CRAFTING A KILLER PREMISE
So, you think you've just had a brilliant story idea.
Well, can it fit into a well-constructed premise, or will it be thrown overboard?
Here are four steps to crafting a killer premise.
1. We need a protagonist, everybody knows this, but he also needs a problem to overcome.
Example: A police chief discovers a shark is munching on his beach community.
2. You might think the shark is "The force of antagonism" but, the mayor is.
Example: The police chief wants to shut down the beach, but the mayor likes his tourism.
3. With the Problem staring our protagonist in the face, and his Force of Antagonism keeping him from the easy solution, he must make a plan to fulfill his desire/duty.
Example: The police chief gathers a team to kill the shark.
4. This story is nice and dandy and the Police Chief has a cool plan, but why should I care? What happens if he fails? Why should I be invested in this movie? With most writers I find their story stakes aren't high enough or are non-existent. The stakes should touch us on a primitive level: Love or Hate, Fame or Shame, Freedom or Slavery, Life or Death.
Example: If the team fails at killing the shark more innocent tourists will die! (The team will probably die too)
So, lets put it all together:
A police chief discovers a Shark is munching on his beach community, but the mayor won't let him shut down the beach, so the police chief must gather a team to kill the shark before more people die.
This is Jaws.
Also, notice the word: before?
It's always a good idea to put a "ticking clock" in your story. Not only does the team need to kill the shark, but they need to do it quickly. People are dying, and they'll keep dying until the shark is destroyed.
All great stories have these four elements in their premises.