water tight, each character must demonstrate the answers to each of these questions. Leaving any of these out of the story gives you a Plot Hole.

How it works:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
In 'The Full Metal Alchemist':

1 Who am I, what am I, and what do I do?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I am Edward Elric and I became the Full Metal Alchemist because I made a major mistake, and now I have to fix it.

2 What do I want?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I want to restore my brother back to his human body, and get back my missing arm and leg.

3 What's the worst possible thing that could happen to me?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I could find out that the cost to reverse my mistake is measured in human lives.


-----Original Message-----
"I get frozen by the unlimited places I could go to from the start..."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hell, so do I. After reviewing my options, I try to choose the one direction no one expects, the one thing that hasn't been done, or the one action that seems most likely to fail. I like surprising my readers.


-----Original Message-----
"What's the specific place that's the most exciting and most engaging for the reader?"
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Darkest Moment - the story's Reversal.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is the place where everything falls completely apart and the Main Character crashes and burns. It is the character's moment of total failure that forces them to face the real solution to their emotional / theoretical problem -- and make a decision:

• Give up & die...
• Refuse to admit that they were Wrong -- and ignore the solution to their emotional / theoretical problem.
• Admit they were Wrong -- and act on the solution to their emotional / theoretical problem.

In 'The Matrix':
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This story's darkest moment is when Morpheus sacrifices himself to let Neo escape. The rest of Neo's decisions and the story's entire plot, hinges on this one moment.

In 'Constantine':
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This story's darkest moment is when the leading heroine decides to reawaken her denied psychic abilities -- instantly making her a target for the story's main villain. If she hadn't awakened her latent talents, she would have been useless to the villain.

In 'Leon the Professional':
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The story's darkest moment is when young Mathilda realizes that she can't shoot the villain dead; she just doesn't have it in her to kill -- which allows the villain to recognize her as the one that got away.

The Answer to the Premise -- is the story's actual pay-off.

Everybody is looking for solutions to their personal issues.

• "How do I deal with a sucky job, and a boss I seriously loathe?"
• "How do I know if someone is worthy of my love?"
• "How do I handle my family issues?"
• "How do I deal with the monster in my closet?"

Ever hear the phrase: "People are People"? No matter whom they are or where they live, human issues Never change. "People are People." Embrace this phrase, love this phrase, use and abuse this phrase! THIS is the key to fiction people WANT to read.

Sure you could be writing a Horror or a Fantasy, but the people in your horror or fantasy should STILL be dealing with the same issues everybody else deals with:

• Sucky bosses - How do you think Saruman the White really felt about working for Sauron?
• Love interests - Arwen's dad, the king of the elves did not approve of her scruffy human boyfriend.
• Family issues - Eowen of Rohan had to deal with a senile dad PLUS several bossy older brothers.
• Monsters under the bed - Ringwraths & Orcs, need I say more?

No matter how fantastic or unusual, people STILL suffer from the same issues.

That's what the Darkest Moment of the story does. It forces the Main Character to realize the answer to their personal problems -- offering a solution to your Readers' problems too.

Caution! Don't leave anybody Out!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

All three characters (Proponent, Ally, Villain) should have a Dark Moment that occurs in somewhere in the story. That dark moment is what leads them to a pivotal decision, which then rolls straight downhill into the Climax - the big confrontation between ALL the main characters.

The Climax's deciding factor?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Villain's INABILITY to Change enough to make the Right Decision is the reason WHY they LOSE.

• The Hero Crashes, Burns, Learns from his mistakes, and Rises Again.
• The Villain merely Crashes and Burns. He does NOT learn from his mistakes. He does Not rise again.

And the Ally?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Traditionally, the Ally knows the right answer all along -- even if they don't realize it. They also tend to be the primary victim of one or the other's bad judgment, sometimes both, which triggers the Crash & Burn for both the Hero and the Villain.  

In 'The Full Metal Alchemist':
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Alphonse Elric knew all along that some things should be left alone, but his devotion to his brother Edward allowed him to join in on his brother's Bad Decision to raise their mother from the dead with a forbidden spell. When the spell went wrong, he became a victim of the story's Hero -- his brother Edward.

This of course, triggered Edward's next decision -- to rise from his ashes and become the Full-Metal Alchemist.

Enjoy!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Ookami Kasumi
ookami-kasumi.livejournal.com/
DISCLAIMER: As a multi-published author, I have been taught some fairly rigid rules on what is publishable and what is not. If my rather straight-laced (and occasionally snotty,) advice does not suit your creative style, by all means, IGNORE IT.
Add a Comment:
 
