Review: Anatomy of a Premise Line by Jeff Lyons

lyons-anatomy premiseI was impressed with Anatomy of a Premise Line: How to Master Premise and Story Development for Writing Success (Focal Press; June 5, 2015) by Jeff Lyons. I was stuck in the middle of a story with no place I wanted to go that I could see, and then I read an article by Jeff Lyons which made the distinction between a story and a situation. That piece of wisdom alone was worth buying the book. And it didn’t disappoint. Just reading through the book without doing any of the exercises helped me see where and why I left myself hanging and where I could go with my story.

Jeff Lyons borrows heavily on the work of other writers. I feel a strong influence of John Truby, whom he credits, but Lyons brings to the table a very practical, specific understanding of a crucial step to which most authors of how-to-write books overlook. And he does it in a clear, concise voice that even sounds a little gritty at times. The inclusion of the worksheets was very helpful—he even shows you how to fill them out! they serve as a clear guide to the steps and concerns one may want to consider when crafting a story that moves people.

The book is highly slanted towards screenwriting, but the author makes a point of reminding the aspiring novelist that these principles work for novels also, and what some of the differences are in developing a novel as opposed to a screenplay. There is a whole section on screenplay development which I skimmed because it talks about an industry which intimidates the bejeezus out of me and I don’t want to go there.

Jeff Lyons also includes a section on writer’s block which he says doesn’t really exist. He made a interesting analogy to racism and race: there is no biological basis for race, nevertheless racism exists. He spent some time explaining why he thought this was so but I wasn’t convinced that writer’s block doesn’t exist. His remedy, however, is practical and I think it could work. You’ll have to read the book to see what he suggests.

After a first reading, I heartily recommend buying this book. I read the Kindle version for the unusually high price (for Kindle) of $17—but it was worth it. Next, I intend to work through the exercises, construct a premise line and report back on how it worked in practice.


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