Posts Tagged ‘premise’

Premise vs Plot vs Structure

Some time ago, Squiders, we discussed Premise and Plot. (That’s a fairly short post, but for those too lazy to click through, the basic gist is that a premise is the idea of the story, whereas the plot is the series of events in a story.)

Today we’re going to expand this a little and talk about structure. What is structure? The structure of a story is how the plot is presented. It’s chronology, viewpoints, tense. It’s when certain events happen in a story.

The plot doesn’t necessary vary based on structure, but the structure can make for very different stories with the same plot.

For example, let’s say we have a plot with plot points A, B, C, and D.

Story 1 is presented in a linear fashion, so A, B, C, and D are presented to the reader in the order they happen.

Story 2 is presented in a nonlinear fashion, so we start with C, go back to B, then back to A, and finish up with D.

Story 3 has multiple viewpoints, so character 1 presents their side of the story, and then character 2 presents their side.

Story 4 intertwines A, B, C, and D with a separate story of plot points E, F, G, and H, alternating between the two plots.

The plot points don’t change because the structure changes. The events still happen in the order they happen. What changes with the structure is merely the presentation.

Your story has a structure whether you think about it or not. Some people plan their structure out in advance, whereas others just happen.

Perhaps the most common structure in story-telling is the Three-Act structure, which consists of a beginning inciting incident, a middle section where conflict builds, and a final concluding section. There are, of course, other structures, and even Three-Act structures can vary, based on when the turning points in between acts fall. (Some people say the inciting incident should occur about 10% of the way through the story, while others say 25%, for example.)

A common variation of the Three-Act structure  looks more like an increasing sine wave (sorry, engineer, don’t know how else to explain it) where a series of mini-climaxes accompany the act transitions, leading up to the final climax at the end of the story.


Premise = idea

Plot = series of events

Structure = presentation of plot

The Individuality of Story

So, not too long ago, I was going through my Twitter followers and putting them into lists because I’d become overwhelmed by my feed (stream? why do I suck at knowing social media terms?) and hadn’t really touched it in about two years. (And now, with the lists, it is lovely and manageable. I highly recommend.)

Anyway, I was looking at the people I was following and deciding where to put them, and I came across Amalia Dillin, who happens to write books with a mixture of Biblical and other mythologies, which is what Shards happens to be. And I got really excited and probably scared her a bit, but, long story short, I bought the first book in her series and have been reading it recently.

And every time my husband sees me reading it, he asks, “Is yours better?”

To which I reply, “Mine is different.”

And they are–very different.

I firmly believe that each of us are the sum of our own experiences, and we have our own thoughts, dreams, and beliefs that are completely unique to ourselves. And I believe that, given the exact same premise, no two authors will write the same story. How could they? They’re different people.

So, while both Amalia and I have worlds where the various pantheons are real and interact with Biblical characters, the stories themselves are wildly different. In fact, this is probably the closest I’ve ever been to reading a story with the same premise as one of my own, and it’s been very interesting and enlightening to take note of the differences and the similarities, to compare how she twisted the mythology to how I did.

I’ve wanted, for years, to do some sort of experiment, where several authors are given the exact same premise, or maybe even a loose plot, and then we sit back and see what everyone came up with, how each individual person twisted things to suit their needs and styles and experiences. I think it’d be really interesting.

And then, maybe, depending on length and so forth, we could put the stories out as an anthology or something.

What do you think, Squiders? Other writers–have you ever come across another story with the same or a similar premise to your own?

Premise vs. Plot

People seem to get these two confused, so let’s clear the waters, shall we?

Premise: the basic idea of the story

Plot: what happens in a story

They are not the same, though they are related.  I’ve seen it said that the premise is your initial idea, what drew you to a story, what made you want to write it.  My premises tend to be things like “girl saves friend from evil dimension by use of their shared locker” or “pirate will sacrifice everything to raise her lover from the dead.”  The premise gives you an idea, but it, by itself, is not enough to support a story.

The plot is the events that happen in a story.  So the plot of the above pirate story, summarized very succinctly, would be something like, “Pirate gathers crew for an ocean voyage to find a lost artifact capable of bringing the dead back to life, knowing they may perish in the attempt.  Along the way, the crew bonds over shared stories and dangerous encounters.  When they reach their destination, pirate realizes she has grown and no longer needs said artifact.”

See the difference?

Now, of course, the plot is every event in a story that contributes to the main storyline (events that contribute to less important storylines are part of the subplot).

So. Premise = idea, Plot = series of events.

Any questions?

Rabbits and Snakes

So, now that Spring has sprung (or so I assume – it’s hard to tell around the rain) I am getting a better idea of how my yard works.

We have a ridiculous amount of wildlife.  Foxes, coyotes, raccoons, birds (and spiders and centipedes and the largest earthworm I have ever seen, all of which I hope the birds are eating), but what I have the most of are rabbits and snakes.

Every morning, when I go out to get the newspaper, there’s a rabbit in my front yard eating some part of my foliage.  “Fred,” I say, because there are multiple rabbits but I have named them all Fred, “you’d better not be eating my grass seed.”  (And then, if I suspect he is, in fact, eating my grass seed, I will go and deal with it.  Grass seed is a precious commodity.)

I have seen four snakes since Saturday.  (Or two snakes twice.  Anyway.)  So far they have all been garter snakes which is good news, because I never notice them until I’m practically on top of them and they have to slither away for their own safety.

Kit, you ask, what does this have to do with writing?  Well, Squiders, I will tell you.

Rabbits are like story premises.  They’re cute, they’re everywhere, they will invariably eat everything in your garden, but they’re kind of useless.  A story premise looks nice, but it won’t get you very far.

Snakes are like plot.  They’re there, but sometimes you don’t know it until you almost step on them.  Plot burrows through the entire story, intricately twisted around all the other elements.

I could go on all day (characters are like birds – nice to look at but chirp incessantly) but I will spare you.

(There is a baby Fred that lives under the back deck.  He is the most adorable thing ever but I suspect he’s the one eating my spinach.)