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TV Tropes Monday: Driving Question


Tweet of the Day: Writing Excuses 10:7: Who Are All These People?


I written and even created a video about the importance of Premises & Promises in a narrative:



The promises in a premise arise in the form of questions also known as the Driving Question(s). While the tropes page adjudicates this to plots that have a mystery at their core, you can find it in any form of fiction from the old “Whodunit?” to questions about what, where and why things happened, are happening or will happen in the story. The reason why these are driving questions is because they do to things:

  1. Drive the plot
  2. Drive the readers interest.

The first is is pretty straight forward, the events in the plot occur based on the question, either because characters seek to the answer, or that that implications/answers lead to a series of repercussions which become the events of the story. The second is where this whole idea of premises and promises comes in. The reader engages with the work in search for answers to the driving question.

This is where most of the trope’s problems come in. The problem(s) does not lie with the trope, but how it is used. Often times writer’s (specially in television or other forms of serialized fiction) knowing full well that the question drives audience engagement delay answering the question for as long as possible. Some even pose the question without any meaningful answer at hand, hoping that they can come up with something later on. This often leads the driving question bereft of a meaningful answer and in the process violating their promises to their readers.

It is one of the (many) reasons why sequels are hard to write.


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