In all my years working with playwrights and screenwriters, the one thing that’s helped the most in getting to the heart of a script’s problems is focusing in on what the writer really wants to say.  Without a clear sense of where you want to land with your story it’s almost impossible to proceed in figuring out how to put it together or rearrange it so it will arrive there.  Successful invention happens because the inventor has a passion for creating a specific thing that, once made, functions in a specific way.  It’s no different with a successful script.  This is why giving some serious thought to your dramatic premise early in your writing process is worth the effort.  
            Here are some further tips to keep in mind as you work at formulating your premise.
  In my last post I gave some examples of how to actually write this out as a statement you can tack up on your wall or tape in front of you on your desk lamp.  But be careful you don’t come up with an inert statement of fact, such as “adultery is bad,” or “worldly success is hollow.”  These statements just sit there; they suggest neither a progression nor that the story is going to take you to a destination.  Remember, you aren’t about to write an essay here.  You’re going to write a living, breathing piece that centers on a character struggling to resolve a dilemma.  So keep your premise dramatic. Instill it with a sense of forward motion and have it tell you that your story is going to be about conflict. 
            Coming up with a simple premise stated in action terms isn’t always easy.  But it’s such an essential step that you should force yourself to write it out.  You’re not locking yourself into anything.  Rather, this exercise will get you asking some hard questions about what you’re really trying to say.  And although you may not feel entirely comfortable with your initial efforts, remember that what you’re doing is sharpening your focus on the dramatic essence of your script-in-the-making in terms of your central character’s struggle, how he or she resolves it, and what it’s going to mean for anyone watching this on a stage or screen.  And that’s a pretty basic thing to have a good sense of early on regardless of whether you’re tackling a drama or comedy, romance or thriller.  Skipping this step at this point will only short-circuit your thinking and decision-making as you proceed. 
           As with all early exploratory work on a story idea, your premise may change.  The discoveries you’ll be making as you move through the writing process may very well shift your focus. You may find that your story is really about something quite different than what you now think it is, and it’ll become abundantly clear when and if your premise is no longer functioning for you.  The point is that if you don’t formulate one to start off with, you won’t have anything with which to gauge the hundreds of ideas and possibilities that will constantly be presenting themselves as you move deeper into the project.  If a more appropriate premise does begin to present itself, it’s because you had the first one there to show you the way to the better one.  
            Challenge yourself to discover what it is you really stand for and how this script is going to speak to some aspect of that.  Then put it down in writing in the form of a dramatic premise.  As I’ve said, you won’t be locking yourself into anything.  Rather, it will help guide you to that part of yourself and your belief system that will fuel the writing of your script.