Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Chasing a Great Premise

By Jamie Freveletti

I have two different techniques to keep going forward whenever I’m working through a scene in my manuscript and get stumped. The first is to switch screens and work on a second book. (I always keep two going, though deadlines force one to take a back seat at times), and the second is to pop in a DVD of a favorite movie. I like the movie approach, because it gives me a complete story arc in an efficient one and one half hours. My last was The Bourne Identity, based on Robert Ludlum’s novel.
A bit of background; I fell in love with Ludlum after reading The Matarese Circle. Ludlum published the Bourne Identity in 1980, one year later, and I think this novel captured the essence of a thriller while delivering a twisty tale and great mystery. While I prefer the book ending-won’t tell it here to avoid being a spoiler-I like the simplified movie version just fine.
While I watched I thought about some themes that I love to read about in novels. I’m always interested to read another writer’s take on the thorny problem of time travel. A number of authors have inserted their protagonist into various eras and then explored the results, and each have a slightly different approach. Two other themes I enjoy are double lives: when one person is secretly living an alternate existence, and amnesia: when a person has no sense of his or her own history. Both these require a writer to show various sides of their protagonist’s personality, and the results always fascinate me. The Bourne Identity tapped into both of these, which is why I loved it.
I’m wondering, what are the themes that you’ll always take a chance on reading? Bad man turned good and trying to leave his former life behind? Revenge? Capers? Mafia wars-the real ones not the Facebook version. (I hear some Facebook members groaning, but it must have been fun or everyone wouldn’t have gotten quite so addicted).

Also, if you have great examples of writers that nailed the theme you love to read then by all means list them!