Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Premises I Love

If I see a book, movie or television show about any of these stories, I just can't pass it up.

  • The isolated group of people--and one of them is a ________!   I love stories where people are trapped together, it's best when they're strangers, and they slowly realize that someone in the group is not what they seem. The most recent version of this was the movie Devil, where some people are stuck in an elevator and one of them is an insurance adjuster. I mean the devil.
    • +1 if they're stranded because of a raging storm
    • +1 if one of them is secretly a werewolf
  • A contentious will reading leads to danger!   A lot of estate issues in real life cause strife, but don't make good stories. What makes a good story is if the dead guy or gal's attorney gathers all the nefarious relatives together to read a will that surprises everyone and sets in motion blackmail and murder.
    • +1 if the will specifies that they must stayed in the creepy house together
    • -1 if the deceased is revealed to be still alive. Unless he's also the killer
  • A deadly prank comes back to haunt a group of friends!  I talked about this a little in regards to Kevin O'Brien's book The Last Victim. Whether this set-up leads to a ghost story, a slasher revenge story, or a taut thriller (like O'Brien's), I'm probably going to like it.
    • +1 if they're stranded somewhere together
    • +1 if it's at a class reunion
  • My neighbor is a __________ and no one will believe me!   Like the last one, I love this premise no matter where it's going. It doesn't matter if the guy next door is a vampire like in Fright Night or a killer like in Rear Window. And for what it's worth, if you tell me you saw your neighbor doing something crazy or unbelievable, I'll be that side kick who stands lookout while you break into their place looking for their coffin or the murder weapon.
    •  -1 if the neighbor is totally innocent, unless there's a good twist where someone else is guilty
    • +1 if the cops won't help
  • The classic locked room!   What I mean by classic is: someone is dead, murdered, in a locked room with no apparent way anyone could have gotten at them. This is a great premise and easy to start, but very difficult to pull off successfully. My love of this sort of thing goes back to an episode of Hey Dude I saw when I was about 10 or 11 and they told a story about people being found dead with all their doors and windows locked from inside. Maybe that wasn't a good plot for a kid's show, but it stuck with me!
    • +1 if the solution is clever, not too simple or too technical
    • -1 if an animal did it, that's been done by the masters and I could only barely tolerate it when they did it
  • Finally, Bigfoot!   If a group of people go into the woods or the mountains and they're running into a skunk ape or yeti or whatever, I want to know about it. For me this goes back to stories at boy scout camp and the Peter Cushing movie The Abominable Snowman.
    • +1 if they've ticked Bigfoot off
    • -1 if it's about the monster truck, unless a real Bigfoot is driving it
Someday I hope to combine all of these beloved plots into one grand magnum opus. Okay, picture this, Bigfoot is found stabbed to death in a locked motel room after receiving threatening letters referencing his recent inheritance and a high school prank.

All right, I need to think about this some more.

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