Your Hemingway true sentence is the story premise

Ernest Hemingway, pictured working in Wyoming, said to write one true sentence. In my way of thinking put a lot of thought into a one-sentence story premise will go a long way in helping you tell your story better.

By Alan O’Hashi from True Stories of a Mediocre Writer

Hemingway says to write “one true sentence.” To get started, I’m talking literally about writing one sentence that I call the story premise.

I’ll deconstruct the first pitch line I gave for Beyond Heart Mountain when the publisher picked up my memoir.

The fundamental truth about storytelling, stories are finite. There’s a beginning, middle, and end that fit into novels and memoirs of infinite lengths. For screenwriting, stories are even more finite in that the page limitation is anywhere from 90 to 120 pages for a feature-length movie.

That’s it.

Adapting a novel to a movie means condensing, say 500 pages, down to 100. Writing a one-sentence story premise takes discipline and includes a protagonist/s/ (The Who), their goal (The What), and their challenge (The Why).

Who — There’s no need to name the protagonist: Names have no intrinsic information and are useless words. Instead, tell us something about the story.

A Japanese American Baby Boomer learns from his personal experiences…

What — Clearly present the main goal: This is what drives your story.

A Japanese American Baby Boomer learns from his personal experiences and wants to reclaim his heritage…

Why — Describe the Challenge as a “What if” statement: Add the challenges faced.

What if a Japanese American Baby Boomer learns from his personal experiences and reclaims his heritage after once being part of a culturally thriving community that vanished following World War II because of racial injustice out in the middle of nowhere in his hometown of Cheyenne, Wyoming?

Writing 47 words, I created a desire for the reader to visualize the complete story arc among my readers or audience members. I’ll probably rewrite it again since I think it’s a little jargony.

It sounds contrived and rehearsed, which it is. Like when you learn conversational Spanish while laid over at the airport before heading out to the beaches of Mazatlan.

Not only do you need to know the phrases, but you also need to know the context, when…



Alan O'Hashi, Views from Behind the Lens

Have Typewriter-Will Travel: I’m a filmmaker & author. My book “Beyond Heart Mountain” was just released by Winter Goose Publishing