Premise Line Pointers: How to Improve Your Ranking
A Premise Line, versus a television listing or poster logline, is a proprietary Writers Boot Camp exercise, a single-sentence description of your story formatted to include all of the Five Story Components.
Since the primary reason for selection as a Fellow is the strength of your idea, your Scene Work (written pages) coming into play as an additional factor of separation from the other candidates with distinctive ideas, writing a compelling Premise Line can make all the difference, that is, if your idea has merit in the first place.
Expressed as a cause-and-effect statement by initially using the words "When" and "then," a Premise Line compactly structures and describes how your story works while highlighting the fresh entertainment of the project.
Here's an example of the format, though your process will ideally not emulate literally as much as abide a checklist to ensure that you are inclusive and explicit, part of what we teach in all of our coursework.
Premise Line for SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (47 words):
When a passionate William Shakespeare finds his muse in a romantic, young woman, disguised as a male actor, they continue their affair behind the scenes of the production of "Romeo and Juliet" under the jealous suspicion of the annoying noble to which her aristocratic family has betrothed her.
Loglines and slogans do not usually contain enough words and phrases to convey how the story specifically works, which means that they do not empower the writer with enough ammunition for the ensuing brainstorming and selection of material that will extend from that conceptual focus.
Here are a few tips for writing and submitting a stronger Premise Line:
1. Start in the Middle: Most early drafts of Premise Lines are barely story set-ups. Include more than the beginning of the story. Improve your process by starting in the middle of the story and making sure to include a phrase to describe what the characters actually do together along the Adventure, in the middle of the story.
2. Dynamic Character: Include a phrase for the role and participation of the character that spends the middle of the story or television story line along with the Main Character. This is what Writers Boot Camp refers to as the Dynamic Character. When you understand the interpersonal dynamic between these two stars, then you will better understand how to write a progression of a relationship between them.
3. Dynamic Manipulation/Complication: Include the reason the Dynamic Characters are in the story and the nature of their interaction with each other. Whether reluctant and begrudging or completely cooperating, that "dynamic progression" between them will help turn the physical journey into one that is also a relationship journey. While you may not know the details of the Adventure and the related character experience early in the writing process, you can estimate the conflict in the latter half of the story and include a placeholder in the Premise Line.
4. Misbehavior: Include a few words about the Main Character's "Misbehavior." Think of misbehavior as the way a character behaves poorly toward others while still remaining redeemable, sort of a sweet and sour combination. You can read more about this important tool on our website.
5. Test Each Word and Phrase: A common fallacy is the concern that you cannot describe your story in a single sentence. The generous yet still economical allowance of 40-50 words will empower a writer who practices writing and revising a Premise Line to integrate a great deal of material and implied meaning. You must edit out all language that is repetitive, does not advance the story and that psychologically or intellectually explains what the story means. Instead, the inclusion of the Misbehavior will naturally convey meaning and help the listener or reader intuit the significance of the Main Character's experience along Adventure.