Girish Joshi


What is the Premise?

This work is based on John Truby’s book The Anatomy of Story.

The shortest expression of the story as a whole is the premise line. It’s your story stated in one sentence. It is the simplest combination of character and plot and typically consists of some event that starts the action, some sense of the main character, and some sense of the outcome of the story.


Step 1: Write Something That May Change Your Life

If the story is important to you, then it will be important to a lot of people in your audience. And when you’re done writing the story, no matter what else happens, you’ve changes your life.

Sounds cool, but how to actually do that?

Do some self-exploration.

First, write down your wish list, a list of everything you would like to see up on the screen, in a book, or at the theatre. You can jot down the characters you have imagined, cool plot twists, or great lines of dialogue that have popped into your head. You can list themes you care about or certain genres that always attract you.

Second, write down your premise list, a list of every premise you’ve ever thought of. Express each premise in one sentence.

Now study these two lists and patterns will emerge about what you love. This, in the rawest form possible, is your vision. It’s who you are as a writer and as a human being, on a paper in front of you. Go back to it often.

Step 2: Look for What’s Possible

Let your ideas and stories blossom, don’t just jump on a single possibility right away, even if it looks really good. Explore your options. Brainstorm different paths the idea can take and then choose the best one. See if anything is promised by the idea. These “promises” can lead you to the best option for developing the idea. Ask yourself “What if . . . ?” for seeing what’s possible in the idea.

Step 3: Identify the Story Challenges and Problems

You have to identify inherent problems right at the premise line. There are particular problems embedded in every idea, and these problems are signposts for finding your true story. For example in The Great Gatsby Fitzgerald’s challenge is to show the American dream corrupted and reduced to competition for fame and money.

Step 4: Find the Designing Principle

Your overall story strategy stated in one line, is the designing principle of your story. It organizes your story as a whole. Being the internal logic of the story, it makes the parts hang together organically so that the story becomes greater than sum of its parts. Premise is concrete; it’s what actually happens. The designing principle is abstract; it is the deeper process going on in the story, told in an original way.

Step 5: Determine Your Best Character in the Idea

Best character is the one that’s most fascinating, challenging, and complex. It need not be likable. You want this character driving the action.

Step 6: Get a Sense of the Central Conflict

Find out: “who fights whom over what?” and answer the question in one succinct line.

Step 7: Get a Sense of the Single Cause-and-Effect Pathway 

A leads to B, which leads to C, and so on all the way to Z. This is spine of the story, and if you don’t have a spine or you have too many spines, your story will fall apart. Ask yourself: “What is my hero’s basic actions?” Your hero make take many actions over the course of the story. But there should be one action that is most important, that unifies every other action the hero takes. That action is the cause-and-effect path.

Step 8: Determine Your Hero’s Possible Character Change

Character change is what your hero experiences by going through his struggle. The change can be represented as:

W x A = C

where W stands for weakness, both psychological and moral; A represents the struggle to accomplish the basic action in the middle of the story; and C stand for the changes person.

Basic Logic of a Story: How does the act of struggling to do the basic action (A) lead the character to change from W to C?

Notice that A, the basic action, is the fulcrum. The basic action should be the one action best able to force the character to deal with his weakness and change.

  1. Write your simple premise line. (Be open to modifying this premise line once you discover the character change.)
  2. Determine the basic action of your hero over the course of the story.
  3. Come up with the opposites of A (the basic action) for both W (the hero’s weakness) and C (changed person).

If your hero’s weakness are similar to the basic action he will take during the story, he will simply deepen those weaknesses and remain who he is.

Step 9: Figure Out the Hero’s Possible Moral Choice

Your hero must either select one of two positive outcomes or, on rare occasions, avoid one of two negative outcomes. A classic example of choice between two positives is between love and honour.

Step 10: Gauge the Audience Appeal

Ask yourself: Is this single story line unique enough to interest a lot of people beside me?

