What is the Premise of a Novel?

What is the Premise of a Novel?

What are the indispensable ingredients of a good book? Among the fundamental ones is undoubtedly the premise. And it can be summed up with the question: “What do you want to tell?“.

A few essential passages define the premise, one of the basic elements of the narrative. Let us see together how to create a correct premise.

What is the Premise?

What is the premise of a novel? The premise is one of the two main threads of a story.

The first thread is the plot, which differs significantly from the premise. The plot explains what happens in a story. The premise, on the other hand, corresponds to why the events of that narrative happen. It is, thus, the ultimate goal. It establishes the underlying motivation for a story to follow a certain path to a specific conclusion.

Put simply, the premise is the ‘moral‘ of the story. This is why the concept can be summed up with the question, “What do you want to tell?”. As an author, what do you really want to write about?

Over the centuries, various authors have tried to give their own 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.

What is the Purpose of the Premise of a Novel?

Why should an author think about the premise when starting to write a narrative? Because the premise makes it possible not to get lost in the maze of events, it gives unity and organicity to the story and gives it a direction.

Consider, for example, the Harry Potter saga, a series of beautiful novels by J.K. Rowling. The premise of the stories is to remind the reader that magic exists within each person. In the first book, Harry responds to the first approach to magic by saying, “I can’t be a wizard. I mean, I am Harry. Just Harry.”

To realize a good promise, the author must think carefully, even going outside the classical canons imposed by society. In general, when we think of the moral of a story, we automatically think that justice beats injustice, that goodness beats badness. However, authors do not necessarily have to adapt to these canons. If they feel that avarice, for example, leads to success, it is right that they reason on this kind of premise and create a narrative that leads to this conclusion.

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

Define the Premise of Your Story with bibisco

bibisco, thanks to its novel planning software, can help you build and complete the premise of your novel.

The author has the opportunity to take inspiration, make notes and calmly reason out the real meaning of the narrative. It will thus be easier to start writing a story, keeping in mind this fundamental element that, as we have explained, moves the whole narrative in the background.

bibisco's architecture section - What is the Premise of a Novel?
bibisco’s architecture section


What is the premise of a novel? In storytelling, plot, and premise are two fundamental elements, similar but simultaneously different.
The premise is the closure of the story. It explains why certain events happened and, therefore, is linked to the plot. The premise coincides, thus, with the why of the narrative.

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