A Premising Idea

The Future
It’s come down to it. You’re written your book, gone through countless stages of revision and critique and you are ready to send your book out to agents. It’s time to write up that query, snag an awesome agent and get a book deal! You’re ready to join the big kids!!

The Present
That’s the dream anyway. Everyone wants that moment of glory when they get the phone call and their world turns upside down with a new book deal. But every author also has to stand in the place where you are right now; the beginning. Right now your future bestseller is no more than an embryo of a book. Your ticket to fame is only an inkling of an idea in your brain ready to be planned, plotted and written like heck.

Where to start you ask? Here’s an idea: with a premise.

“My first goal is to hammer all this (the ideas) down in to premise: a single sentence that conveys the plot and the theme. Do you know what kind of story you’re writing? The premise is where you discover and solidify these decisions.”
--Author K.M. Weiland (Outlining Your Novel

Being able to put your entire story will set a direction and a purpose for your story. Weiland also suggests it will prepare you for future pitching to agents (the future goal) as you want to sell your book. Your premise may change as your story does, but you'll have that basic sentence foundation to hold it together.

The Premise
A premise is only a sentence but it needs to be a powerful one.  It needs to be the synopsis too short to be the jacket flap, but long enough to tell everything on the flap. Your premise is literally your novel in one sentence, so you need to think about all the elements of your story as you craft it.

So start with the What If question that gave birth to your novel idea! Maybe you said, “Hey! What if Aliens were the good guys, and the humans were the ones who needed to be destroyed?” There’s your What-If and the base for premise right there.

However knowing that the aliens are good, maybe a start, but it’s not enough. Your premise should solidify the What-If idea in a plausible working way, while being able to identify characters, conflict and plot; the themes and points that drive the story itself.

“A premise sentence forces you to identify a main character, a central conlflict, and as a result, a general plot. Your What-If gives you an idea; your premise sentence gives you a story.”


Take our alien idea. We’ve got the idea, now we need a character, conflict and plot to be addressed. So take some time to brainstorm and list ideas that come to mind (so many ways to do this), then take the ones that actually fit with your story and smash them together. You want the end result to be a premise that sets the stage for your book and can lead to even more questions.

So with our Alien book idea we might end up with a premise like these:

“I’m writing a science-fiction novel where the aliens are the good guys and one boy finds himself caught up battle where only one race can come out.”

“Alien follows a psychic creature from another planet, who is drafted into the fight for freedom against unruly humans  who seek the ultimate domination of his people.”

“In a world where aliens are the good guys seeking to obliterate the human race, one human girl holds a secret that could be the key to end of it all, if she wasn’t stuck in a prison aboard an alien spacecraft.”

Now those are a little bit ridiculous I might add, but you get the idea. Your premise should be something that describes how you see your story and then sets up a chain of questions to set your story in motion. For example,

“What makes the humans the bad guys?”
”Where are these phychics from?”
“How did the girl get on the alien spaceship in the first place?”

Your premise doesn’t have to be written at the beginning of your novel. You may have all the ideas you need to get your book on track to querying.  But if you’re looking to kick-start an idea into action, you might consider writing one. Who knows where it all will take you.


Later Days, 
Hawkeye

1 comment:

  1. Great post. (I know I'm reading through really old stuff here, but please forgive me for that.) Frankly, it can be hard to come up with a premise sentence, but from now on, I'll have to try. It may help me stay on track with writing the actual novel, paradoxically.

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