The concept of a “premise” is central to the art of storytelling. It refers to the fundamental idea or underlying concept that drives the plot of a story, novel, play, or any other narrative form. A premise sets the stage for the story’s conflict and serves as the foundation for all that unfolds in the narrative.

A premise should be clear, concise, and powerful, often encapsulated in a single sentence that summarizes the central conflict or main idea of the story. For example, the premise of George Orwell’s 1984 might be stated as, “In a future totalitarian society, a man struggles against the oppressive surveillance and control of a tyrannical government.” This simple sentence conveys the essence of the plot, setting the tone for the complex dynamics and themes explored throughout the novel.

A well-crafted premise not only offers a snapshot of the story’s focus but also hooks the reader’s interest by promising an exploration of themes and conflicts that are universally compelling.


When do writers use Premise literary device?

Writers use the premise literary device at the very outset of their creative process. The premise serves as a seed from which the entire narrative grows and evolves. It is used to:

  1. Set the Direction: A strong premise provides a clear direction for the story, helping writers maintain focus on the main plot and character motivations.
  2. Engage the Audience: By introducing a compelling premise, writers hook the audience’s interest right from the beginning, promising them a thought-provoking journey through the narrative.
  3. Guide Character Development: The premise often implies the kind of characters that will populate the story, as their development is crucial in addressing the central conflict introduced by the premise.
  4. Theme Exploration: It sets the stage for exploring various themes and issues within the story, aligning the narrative elements to resonate around the central idea.

By establishing a premise, writers ensure that the narrative remains cohesive and impactful, addressing the core themes and conflicts they wish to explore.

How should I use Premise literary device?

Using the premise literary device effectively involves a few key considerations:

  1. Be Specific and Concise: Your premise should be specific enough to give a clear direction to the story but concise enough that it can be easily understood and remembered. It should encapsulate the essence of your narrative in one or two sentences.
  2. Ensure Originality: While many themes in literature are universal, your take on these themes should be unique. An original premise helps your story stand out and captivates the audience’s interest.
  3. Align Elements Around the Premise: Everything in your story, from character arcs to plot developments, should reflect and support your premise. This alignment ensures that your narrative remains consistent and cohesive.
  4. Test Its Strength: Before fully developing your story, test the premise to see if it holds up to scrutiny and has the potential to develop into a full narrative. A strong premise will naturally suggest further complications and developments.

By carefully crafting and adhering to a well-thought-out premise, you set a solid foundation for your narrative, ensuring that every element contributes towards a unified and compelling story.

Types of Premise

There are several types of premises in literature, each serving a different purpose and appealing to various narrative needs. Here are the most common types:

  1. Character-driven Premise: This type revolves around the transformation or development of a character. The story is propelled by the internal conflicts and growth of the protagonist or other significant characters.
  2. Plot-driven Premise: In contrast to the character-driven type, a plot-driven premise focuses on the events and actions that drive the story forward. The focus is on what happens rather than who it happens to.
  3. Thematic Premise: This type emphasizes a universal theme or message, with the narrative designed to explore and illustrate this theme deeply.
  4. Conceptual Premise: Here, the focus is on a unique concept or idea that challenges the norm. These stories often explore ‘what if’ scenarios that push the boundaries of conventional thinking.
  5. Setting-driven Premise: The premise is built around a unique or vivid setting which influences the story’s direction and mood. This type of premise is often used in genres like science fiction and fantasy.

Each type of premise has its unique appeal and challenges, and writers might combine elements from different types to enrich their narratives.

Premise in Literature

Here are some famous examples of premises in literature:

  1. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee: A young girl’s father, a lawyer, defends a black man accused of raping a white woman in the racially charged environment of 1930s Alabama.
  2. “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger: A teenage boy wanders New York City after being expelled from prep school, struggling with his identity and the phoniness of the adult world.
  3. “1984” by George Orwell: In a dystopian future where the government controls every aspect of human life, a man begins to rebel against the system of surveillance and propaganda.
  4. “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen: In 19th century England, a young woman navigates issues of manners, upbringing, morality, education, and marriage in a society where both personality and social status determine one’s prospects.

These premises set the stage for exploring deep and varied themes, drawing readers into complex worlds shaped by equally complex characters.

Premise in Children’s Books

Children’s books often use clear and engaging premises that are easy for young readers to grasp. Here are some famous examples:

  1. “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White: A young pig’s life is saved by a quick-witted spider who writes words in her web to convince the farmer of the pig’s worth.
  2. “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak: A mischievous boy, sent to bed without his supper, embarks on a fantastical journey to an island inhabited by wild creatures that crown him as their king.
  3. “Matilda” by Roald Dahl: A brilliant and sensitive girl with terrible parents discovers she has magical powers and uses them to protect her friends and punish her foes.
  4. “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss: Two siblings, home alone on a rainy day, are visited by a mischievous cat who turns their house into a chaotic playground.

These premises encapsulate the imaginative and moral dimensions of children’s literature, offering both entertainment and life lessons.

