Bridge to Story

Premise vs. Plot

Premise is like saying 'What if an old man and a young girl had to share a house?'

Plot is telling your reader how that pairing goes for the length of your story. There is a difference between the two.

But what about Plot and Story?

You can find this info in many how-to books and all over the internet, but here it is again, as E.M. Forester writes:

  • A story is a series of events recorded in their chronological order.
  • A plot is a series of events deliberately arranged so as to reveal their dramatic, thematic, and emotional significance.

Here it is in my terms:

PLOT tells your reader why stuff happened the way it did step by step.  Think of the words because, and so, and that is why:

The old man missed his wife, and because Lexie reminded him so much of whom he’d lost, he never had a smile for her. Lexie hated the old man she had to tend to and so she hid his false teeth and didn’t always come when he called. Because of this impasse, the two were locked in a grip of misunderstanding and that is why when the fire broke out....

PLOT has the reasons the characters are doing what they are doing. The Motivation. The why of 'Why will events happen this way?'

STORY, on the other hand, only tells us the order of events; the and then he, and now she, meanwhile they... bits of events. STORY doesn’t care about the motivation it cares about what action is moving us from scene to scene.

The old man had lost his wife and now he missed her. Then Lexie moved into the apartment to tend to the old man. And he was not kind to her. Meanwhile, Lexie hid his false teeth and didn’t always come when he called. Then a fire broke out....

Example Toggle


STORY asks “And then what happened?”

PLOT cares about the WHY things are moving the way they are.

Can you make of list of ‘and then things’ that will happen in your scene or story?

(This list is not you writing your story out. But it is a list of things that will happen. Don’t add in the why’s. Just list the things that happen.)

Example: You get ready for the day by doing a list of things before you walk outside.

Open eyes and see it is morning.

Decide to close eyes a bit longer.

Roll over and ignore the daylight .

Give up trying to go back to sleep and get out of bed.

Scratch your self in various places.

et cetera...

Did you notice all the action words that make up the list?

I haven’t written a story of the morning here. I’ve only made a list. Do that with your own work: just a list. That way you will see your Story.

We can add the Why’s to it for a PLOT next in the exercise page for this lesson.

Lesson Exercise 1 Toggle

Lesson Exercise 1:

Every writer’s book talks about Conflict, Crisis and Resolution as the three major bits of building a story. And if I say to you “Listen students - simply use Conflict, Crisis and Resolution every time and you’ll be fine when it comes to writing.” Will I have taught you anything about how to write?

Will I have told you what those three words mean in a story? Where to use and how arrange each of them? Why one will follow the other?

NO. But I can explain plotting things My Way:

Plot and Beginnings

In Media Res (Latin for ‘in the middle’ )Look at your list of things that happen in your story.

Where do they start? Too Early? Not soon Enough? Even if you are just now figuring out what you want to write about. We’ll use that info later.

Events that push the character to Action. This should be on your list of things that happen in your story (don’t forget the action words there).

Plot and Middles

(we’ll get to the rest of these a lot more as we move through  later topics)

Complications—what goes wrong or goes fabulously right. You can of course use both in one story – just like in life.

Reversals—How things change and make the characters do things they hadn’t planned for.

Revelations—Information your characters come across that make things better or worse for them.

The Breaking Point—the one bit of business that makes going back to the way things were impossible to do.


The Choice or the Change—Are you writing a novel or short story? That will determine if you need a choice or a change to occur.

The Climax—It is the moment of greatest danger for the character and usually consists of a seemingly inevitable prospect of failure, followed by a hard-to-anticipate recovery. Example: If you were on a roller coaster, the highest part of it would be the climax.

Plot and Ends. The denouement—the conclusion of the story. Conflicts are resolved, creating normality for the characters and a sense of release of tension and anxiety, for the reader.

Remember: Premise is like saying 'What if …?'

Plot is telling your reader how that ‘What if…?’ is going to pan out for the length of your story. There is a difference between the two.