The Premise

Eventually, with absolute certainty, you need to know your Premise! It can go by the name Controlling Idea (Robert Mckee), Main Theme or Premise (Laois Egri). Premise is not to be confused with concept. Premise is a value plus charge to prove an idea/argument. To reiterate, eventually you must be able to state a well-defined premise. It is what you are trying to say and is akin to a road map to a known destination. You can wander about all you want, but at some point you need to know where you are ultimately going – and you need to get there.

It should be as simple and concise as Greed Leads to Destruction or Great Love Defies Death or Moral Conviction Trumps Evil. Or simply, Kindness Leads to Happiness. Eventually your premise should be written on the top of every page or in bold words on your wall…. and every scene should be designed to provide or disprove the premise with the final scene smacking your point home.

When you know where your character is going it gives you an idea of where he is coming from. How, then, you ask does he/she get from A to B. What value? Kindness, love, greed, ruthlessness?

If love defies death you know that someone (maybe your main character) dies in the end… but love prevails. Through death (if that’s your ways and means), love reigns and is the kind of love we all want to know! Sound familiar. It’s Romeo and Juliette. We have been telling that story for over 400 years. Not because two people fall in love – that happens all the time – but that they both died (killed themselves) for that love.

Figure out your Premise. Read about it. Understand it. The sooner you have a grasp on your premise, the sooner you will write a coveted screenplay.