:iconoldsoul-mira:
Oldsoul-Mira Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2015  Student General Artist
who am I what ami what do I do = motivation
what do I want = goal
what's the worst possible thing hat could happen to me = conflict
I HAVE DISCOVERED THE SECRET TO LIFE. EVERYTHING MAKES SENSE NOW
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2015  Professional Writer
LOL!
 -- Good! Go thou and WRITE!!!
Reply
:iconoldsoul-mira:
Oldsoul-Mira Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2015  Student General Artist
*salute*
*thinks a bit about writing*
*takes a snack break*
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2015  Professional Writer
LOL!
Reply
:iconfruitbat2011:
FruitBat2011 Featured By Owner Sep 6, 2014
This actually takes the idea of the theme of a piece and puts it into a form that's applicable.  It's a hell of a lot more help than some things I've read on the subject.
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2014  Professional Writer
I try to make my tutorials as clear and easy to use as possible.
 -- I'm glad it proved helpful.
Reply
:iconoldsoul-mira:
Oldsoul-Mira Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2014  Student General Artist
this was very helpful, thank you. much as I love going left when everyone else turns right, I still need a road to travel on, so this provided somewhat of a...structure I guess you would say...
my question is: can there be more than one proponent??? like if you want to divide your Main Character status among three people evenly???
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2014  Professional Writer
You can indeed have more than one proponent. Just remember that ALL your main characters need their issues SOLVED before you can end the story.
Reply
:iconspirit-of-isis:
Spirit-of-Isis Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2014

Hmm... I haven't really thought much about what the premise of most of my stories are until now. Is it a bad thing that they all seem to have a similar one?

(what measure is a non-human, more in a sci-fi sense than a paranormal/supernatural one)

Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2014  Professional Writer
If you find you've been repeating the same premise, that just means that you feel very strongly about it. There's nothing wrong with that.
Reply
:iconspirit-of-isis:
Spirit-of-Isis Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2015
OK, cool. But I still think I should explore more ideas.
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2015  Professional Writer
Don't worry, you will -- as soon as you build up enough steam to fill your 'inspiration' tank.
Reply
:iconspirit-of-isis:
Spirit-of-Isis Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2015
Yay w00t! 
Reply
:iconoldsoul-mira:
Oldsoul-Mira Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2014  Student General Artist
I wouldn't think it to be bad if all your stories have a common premise. I mean think about Shakespeare - he wrote like 50 million tradgedies all of which are this: should i die for a cause? vs. should I live and think myself a lowly selfish son of a gun? (A.k.a. To be vs. Not to be) they always die though lol XD
Reply
:icon1st-hashirama-senju:
1st-Hashirama-Senju Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2014

This is helpful advice.

Reply
:iconimiss2010:
Imiss2010 Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2013
Can sex itself be a premise?
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2013  Professional Writer
Can sex itself be a premise?

Not really because Sex is an Action, not a Drive.
 -- "Pursuit of Sex" (for money, love, power, revenge, to end loneliness,) however, makes a perfectly fine premise.
Reply
:iconaesra:
Aesra Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2013  Student General Artist
Wow, I can't thank you enough for this! I've been wrestling with my book for a long time now, as it's extremely ambitious for my first serious attempt at a novel-length narrative. Now that I actually have some idea of what the overarching theme of the story is, hopefully my outlining will be much more coherent :)
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2013  Professional Writer
I'm glad I could provide a bit of insight.
 -- I love being helpful.
Reply
:iconblackhawknova:
BlackHawkNova Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is really interesting, clear and helpful, and it's helping me get my head around my own story (seriously, it's about my fifth time trying to plan this blasted thing).

I have a couple of questions:

1) Can the villain be something abstract/unintelligent (for the sake of argument, let's say a tornado)? If so, can the three questions still apply?

2) On a related note, is it possible to have a situation where none of the three main characters are actually wrong?

3) If you're going for a tragic ending, how do you go about fulfilling the premise? Can the hero make the wrong decision at the end?
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2013  Professional Writer
1) Can the villain be something abstract/unintelligent (for the sake of argument, let's say a tornado)?
 -- YES.

If so, can the three questions still apply?
 -- No, because a Tornado cannot have human values or concerns -- though it can Seem like it.

2) On a related note, is it possible to have a situation where none of the three main characters are actually wrong?
Absolutely. The conflict between them --and the reader-- is deciding what works best for the Individual.

3) If you're going for a tragic ending, how do you go about fulfilling the premise?
 -- Easy, use a Negative premise. "No good deed goes Unpunished." "The road to Hell is filled with good intentions."

Can the hero make the wrong decision at the end?
 -- Of course. In fact, if you're going for a Tragedy, the hero Has to make a wrong decision.
Reply
:iconsherlymate:
sherlymate Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2013
Interesting... I want to use this now... *looks around desk to find unfinished story* 
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:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2013  Professional Writer
Good!
 -- That's what my essays are supposed to do: Inspire you. :)
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:iconsherlymate:
sherlymate Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2013
^.^ 
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:icongingerjuju:
GingerJuju Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2012  Student Digital Artist
First of all, let me just say that I love your tutorials. They have helped me so much. I do have 2 questions for you though. If you wouldn't mind answering them.

1) In the story I'm writing I have 2 main characters, 4 side characters, and 3 villians (there are several other very minor characters as well). As of right now, only 3 of them reflect the story's theoretical / emotional problem, which is love vs. hate, and the others assist them in making their decisions. Is this okay? Or do all of them need reflect the issue in some way in order to make the premise really work?