A Checklist for Creating Your Premise

  • Premise
  • Wish List and Premise List
  • Possibilities
  • Story Challenges and Problems
  • Designing Principle
  • Best Character
  • Conflict
  • Basic Action
  • Character Change
  • Moral Choice
  • Audience Appeal


Conclusion of Winter School

I organized two Winter Schools in my college days, the aim was to make juniors learn about things that were beyond the reaches of ordinary classrooms. In 2019, the theme was Bridging the Skill Gap. We conducted workshops on Data Science & Computational Fluid Dynamics I share with you here the speech that we delivered on the last day of the Winter School.

The only way to be comfortable with something is to be uncomfortable with it for a prolonged period until everything becomes familiar and relatable. That’s how we learn and grow by constantly going out of our comfort zones, by putting ourselves in places where we least want to be. When the logic delivered in class makes little sense. When urges are high to quit. When it feels like it won’t be easy and yet when we stay. When we walk a few extra miles. We become what we want to become. We learn what we want to learn. We grow. We learn most by putting ourselves in the most uncomfortable shoes.

Sure, the last few weeks were tough and challenging. Sleepless nights spent on fixing that ONE BUG. Sleepless nights spent on hammering that ONE NAIL. These sleepless nights will not go in vain, they never can. With the conclusion of Winter School, I can safely say that we all learned a lot and my friends that was our purpose behind conducting Winter School after all.

The real school will begin now, from tomorrow, in your own room, in your own time, when no one would be watching, no one to keep you accounted, what you in that school will determine what you become. I hope you make the right decision. I hope that you understand that Winter School is just the beginning, just the means, it’s not the end. The certificate that you’ll get is for participation, not competence. I hope you spend your time to become competent in Data Science and Computational Fluid Dynamics. I hope you become the kind of engineer India needs most right now. I hope you get skilled and help us Bridge the Skill Gap.

With S&T Committee we are trying to build a unique culture at RGIPT. The culture of learning and growing. The culture of innovating and tinkering and coding and entrepreneurship. The culture of teamwork and leadership. The culture of walking extra miles. We acknowledge that things are not perfect, but it’s my understanding that they never are. There is always some scope of improvement there to motivate us. I’m thoroughly impressed with the project and posters presented by the team. Pulling off an electronic circuit or an android app within a month without any proper guidance or educating is not easy, and all those who believe otherwise, well are welcome to try it once for themselves, we’ll be happy to fund their adventure. But, and this is a big But, nothing that we do is of any worth if we are not constantly growing. For what is the same perishes. If we are not taking feedbacks seriously and if we are not constantly changing and improving, all that we have built will go in vain, we must not let that happen. Our work should not be repeated annually, our work should be incremented. We should not be scientific only when it’s needed. We should be breathing science and talking ideas, we should spend more time tinkering and coding then we spend on futile things. We should spend more time in research labs, tinkering lab, libraries, then we spend in our rooms doing nothing. If we aim at excellence and if we want to be best, then we must do what they do, we must work hard. Success is simple, constantly work hard until you die. I never said Success is easy. It’s simple.

A big thank you to all the participants of Winter School for joining us and learning. I wish you keep sailing on this boat.

I would like to thank Dr. Satish Sinha for joining us on this valedictory session of Winter School. I’d like to call him on stage to say a few words of encouragement and announce the winners of the Poster & Project Exhibition.

Thank You.

The AI Cliff-Hanger

Artificial Intelligence has defeated us in checkers, chess, scrabble, backgammon, and Othello. With every passing day, they are getting good at recognizing faces, understanding natural language, performing complex motions, recommending things that make us happy, and detecting spams and frauds. If you follow tech then you’d know that now they can even make phone calls. Our phones know about our patterns (thus predicting our behaviour) more than our friends. Almost every online service employees AI to make our experience better. And soon enough AI systems will be driving our cars. Meanwhile military is using AI to guide missiles better, to make drones more smart and accurate, to make robots that can survey remote areas and destroy targets. Every industry on the planet is exploring avenues for AI for there is no survival without it. Even the dinosaurs, The Oil & Gas Industry. And yet we have only started out with Artificial Narrow Intelligence, the best (and scary) part is yet to come. But before we dive deep, let’s brush on some basics.

