Friday, December 01, 2006

The Importance of Premise

I've been reading about the importance of a novel having a premise today. As James N. Frey puts it in How To Write A Damn Good Novel: writing a story without a premise is like rowing a boat without oars.

So what is a premise?

Well, Mr Frey thinks it's
  • the love in a marriage
  • the point you have to prove
  • the reason you are writing what you are writing
  • the raison d'être of your novel
Basically, the premise holds the author to his/her subject, contends Mr Frey.

Example premises?
  • Premarital sex leads to disaster
  • Premarital sex leads to bliss
You will see that premises are clearly not universal truths; they must be true in the novel, though.

Not everyone agrees with the need for a premise, and I am in no position to argue one way or another about it.

However, having said that, if you think of a premise as the answer to the question "what if...?" or a statement as to what happens to the characters as a result of the core conflict in the story. If you can do that, then I think you will agree that the notion of a premise has its uses. This is especially so, actually, when you consider that knowing the premise helps the writer choose what to include in a novel, as well as what to omit.

My novel shall have a premise.

1 comment:

you're the ocean i'm the sea said...

I just did a google search about writing a premise to my story and wanted to see what others had to say, anything different from Donald Maass book, Writing the breakout Novel.

interesting notes... thanks for sharing. Hopefully this will help me understand more.