The premise of a story is the basic idea for your tale, expanded to include your protagonist, setting, and primary conflict. Fiction writers are often encouraged to write a one-sentence encapsulation of their premise before doing anything else and then to use that premise to guide the entire writing process.

Incidentally, “premise” comes from the Latin praemittere, composed from prae (‘before’) and mittere (‘to send’) — so, it’s the thought that comes before the execution … the foundation.

If your foundation — your premise — is shaky, the house you build — your story — will fall flat.

Obviously, premise is of paramount importance in constructing a great story, so you need to get it right. But how do you do that?

Well, one way to get started is to think about premise in terms of the ultimate overview blurb you’ll write to help sell your book or story. What are the key points that lay out the framework for your tale without giving away all the details?

What is your elevator pitch? That is, how would you get someone excited about your story if you had just a few seconds to convey your ideas?

But you want more detailed examples and advice, right?

Well, lucky for you, we’ve compiled the best articles about premise all in one place, courtesy of the experts below.


(Return to our Ultimate Guide to Writing a Great Story)