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Assessing the Viability of a Premise

The following happens to be a personal example of questioning the viability of a developed premise:

An inspiration arose for a historical fiction story based on a brief mention on an article of the Revolutionary War. It inferred the U.S. invaded Canada in 1775 with an army commanded by the infamous General Benedict Arnold intending to annex the Quebec Province. Buoyed by this curious footnote of history, I undertook seven days traveling through the Quebec and Ontario provinces in southeast Canada across from New York state collecting literature, information and attitudes, in the cities from knowledgeable travel guides and museums.

A search on the internet yielded descriptions and details on the attempt produced a stack of background for the story but my first consideration was to develop a character who would be an observer, not a participant. However, in those days, any and all eligible males was drafted into the militia. My character needed to have free rein to observe rationale, assembly of troops, make the journey, witness battles, and assess consequences with impunity.

A breakthrough was the notion of a credentialed newspaper man. A search turned up the venerable Boston Gazette in existence from 1755 and was a major source of information about a number of important events leading up to the split from Great Britain. I imagined a reporter with an insatiable spirit for stories relating to the struggles for independence becomes aware of the U.S. intent and sets out for firsthand observation of the preparation and execution including confrontations.

In this case, the protagonist is the U.S. troops while the antagonist turns out to be a powerful mixture of Canadian settlers, Indians, and ultimately, the British. The setting would include wilderness, waterways, and forts. Perfect!

Now it was time to attend to the ending, that is, the aftermath: This Quebec invasion ended as a disaster for the Americans although General Arnold’s actions and his improvised navy on Lake Champlain were widely credited with delaying a full-scale British counter thrust on U.S. soil until 1777. Numerous factors were cited as reasons for the invasion’s failure including the unforeseen solidarity of the opposition, and the high rate of smallpox among American troops.

The novel’s premise as reviewed was deemed unmarketable. It had all the earmarks of historical fiction. The problem was the protagonist was soundly defeated in what was labeled a useless war. It’s interest from a reader’s point of view was disappointingly clear: The bloody outcome in favor of the antagonist was unattractive except for historical purists. The result was another insert in my premise folder.


Thanks to overwhelming popularity, the Beverly Hills Book Award winning The Missing F_ctor has completed its 2nd printing with a new fresh cover by Open Road Integrated Media. Insiders hint a movie option may be in the offering!