Premise in Poetry

The premise in poetry often revolves around a central theme or emotion, explored through vivid imagery and linguistic innovation. Here are some famous examples:

  1. “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost: The poem delves into the premise of making choices and the repercussions of those choices, symbolized by a traveler deciding between two paths in a wood.
  2. “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas: This poem explores the premise of fighting against death, urging the dying to resist the end with fierceness and passion.
  3. “Hope is the thing with feathers” by Emily Dickinson: Here, the premise is the idea of hope being a sustaining and ever-present force, likened to a bird that continues to sing, even in hardship.
  4. “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley: The poem’s premise revolves around the inevitable decline of all leaders and empires, symbolized by the ruins of a once-great statue in a desert.

These poems use their premises to provide profound insights into human experience, employing concise and powerful language to evoke deep emotional responses.

Premise in Songs

Songs often convey powerful premises through their lyrics, encapsulating complex stories or emotions in a few stanzas. Here are ten famous examples:

  1. “Imagine” by John Lennon – Premise: Envisioning a world without borders, religions, or material possessions to achieve peace.
  2. “Hotel California” by The Eagles – Premise: A traveler encounters a mysterious hotel that he can never leave, symbolizing the trap of the Californian lifestyle.
  3. “Firework” by Katy Perry – Premise: Encouraging listeners to embrace their uniqueness and shine brightly despite adversity.
  4. “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen – Premise: A young man confesses to a crime, reflecting on his life and facing consequences in a quasi-operatic format.
  5. “The Times They Are A-Changin’” by Bob Dylan – Premise: A call for social change and a warning to those who obstruct progress.
  6. “Born in the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen – Premise: A critique of the American government’s treatment of veterans returning from the Vietnam War.
  7. “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele – Premise: Expressing betrayal and heartbreak, but also the strength found in the aftermath of a broken relationship.
  8. “Thriller” by Michael Jackson – Premise: A playful yet eerie story of a night filled with dancing zombies and horror-filled romance.
  9. “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin – Premise: A spiritual journey toward personal enlightenment and the consequences of materialism.
  10. “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen – Premise: Exploring different forms of hallelujah, both broken and whole, reflecting personal struggles and spiritual searches.

Premise in Movies

Movies often start with a compelling premise that hooks the audience and sets the tone for the entire narrative. Here are some famous examples:

  1. “Inception” (2010) – Premise: A thief who enters the dreams of others to steal secrets is given the task to plant an idea into someone’s mind.
  2. “Jurassic Park” (1993) – Premise: A billionaire philanthropist and a team of genetic scientists create a wildlife park of cloned dinosaurs.
  3. “The Matrix” (1999) – Premise: A computer hacker learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality and his role in the war against its controllers.
  4. “Titanic” (1997) – Premise: A young man and woman from different social backgrounds meet during the ill-fated maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic.
  5. “The Truman Show” (1998) – Premise: A man discovers that his entire life is a TV show and begins to question reality.
  6. “Groundhog Day” (1993) – Premise: A weatherman finds himself living the same day over and over again.
  7. “Back to the Future” (1985) – Premise: A teenager travels back in time to his parents’ teenage years and must ensure they fall in love or he will cease to exist.
  8. “Alien” (1979) – Premise: The crew of a spacecraft is hunted by a highly aggressive extraterrestrial creature after investigating a distress call.
  9. “Get Out” (2017) – Premise: A young African-American visits his white girlfriend’s mysterious family estate.
  10. “The Godfather” (1972) – Premise: The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his empire to his reluctant son.

Famous Movie Line Highlighting Premise

“In space, no one can hear you scream.” – “Alien” (1979)

This line perfectly encapsulates the premise of isolation and danger in the unknown void of space, setting up the horror and survival elements of the film.

YouTube Link of a Relevant Movie Clip Demonstrating Premise

Inception – Official Trailer

This trailer gives a clear insight into the complex and intriguing premise of dream exploration and manipulation.

Premise in Advertising

In advertising, a strong premise can be the key to connecting with audiences. Here are some famous examples:

  1. Nike: “Just Do It” – Premise: Empowering people to push beyond their limits in sports and in life.
  2. Apple: “Think Different” – Premise: Celebrating the rebellious spirit and creativity of people who change the world.
  3. De Beers: “A Diamond is Forever” – Premise: Positioning diamonds as the ultimate symbol of eternal love and commitment.
  4. Coca-Cola: “Open Happiness” – Premise: Associating the brand with moments of happiness and enjoyment.
  5. Volkswagen: “Think Small” – Premise: Embracing the compact size of the Beetle as a form of counter-culture during the rise of consumerism in America.

Premise-Related Literary Devices

High Concept

High concept is a type of premise that can be succinctly stated and instantly intrigues. It often involves a novel idea or a unique twist on a familiar story that makes it stand out.


A logline is a one or two sentence summary of a story that states the central conflict of the plot, often providing both the premise and a hook to capture the audience’s interest.

Thesis Statement

In non-fiction, the thesis statement serves a similar role to a premise in fiction. It presents the main argument or point of the piece, around which all evidence and analysis revolve.

These devices are crucial for writers and marketers alike, as they help clarify the fundamental idea behind a story or campaign and ensure that all elements are aligned to reinforce the central theme.