A premise does not a story make.
This one comes up time and again in Author Scrapheap. A lot of times I come up with a story idea that’s really just a tiny premise with possibly a thin plot notion attached, almost like an apology note stuck under someone’s windshield wiper. It’s not even necessarily that the idea itself is bad, it’s just never going to be anything that turns into a story of mine.
Respawn (Nine Lives)
A guy wakes up with a number stuck in his head. Going about a dangerous day in his life, he gets killed. When he wakes up, it’s the same day again, and he’s got a different number stuck in his head—one lower.
Can he make it through the most dangerous day of his life before he runs out of lives?
I could almost see this playing out like Groundhog Day. Except Bill Murray’s character (Phil??? Phil Connors? I thought that was you!) faces the bleak hopelessness of an inescapable day, whereas this premise would put a very distinct time pressure on the protagonist to find a way to survive the day he dies.
The problems with this are manyfold.
First off, I don’t leave myself any clues as to the danger itself, which would determine the whole nature of the story. Nor did I give any hints about the character that would make it unique or interesting.
That brings us to the second, and really the final point. This had been done before. The premise of multiple tries to escape what the first time through appears to be certain doom recurs across many (mostly sci-fi) genres, including probably my favorite Star Trek: TNG episode, Cause and Effect. The only mildly new twist is the videogame style life counter in the main character’s head.
Maybe that little element might find a use somewhere in my future writing, but it won’t be the hook for a full story.