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premise

What is a Premise in Writing?

Writing a book or a story is a creative process involving many elements coming together to form a cohesive narrative. One of the most important aspects of any written work is the premise.

What is a story premise? A premise is the foundation upon which the entire story is built, providing the central idea or concept that drives the plot and engages the readers.

In this article, we will explore the concept of a premise in writing, its significance, and how to develop a strong and compelling one for your book or story.

What does premise mean in writing?

In writing, a premise is the underlying idea or concept that sets the stage for the story. It is the core concept that answers the question, “What is this story about?

A premise provides a clear direction and purpose for the narrative, giving it a sense of focus and meaning. It acts as a guide, shaping the plot, characters, and themes of the story.

The premise of a book is often expressed in a single sentence or phrase that encapsulates the central idea of the story.

Over the centuries, various authors have tried to give their interpretation of the concept of the premise. For Christopher Vogler, for example, it was a statement by the author about an aspect of life that remains below the story. Robert McKnee, on the other hand, defined the premise with the term control label. He described how and why life changes from one condition of existence at the beginning (of the story) to a different one at the end.

Let’s take an example. Your story’s protagonist is a young man who wants to be a painter. So he leaves his small town to go to Paris. After several failures, he finally achieves success. The premise of the story should be this: The desire to paint and determination lead to success.


STORY PREMISE DEFINITION

What is a premise in writing?

In writing, a premise refers to the foundational idea or central concept that forms the basis of a piece of work, such as an essay, story, or argument. It serves as the core upon which the rest of the writing is built. A well-defined premise helps writers establish the theme, purpose, and direction of their work, guiding the development of characters, plot, and arguments. Essentially, it’s the fundamental concept or statement that the entire piece of writing aims to explore, support, or prove.


The importance of a strong premise in writing

A strong premise helps the writer stay focused and avoid meandering or losing sight of the story’s purpose. A clear premise acts as a guiding light, ensuring that every scene, character, and plot point serves the overarching concept of the narrative. It keeps the story on track and prevents it from becoming disjointed or aimless.

Moreover, a strong premise sets the foundation for a memorable and impactful story. It lays the groundwork for the themes and messages you wish to convey, providing a solid framework for exploring complex ideas and emotions. A well-crafted premise allows you to create a story that resonates with readers on a deeper level, leaving a lasting impression.

I have always loved science fiction. One of my favorite shows is ‘Star Trek.’ I like the trips, where it drops my mind off, because they give you a premise and all of a sudden, you say, ‘Oh!’ and I’m fascinated by it.

Leslie Nielsen

Elements of a compelling premise

A compelling novel premise possesses several key elements that make it intriguing and engaging. These elements include:

  1. Conflict. A premise should involve some form of conflict or tension that drives the story forward. Whether it’s an internal conflict within the main character or an external conflict with the antagonist, the presence of conflict adds excitement and drama to the narrative.
  2. Specificity. A strong premise is specific and concrete, providing clear details and imagery that paint a vivid picture in the readers’ minds. Specificity helps to make the premise more relatable and tangible, allowing readers to immerse themselves in the story.
  3. Originality. A compelling premise should offer a fresh and unique take on a familiar concept or genre. It should stand out from the crowd and offer something new and exciting to readers. Originality sparks curiosity and makes the story more memorable.
  4. Relevance. A good premise should be relevant to the target audience and resonate with their interests and desires. It should address universal themes and emotions that readers can connect with, making the story more relatable and impactful.

How to write a premise for your book or story

Developing a premise of a story requires careful thought and consideration. Here are some steps to help you develop a compelling premise:

  1. Identify the central idea. Start by identifying the central idea or concept that you want your story to revolve around. This could be a theme, a character’s journey, or a unique setting. Think about what message or experience you want to convey to readers.
  2. Brainstorm possible conflicts. Once you have identified the central idea, brainstorm possible conflicts or obstacles that could arise within the story. Consider both internal conflicts within the main character and external conflicts with other characters or the environment.
  3. Refine and clarify. Refine and clarify your premise by condensing it into a single sentence or phrase. Make sure it captures the essence of your story and clearly conveys the central idea and conflict.
  4. Test for originality. Test your premise for originality by researching similar books or stories in your chosen genre. Make sure your premise offers a fresh and unique perspective that will stand out from the rest.
  5. Seek feedback. Share your premise with trusted friends, writing groups, or beta readers to get feedback. Ask for their thoughts on the clarity, relevance, and appeal of your premise. Use their feedback to refine and improve it further.

Examples of premises in literature

To further understand the power of a well-crafted premise, let’s explore some examples of effective premises in literature:

  1. “1984” by George Orwell. In a dystopian future, a man rebels against an oppressive government that monitors its citizens’ every move.
  2. “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins. In a post-apocalyptic world, a young girl volunteers to take her sister’s place in a brutal televised fight to the death, becoming a symbol of hope and resistance.
  3. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. In a small Southern town, a young girl comes of age as her lawyer father defends a black man wrongly accused of rape, facing racism and injustice.

These examples demonstrate how a clear and compelling premise can set the stage for a captivating and thought-provoking story.

Define the premise of your story with bibisco

With bibisco novel writing software, writers can develop a strong story premise. The software’s user-friendly interface and structured approach guide authors through brainstorming, outlining plot points, and fleshing out character motivations.

bibisco's architecture section - hat is a premise in writing?
bibisco’s architecture section

bibisco’s tools for outlining, character development, and world-building facilitate the creation of a compelling premise, ensuring a successful and engaging storytelling experience.

Conclusion: the power of a well-crafted premise in writing

In conclusion, a well-crafted premise is the foundation upon which a successful book or story is built. It provides direction, focus, and meaning to the narrative, captivating readers and leaving a lasting impression.

By understanding the concept of a premise, developing a strong one, and avoiding common pitfalls, you can create a compelling story that resonates with readers. So, take the time to craft a memorable premise for your next writing project!

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