The Power Of The Premise In Fiction

Why You Need A Premise In Fiction


In this post, we write about what a premise is and why you need a premise in fiction.

The Power Of The Premise In Fiction

A premise in fiction is a brief statement that has been revealed in a story. Do you need one in your story?

General Definition: An assertion or proposition which forms the basis for a work or theory.

You can write without a premise, but it is easier to write a story if you have one. The premise can be described as the reason you are writing your story. It is a point you want to prove through the power of storytelling.

The premise is a statement of what happens to characters as a result of the conflict. The premise is the conclusion of a fictive argument.

The Premise Pattern

If you accept that most good fiction has a shape, that it makes meaning out of life, you will like the idea of a premise. The premise can be explored through the structure of your story. Unlike a premise in non-fiction, you don’t have to prove it; you just have to show it.

Authors show meaning through organised, meaningful patterns. They do this by finding the characters, the incidents, and the conflict that reveal the premise. They are the building bricks. You need great characters, a suitable setting, and a plausible conflict to deliver the conclusion of your premise.

Take my premise: What does not kill you makes you stranger.

A good writer will choose an ordinary character who goes through terrible ordeals and still survives, becoming stranger and stranger and more eccentric as the story reaches its ending.

Once you’ve established a premise, you can create a plot to prove it. Your carefully crafted story is your argument for your premise.

A premise is a great idea when you get lost in a story. You can ask yourself: Is this scene necessary to show the premise? Do I need this character for the premise? If the answer is no, you may be losing the plot and overwriting.

Why not try to use one before you start writing a story? It may save you time and energy.

Premise Examples

  1. The Hunger Games: If a society demands children fight to the death for entertainment, there will be a violent rebellion and a restructuring of that society.
  2. King Lear: If you misplace your trust with flatterers and deceivers, they will  fail you and destroy you.
  3. Macbeth: There is a terrible cost to be paid for ruthless ambition.
  4. Pride and Prejudice: You have to overcome your pride and your prejudices in order to be happy.

An easy way to find the premise of a story is to ask: What’s the moral of the story? What is the author trying to say?

How to you find your premise?

You may already have a reason for writing a story, but if you don’t consider this method:

1. What abstract concept are you mostly exploring in your novel?

It could be: beauty, lust, anger, gratitude, strangeness

2. Take that abstract and turn it into a premise.

Strangeness: If you put people through a series of gruelling life events, they will become strange.

TOP TIP: If you want to learn how to write a book, sign up for our online course or join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg.

 by Amanda Patterson

If you enjoyed this post, read:

  1. 7 Ways To Create Suspense In Your Memoir
  2. 5 Reasons Why Writing A Memoir Is Like Writing A Short Film
  3. How To Define Your Character’s Narrative
  4. Dear Writer: Advice For Beginner Authors