What is a Computer?

A fancy calculator. All it knows is how to perform arithmetic and logical operations. And it’s very good at what it does and defeats humans 101%. Ask it what is 1795 x 89453 and it will blurt out the answer before you can even blink your eye. Ask it to differentiate between apple and orange or write a novel and it will stare at you in the abyss for eternity. Turns out a computer is extremely good at things that require humans to think like calculus, solving a differential equation, or finance and extremely bad at things that humans do effortlessly like perception, motion, or speech.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

AI is making computers do all the things that humans can do and not just math. It’s our attempt to simulate the human brain. A computer with human-like capabilities will not only be efficient and fast but it will also defeat humans at 101%. Apparently, there is a funny paradox with AI; as soon as it works, nobody calls it AI anymore. So although AI is here already, it still seems like a thing of future.

Then What is Machine Learning, Data Science, Deep Learning?

They all are the subsets of the superset AI. But we’ll not talk about that today. There is enough literature on the internet to kickstart your adrenaline, go explore once we’re done.

Now let’s begin.

All the AI examples I mentioned at the start have one thing in common, they all are good at one specific task and that’s it. Humans aren’t like that. The best chess player can drive a car equally well and can also sing for recreation. The AI systems that are good at only one (or few) specific tasks belongs to class – 1 of AI. This is Artificial Narrow Intelligence or ANI. This is the only class we have mastered until now, or we chose to think that way.

Now for a moment try to appreciate how incredibly powerful and efficient our brains are. Have you ever marvelled at seeing a baby learn the first word or take the first step? Wonder a computer program doing that, learning on its own, and not just one thing, but everything, and learning it faster and better than us. But right now only the worlds fastest supercomputer matches our brain in calculations-per-second, and we know for fact how humongous supercomputers are and how much energy they consume. And no one really knows how to write such a program.

The class – 2 of AI, one we still are figuring out how to create is called, Artificial General Intelligence, or AGI. AGI will be as good as a human, it would be able to plan ahead, strategize, self-learn, and do all the things we humans can do with intelligence but only better and without fatigue. Now from here on it may start to sound like another sci-fi movie plot but most of the experts believe that we’ll reach AGI by the end of this century, and that’s the most pessimistic estimate I can give you. Optimistically AGI would be reached before 2050.

If AGI is reached, the life as we know it will forever be changed. We’ll have a digital species that is as smart as us, that is never tired, that is conscious all the time, that learns faster than us. And once AGI is reached, it will be only a span of time in which class-3 of AI will be reached. Artificial Super Intelligence, or ASI. ASI will be way intelligent than humans. To bring things in perspective, what ants are to humans that humans will be to ASI.

Imagine if we mere mortal humans could invent Wi-Fi, create the Internet, and could cure Cancer. What would an immortal machine with human-like capabilities do? The solution to world hunger, energy crisis, climate change, or any problem would be with us. Solution to ageing would be there, immortality can be reached. Obviously for that to happen, nanotechnology has to keep pace with advancements too.

But that’s the bright side. On the contrary, all the evil that man has done will also be amplified. The notion of good or evil is humanly devised. Applying it to non-animate things is called anthropomorphizing. ASI’s are not supposed to understand it. Morals and ethics will mean nothing to them. Hence an ASI would do anything to accomplish its goals, even if it means killing all humans and colonizing the entire universe. Elon Musk calls it “summoning the demon”? Sure his concerns are valid. Creating something smarter, (way smarter) then ourselves can be a Darwinian error. The excitement right now is same as when single-celled organisms were turning into the multi-celled organism. We are amoebas and we can’t figure out what we’re creating. No wonder why some call it our last invention.

Is this a path to immortality or extinction? Only the time will tell. Now is the best time to be alive.

Read about The AI Revolution at Wait But Why to have your mind blown.