Anatomy of a Premise Line: How to Use Story and Premise Development for Writing Success

with Jeff Lyons


September 18, 2024
5 Weeks

Original price was: $395.00.Current price is: $340.00.

Original price was: $395.00.Current price is: $340.00.Enroll Now

Pitch perfect: write a premise line for your story.

If a story is going to fail, it will first do so at the premise level.  Knowing how to create, design, and validate a premise idea are essential skills every writer needs in their toolbox. The premise line is the only reliable tool that can tell you, BEFORE you start writing, whether or not your story will “work.” It is your canary in the coal mine, and when fully mastered can save you time, money and months of potentially wasted writing. In this class participants will learn how to master the process of premise line development—the essential first step in any book or screenplay’s development process. All that students need to prepare for this class is to have an idea that sparks their passion and imagination. It doesn’t matter how much, or little, actual writing has been done previously on the idea.

Students will have ample opportunities to work with the instructor live in one-on-one session once a week, and offline in private recorded video-chat sessions. Everyone will have the chance to work directly with the instructor, regardless of time zone. We only have five weeks to cover an immense amount of material, so expect an intense and invigorating experience.

I had no idea how profound (not too strong a word) the work would be. It was one of the most valuable experiences I’ve had as a writer, and I’ve been through a 3-year MFA program.
—Charles David Taylor


Novelists, screenwriters, playwrights, creative nonfiction authors.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the fifth week, students will:

  • understand the real purpose of the premise line,
  • know how to identify a story from a situation,
  • understand how premise relates to story structure,
  • know how to design and execute a two-, three-, or six-page synopsis,
  • and they will have a working premise line and logline for one of their own stories.

But, most importantly, going forward, each student will have a repeatable and reliable premise/story development methodology they can use on any new story idea.

Optional Materials

Anatomy of a Premise Line: How to Master Premise and Story Development for Writing Success, by Jeff Lyons (Focal Press—order from Amazon:

Worksheet-Based Assignments

This is not a creative writing class; this is a story development class. Student pages or writing will not be read or workshopped during the class. Instead, all class work will be guided by strategically designed worksheets that will guide participants through the various steps of their development process and all these worksheets will be the source material for all class and individual one-on-one sessions. This has proven, over many years, to be the best approach to get the maximum results for students.

Weekly One-on-One Sessions

Once a week we will hold “hot seat sessions.”  These will be Chat/Zoom sessions where we will work one-on-one with students, live, and work through questions, blockages, and work the process directly with individuals. There is one session per week, Monday 12pm Pacific, for 60 minutes. There will also be “Office Hours” each Thursday at 12am Pacific for up to 90 minutes where all students who wish can get more one-on-one time with the instructor.

Students in different time zones will be given ample opportunity to get personal time and interaction. All sessions will be recorded for later review, but also to accommodate students in different time zones which might make live participation difficult. Additional private one-on-one time can be arranged if students feel the need to have more help.

How To Write A Story Premise Line: Course Syllabus

Week One: What Is a Premise / Story vs Situation

What is a story premise and why is it important? This week we look at the nuts and bolts of what premise development means and why it is an essential first step in creating any story. We also talk about what a story is and what a story isn’t and how to tell the difference.

Week Two: Moral Component

This is an essential part of any story and the engine of any narrative. This week we discuss what a moral problem is, why your protagonist needs one, and the three components that make up every moral premise.

Week Three: Classic Story Structure / How to Build a Premise Line

This week we look at the story structure principles that drive any story, how all stories are structured and how this informs the premise development process. We will also learn how to use the Premise Line Tool, the basic template and machine used to build premise lines and story pitches.

Week Four: High Concept / The Logline

This week we look at what makes a story “high concept,” what this means, and how you can tell if your story is high concept. We will also look at the logline concept and how to build a proper logline for query letters and pitching.

Week Five: Short Synopsis Writing and Next Steps in Development

This week’s lecture will introduce the synopsis writing process and describe the parameters used for designing, planning, and integrating your premise line into a narrative that you can use to write a short synopsis. The short synopsis is an essential tool in the development process. We will close with a look at “next steps” in the development process for future work, to help you prepare for actual pages and writing of the manuscript or screenplay.

Why Take a Premise Line Writing Course with

    • We welcome writers of all backgrounds and experience levels, and we are here for one reason: to support you on your writing journey.
    • Small groups keep our online writing classes lively and intimate.
    • Work through your weekly written lectures, course materials, and writing assignments at your own pace.
    • Share and discuss your work with classmates in a supportive class environment.
    • Award-winning instructor Jeff Lyons will offer you direct, personal feedback and suggestions on every assignment you submit.

Master the art of story pitching: reserve your spot in our premise line writing class now.

Original price was: $395.00.Current price is: $340.00.Enroll Now

Course type:

Student Feedback for Jeff Lyons:

Jeff was very supportive. He challenged us to develop our stories in ways that made them more compelling. We learned something new each week! Michelle Baltazar

Excellent. Advanced my writing, gave me more confidence, the conversations were productive and covered everyone’s work. Sandra Carlin

The course content went beyond my expectations. I learned quite a bit about character development and storytelling which will serve me well as I continue to grow as a fiction writer. I enjoyed and appreciated the more analytic approach the instructor took in teaching the material. Excellent experience. Steven Watson

The Anatomy of a Premise Line was the perfect class for me. I am working on a writing project that seemed unwieldy and over my head. Jeff Lyons’ class helped me to articulate and focus on an approach that is working much better. Sharon Ransom

I was amazed how much I learned in just five weeks. Jeff is very involved in meeting directly with students and shepherding them through the story development process. He provides ample feedback that’s directed towards moving you forward instead of just lavishing bland praise. Madeline Miraglia