2) My main characters want multiple things, or wind up wanting multiple things. Is this a problem? Should I narrow it down to only one?
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Jun 25, 2012  Professional Writer
I'm glad you like my tutorials. :)
-- Check this out, it might help answer your questions:

Brian McDonald, "The Godfather," and how to find the Theme
--> [link]

Mr. McDonald says Theme, but in reality he's talking about the Premise, so read the word Theme as Premise in his essay.
Reply
:iconenilosa:
enilosa Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2012  Student Digital Artist
This was super helpful, and totally different from anything I've tried. Thanks for your help!
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:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Jun 25, 2012  Professional Writer
My pleasure, I'm glad you liked it!
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:iconmint-menta-me:
mint-menta-me Featured By Owner Jun 15, 2012  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
can different installments in the same series or serial have a different premise?
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:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Jun 16, 2012  Professional Writer
ABSOLUTELY!!!
Reply
:iconmint-menta-me:
mint-menta-me Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2012  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
great! I feared I wouldn't be able to progress the story the way it felt natural because the premise would change
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2012  Professional Writer
Actually, I covered the basic plot structure of Serial & Episodic stories in this tutorial: Writing Serial Fiction --> [link]
Reply
:iconfioletowooka:
Fioletowooka Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Oh dear, that's it, isn't it. The thing I rant about to the poor sod who has to listen to me, the what-how-why.
I'm just sitting there failing to plot things properly because I have an idea what happens but not how or why, because I haven't a clue what my villain really wants.

I have a feeling I should seriously rearrange something there as soon as my exams are over and I have time to daydream :P
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Jun 16, 2012  Professional Writer
Daydreaming is actually the number one most Productive part of writing a story. Seriously. How can one write if one has no clue what to put on the paper?
Reply
:iconninefiftin:
Ninefiftin Featured By Owner Mar 20, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Great, as usual, I learned a lot ! Thanks !
I have a question about the Dark Moment. Should it happen at the same time & place for the three main characters you mention ? In my story, I have (added to the villains) two main characters and their Ally. I perfectly see the Dark Moment of the first two ; however, the Dark Moment of their Ally may occur far later (probably in the second or even third and last book), because his "evolution" is slower and he's a more "mysterious" character. May such a system work well ? Or should I change my plot ?
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:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2012  Professional Writer
I'm glad you liked my essay!
-- The dark moment happens when it's right for THAT Character, which could be anywhere in the story compared to the others.
Reply
:iconninefiftin:
Ninefiftin Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Okay, I see ! Thanks for your answer, it'll help a lot :D
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:iconashwolf-forever:
AshWolf-Forever Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2011  Professional General Artist
These are all very helpful. Thank you.
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:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Dec 8, 2011  Professional Writer
Excellent!
-- I love being helpful.
Reply
:iconashwolf-forever:
AshWolf-Forever Featured By Owner Dec 8, 2011  Professional General Artist
You ever consider doing a book like this? By the way, [link] Shembre sent me to your page. :D
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Dec 8, 2011  Professional Writer
I have done a book like this. [link] That's my book.
Reply
:iconashwolf-forever:
AshWolf-Forever Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2011  Professional General Artist
Cool. Thank you for the link.
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2011  Professional Writer
My pleasure.
Reply
:iconstarrphyre:
Starrphyre Featured By Owner Jun 25, 2010  Hobbyist Digital Artist
in school the rising action-climax-falling action diagram is a mountain, equal on both sides.
I wrote a plot that is more like a ramp i guess. Long rising action then climax then a sheer drop of falling action. I don't think there is anything wrong with that but I would like your opinion please.
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2010  Professional Writer
Um, okay, but I'm not sure what you want my opinion on. Just to take a stab, I see plot-lines as roller-coaster rides, with far more going on than simply One rise, One peak, and One fall.

Every Plot-line is individual to their story, just as every roller-coaster is individual to the park it's in. Even the simplest of Plot-lines has a great number of rises, some higher than others, and many different types of falls that end in calm troughs, sharp hair-pin turns, loop-the-loops, or even another drop.

Take the movie "Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark", for example. That story was one climb, then tumble, then hair-pin twist after another with the highest and sharpest point--and twist--at the very end. And that was only a simple Adventure plot.

Saying that a plot-line is "a mountain with the rising action, climax, falling action, equal on both sides", or even a "ramp", is a severe underestimation of what a plotline is truly capable of being.
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:iconinnocent-rain:
Innocent-raiN Featured By Owner Jun 10, 2010  Professional Filmographer
Amazing! *3*
This really sums things up well. Thank you!
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:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Jun 10, 2010  Professional Writer
I'm glad you found it helpful~!
Reply
:iconcastledean:
CastleDean Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2010
You are so amazing, I wish I could double-watch you.

Thank you for the valuable insight.
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2010  Professional Writer
LOL! Wow, thank you!
-- I try to be helpful.
Reply
:iconabsynthememoir:
absynthememoir Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2010
who taught you this?! :omg: :thumbsup:
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