How to Create a Story Premise

Create astory premise  

Happy Wednesday, friends! I'm SO excited to launch a new blog segment named Writerly Wednesday. Each Wednesday I, or a fabulous guest, will share answers to your writing questions (you can ask in the comments section below or email them to me at, along with writing lessons, writing quotes, and all things writerly. I hope you'll enjoy this new segment. It was born out of my readers' questions. I enjoy sharing my love of writing with you, but I know there are so many different ways to write and so many different approaches that I've also invited a number of dear writer friends to share their wisdom here with you. Next week's guest is the fabulous Lisa Wingate. Lisa will be sharing What I Wish I’d Known When My First Novel Was Published and will be giving away a copy of her fantastic novel The Story Keeper so be sure to come back next week.

Now on to today's topic--How to Create a Story Premise.

First, let's start with what a premise is. Writer's Magazine defines a story premise as:

A story's premise is more than a quick synopsis, or a simple thesis statement defining the theme or argument of a story. It is your canary in the storytelling coal mine and your lifeline as a writer."

While Writer's Digest says:

This premise is the underlying idea of your story-the foundation that supports your entire plot. If you can establish what your premise is at the beginning of your project, you will have an easier time writing your story."

I love the first quote.  LOVE. However, the second is true as well. To me, the story premise is simply an idea. The spark that gets your creative juices flowing, that makes you say 'what if?' That's how I start my stories. Each begins with prayer and two simple words. What. If. 

From there I follow the imagination God has created in me, and my brain tracks through a myriad of ideas. These ideas can come from anywhere--a newspaper article, a quote, even a picture. Something sparks and I've got my what if.

In an attempt to not to ruin the ending of my novels or any other novels for those who may not have read them, I'll give examples of what if story premises from films.

  • Groundhog Day: What if you lived the same day over and over again?
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark: What if an archaeologist is hired by the U.S. government to find the lost Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis?
  • Die Hard: What if terrorists take an entire office hostage during their Christmas party?

Now these are very basic nuggets of their full story ideas, but it's a start. And, it's where I start--with a nugget, with a spark of an idea that I can play with. It's how I create my story premise and how I start all of my novels. I take an idea, play with it, pray over it, and then sit down and start writing.

How about you? How do you come up with your story premise? For readers and writers alike: share your favorite story premises from novels or movies that just captivate you in the comments below.

Thanks so much for joining me on this week's edition of Writerly Wednesday. Be sure to stop back by next week for the fabulous Lisa Wingate.