“Everything has a purpose, or premise. Every second of our life has its own premise, whether or not we are conscious of it at the time. That premise may be as simple as breathing or as complex as a vital emotional decision, but it is always there.”
If you read this quote out of context, you may think it’s from a theologian or Bible teacher. Rick Warren would surely agree. Other experts in other fields would as well. However, the quote comes from the very beginning of Lajos Egri’s The Art of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis in the Creative Interpretation of Human Motives. He goes on to acknowledge that some writers may call it a “goal.” Others refer to it as a “root-idea” or a “theme.” Others still ask the question, “How can you tell what road to take unless you know where you are going?” In the end, however, they are all talking about purpose, or premise.
He then uses some well-known plays from Shakespeare and others to show how each of these popular stories has a premise that drives every aspect of the story. Nothing in the lines on the page is wasted or superfluous.
Some examples of premise he gives are:
Romeo & Juliet: “Great love defies even death.”
King Lear: “Blind trust leads to destruction.”
Macbeth: “Ruthless ambition leads to its own destruction.”
Othello: “Jealousy destroys itself and the object of its love.”1
These overall themes or premises become the anchors to which every word, every character action, every plot twist is tethered. Otherwise, stories will ramble. Characters will flail. Readers will lose interest.
As I write, the premise becomes the umbrella under which the storyline resides. For example, in The Serpent’s Grasp, which won the BRMCWC Selah Award in 2013 in the debut novel category, the overarching theme was: What is Truth? And in this case, within the scientific community. The storyline addresses that theme throughout. As the main character, Dr. Evelyn Sims, says in an article she “wrote”:
“One question keeps haunting me as a scientist. One query’s answer eludes me. I ask and ask, search and search, research and research, and not one scientist can give me a definitive answer. I posed the question when researching the Scopes Monkey Trial as a graduate student. I inquired when ‘Little Lucy’ was unearthed. I have combed the halls of academia, scoured the journals of science, and questioned leading experts searching for the answer to this question: Of what or whom is evolution afraid? If time is on the side of truth, then there is nothing to fear if it is truly truth we seek.”
In that last line, therein lies the premise. Scientists who seek the truth honestly should not care what they find, if they are truly seeking truth. All they should wish to do is discover what the truth is. And if the evidence points to a Creator, then why should they fight against it? Unless they are not seeking the truth…
For my Blake Meyer series, the overarching theme is: What is true peace? We talk about peace all the time. We plan for it with retirement funds. We build up our military to defend it. We change laws and create new ones in an attempt to legislate it. We hold conferences to discuss it. We even give out prizes to people who supposedly embody its true meaning. However, what is true peace? Supervisory Special Agent Blake Meyer, a non-believer, is on that journey right now.
My latest novel, The Letters has an overall theme of: How much do the physical and spiritual worlds intertwine? Or do they collide? Or is it both? While it deals with the issue of abortion, it’s not a heavy-handed book on that subject at all because I didn’t want it to be. Instead, it uses the topic to delve more into character and plot rather than topic and opinion. In the end, Rachel Hamar finds out how much these two worlds mesh together
1 pp. 1-5 of Egri’s book.
C. KEVIN THOMPSON is a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a kid at heart. Often referred to as “crazy” by his grandchildren, it’s only because he is. He’s a writer. Need he say more?
He is the author of the Selah Award-winning debut novel, The Serpent’s Grasp, and his Blake Meyer Thriller series, which includes Books 1-4 so far, with Book 5, A Pulse of Time, coming out Memorial Day 2020! And, his new standalone novel, The Letters, is now available!
Kevin is a huge fan of the TV series 24, The Blacklist, Blue Bloods, NCIS, Criminal Minds, BBC shows Broadchurch, Shetland, Hinterland, and Wallander, loves anything to do with Star Trek, and is a Sherlock Holmes fanatic too. But you will never catch him wearing a deerstalker. Ever.
Kevin’s Writer’s Blog: www.ckevinthompson.blogspot.com/
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