Amazing experience for me! I learned so much. Jeff was able to work with different levels of writers with care, a generous amount of time, and compassion. He is intuitive and kind, not to mention talented. Patricia Clyne

Jeff has a real strength as a one-on-one teacher, listening to you stumble through your hazy story ideas and helping you find the gem within. Story structure has always been something I've been weak on, if not outright wary of. Jeff is great at connecting character growth with story structure with emotional-dramatic effect so you know you're not only writing the story you want to tell, but the story that's going to have the reader turning pages. Nancy Shaffer 

Excellent. Very novel and helpful approach to plotting that makes the essentials of powerful storytelling clear. Challenging but very eye opening and helpful. Catherine Proppe

An excellent and concentrated course that brought the gaps in my knowledge about my protagonist into sharp focus, and provided a clear method to fill those gaps and get the plot outline into great shape for moving forward. Jeff Lyons is a generous and clear-thinking teacher. Rowena House

Jeff was available, gave good feedback, and seemed genuinely interested in both how and how much his students learn. By the end of this course, I was streets ahead of where I started, finally getting the hang of what he's talking about and finding it immensely useful. Nancy Napier

Jeff’s method, course and feedback is amazing. It tests the strength of any story structure and points to its weaknesses. It is excellent at any stage of manuscript writing whether at the planning stage (best time) or after the first draft (also a great time) but also in the middle when one is stuck or to test its viability. Feedback is individually tailored and detailed. Jeff invests a lot of time interacting with participants. Sophie Cayeux

Jeff was a great communicator. His feedback was clear and sorely needed. I also appreciated his one on one availability. It felt like a university course where I could stop in and discuss my work with my professor. Thank you, Jeff! Janice Jackson

I loved this class. Jeff and I have worked a bit together before in his Anatomy of a Premise Line class where he helped me figure out exactly what my story was. After taking this class - How to firm up the "mushy" middle - I learned the steps and story beats that the reader needed to follow along with me to get from Point A to Z. Jeff pushed me like crazy, taught me about the Enneagram-Story Connection, and helped me develop all those beats from Point A to Z. He challenges me like no other, and I love him for it.

I've never been so clear about my story, and I truly believe Jeff is the reason behind it. Allison Smith

I have to admit the course caught me off guard. From the title, I was expecting a somewhat superficial "how to" class on writing a premise. I had no idea how profound (not too strong a word) the work would be. It was one of the most valuable experiences I've had as a writer---and I've been through a 3-year MFA program, with many workshops. Jeff gave it his full attention. He is a challenging teacher and made me work, and I will always appreciate that. It all has to do with how Jeff views what a premise is. I had to think long and hard about my protagonist and realized I didn't really know him. Also, he sets the bar pretty high, not only for the premise, but for what qualifies as a story. I could go on, but my main recommendation is working on the course description to explain a bit better what students are in for - I guarantee that by writing a premise, before writing a single word of the narrative, or even after a complete draft, your novel or short story will be deepened, and greatly improved... You've got the best bang for the buck. I've taken courses from both Gotham and Writer's Digest, and your courses are the best. Charles David Taylor

Having the enneagram as a framework for building out my characters is invaluable. When you are playing God and creating people from scratch it's incredibly useful to have these kinds of tools. I made enormous progress; the recordings were good and Jeff was always available for one-on-one catchups. Janine Stein

I had a great experience. The content was excellent, the pace was good, the teacher was professional and knowledgeable. Martha McLaughlin

This class, and the instructor in particular, reached into my story and my writing practice and took both to a new and more productive level. Jeff Lyons takes obvious delight in turning ideas and even dog-eared manuscripts into real storiesNancy Shaffer

I was very happy with the class. Jeff is a great teacher. He makes himself available for guidance. I had read Jeff’s Anatomy of a Premise Line and knew the class would be great. It was. It really helped me to understand how to develop story ideas. I just purchased Jeff’s book for my son who is considering signing up for Jeff’s next class. I will take more of your classes. Thanks for offering this class. Ron Ware

September 18, 2024
5 Weeks

Original price was: $395.00.Current price is: $340.00.

Early bird discount!

Original price was: $395.00.Current price is: $340.00.Enroll Now


Jeff Lyons is a traditionally published fiction/nonfiction author, screenwriter, and story development consultant in the film, television, and publishing industries. He has worked with major studios like NBCU and Columbia Pictures, and leading independent producers and film and television production companies. He is an instructor through Stanford University's Online Certificate Program in Novel Writing, and guest lectures through the UCLA Extension Writers Program.

Jeff is a regular contributor and advisor to leading entertainment industry screenwriting and producing fellowship programs, such as the Producers Guild of America's "Power of Diversity Master Producers Workshop," and the Film Independent Screenwriting Lab, and is a regular workshop presenter at leading writing industry conferences such as the Romance Writers of America, StoryExpo, Great American Pitchfest, Romance Writers of America, and many others.

His clients have won major literary prizes like the “William Faulkner Gold Medal,” and include New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors. Jeff has written on the craft of storytelling for Writer’s Digest Magazine, Script Magazine, The Writer Magazine, and Writing Magazine (UK).

His book, Anatomy of a Premise Line: How to Master Premise and Story Development for Writing Success was published by Focal Press in 2015, and his book, Rapid Story Development: How to Use the Enneagram-Story Connection to Become a Master Storyteller, was published by Focal Press in October 2020. His third book with Focal Press will be published late 2021, The Story-Subplot Connection: How to Develop Subplots for Screenwriters and Novelists.

His feature film, American Thunderbolt, is being produced by Content Kings Films, UK, and two of his novellas, 13 Minutes and Terminus Station, have been optioned for feature film development.

Visit Jeff's site here.