Anatomy of a Premise Line

Book description

If a story is going to fail, it will do so first at the premise level. Anatomy of a Premise Line: How to Master Premise and Story Development for Writing Success is the only book of its kind to identify a seven-step development process that can be repeated and applied to any story idea. This process will save you time, money, and potentially months of wasted writing. So whether you are trying to write a feature screenplay, develop a television pilot, or just trying to figure out your next story move as a writer, this book gives you the tools you need to know which ideas are worth pursuing. In addition to the 7-step premise development tool, Anatomy of a Premise Line also presents a premise and idea testing methodology that can be used to test any developed premise line. Customized exercises and worksheets are included to facilitate knowledge transfer, so that by the end of the book, you will have a fully developed premise line, log line, tagline, and a completed premise-testing checklist.

Here is some of what you will learn inside:

  • Ways to determine whether or not your story is a good fit for print or screen
  • Case studies and hands-on worksheets to help you learn by participating in the process
  • Tips on how to effectively work through writer’s block
  • A companion website ( with additional worksheets, videos, and interactive tools to help you learn the basics of perfecting a killer premise line


Table of contents

  1. Cover
  2. Title
  3. Copyright
  4. Dedication
  5. Contents
  6. Foreword
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. Introduction
  9. Part 1 Premise and Story—Building the Foundation
    1. Chapter 1 Your First Book in Story Development
      1. Tell Me Your Story
      2. Story Comes First—Writing Comes Second
      3. Storytelling and Writing Are Not the Same Thing
      4. The 7-Step Premise Development Process
    2. Chapter 2 What Is a Story Premise and Why Should You Care?
      1. Common Definitions of Story Premise
      2. Historical Definitions of Story Premise
      3. A Working Definition of Story Premise
    3. Chapter 3 The Invisible Structure
      1. The Blinding Ball of Information
      2. The Invisible Structure
        1. Character
        2. Constriction
        3. Desire
        4. Relationship
        5. Resistance
        6. Adventure
        7. Change
      3. Backing Into the Story
    4. Chapter 4 The Visible Structure
      1. The Invisible Made Visible
        1. Protagonist
        2. Moral Component
        3. Chain of Desire
        4. Focal Relationship
        5. Opposition
        6. Plot and Momentum
        7. Evolution-De-Evolution
      2. The Premise Line Connection
    5. Chapter 5 The Power of the Premise Line
      1. The Story Structure-Premise Connection
      2. Anatomy of a Premise Line
      3. Mapping the Invisible Structure: The Four Clauses
      4. Clause #1: Protagonist Clause
      5. Clause #2: Team Goal Clause
      6. Clause #3: Opposition Clause
      7. Clause #4: Dénouement Clause
      8. Premise Analysis
    6. Chapter 6 A Story vs. a Situation
      1. What Is a Story?
      2. The Magic Formula
      3. What Is a Character?
      4. What Is a Plot?
      5. What Is a Story Again?
      6. What Is a Situation?
      7. The Five Components of a Situation
      8. What Do I Do If I Have a Situation and Not a Story?
    7. Chapter 7 The Moral Premise
      1. What Does “Moral” Mean?
      2. What Is a Moral Component?
        1. Moral Blind Spot
        2. Immoral Effect
        3. Dynamic Moral Tension
      3. The Passive Protagonist Loop
      4. The Active Protagonist Loop
      5. Summary
  10. Part 2 The 7-Step Premise Development Process
    1. The 7 Steps
    2. Why a Process and Not Just a List of Steps?
    3. Forms, Worksheets, and Samples
    4. Step 1 Determine If You Have a Story or a Situation
      1. Why This Is the Hardest Step
    5. Step 2 Map the Invisible Structure to the “Anatomy of a Premise Line” Template
      1. Apply the Map to Your Story Idea
      2. Three Test Cases
    6. Step 3 Develop the First Pass of Your Premise Line
    7. Step 4 Determine If Your Premise Is High Concept
      1. Which Is Better: High Concept or Soft Concept?
      2. What Is a High-Concept Premise?
      3. The 7 Components of a High-Concept Premise
      4. What Is a Soft-Generic Premise?
      5. The High-Concept / Log Line Worksheet Exercise
    8. Step 5 Develop the Log Line
      1. What Is a Log Line and Why Should You Care?
      2. How Do Premise Line and Log Line Work Together?
      3. What Is a Tagline?
      4. The Log Line / Tagline Worksheet Exercise
    9. Step 6 Finalize the Premise Line
      1. What Does Final Mean?
    10. Step 7 Premise and Idea Testing
      1. What Is Premise Testing and Why Should You Care?
      2. How to Use the “Premise Testing Checklist”
  11. Part 3 Development: A Few Remaining Nuts and Bolts
    1. Chapter 8 I Nailed the Premise and Log Lines—Now What?
      1. The Case for a Short Synopsis
      2. The Synopsis Process
      3. How to Use the “Short Synopsis Worksheet”
      4. The “Short Synopsis Worksheet” Exercise
    2. Chapter 9 The Three Stages of Development
      1. Business Development Stage
      2. Script Development Stage
      3. Story Development Stage
    3. Chapter 10 Character Development—What They Don’t Teach You
      1. There Can Be Only One
      2. The Ensemble
      3. The Three Groups of Characters
        1. Messenger/Helper Characters
        2. Complication/Red Herring Characters
        3. Reflection/Cautionary Tale Characters
    4. Chapter 11 Final Thoughts
      1. The Myth of Writer’s Block
      2. The Only Real Reason Writers Get Blocked
      3. The Only Real Solution to Writer’s Block
      4. The 7-Step Process for Busting Writer’s Block
  12. About the Author
  13. Notes
  14. Appendix A: Worksheets and Forms
  15. Appendix B: Examples
  16. Appendix C: e-Resources/Companion Website
  17. Appendix D: Writer Resources
  18. Index

Product information

  • Title: Anatomy of a Premise Line
  • Author(s): Jeff Lyons
  • Release date: June 2015
  • Publisher(s): Routledge
  • ISBN: 9781317558941