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03.07.2011 05:57    Comments: 0    Categories: Fiction Writing  Writing Craft  Writing Romance  Writing Handout      Tags: denise domning  premise  theme  write  romance  write a romance  

A premise is a short statement that makes an immediate value judgement on your characters. This judgement may not be true, in fact your story may even prove the premise to be false. The purpose of the premise is to clearly state that one of your characters has taken an emotional stand which he/she will fight to protect.

The premise can be dissected into three parts, character, action and outcome. Here are some samples:



Bitterness leads to false gaiety
Foolish generosity leads to poverty
Honesty defeats duplicity
Heedlessness destroys friendship
Ill-temper leads to isolation
Materialism conquers mysticism
Prudishness leads to frustration

For those of you familiar with my medieval quintet, here are the premises I used for those books. You'll see that these very basic idea/statements were reflected in every aspect of each story through both main and secondary characters and even physically played out within the confines of the setting.

Winter's Heat-Intimacy destroys emotional barriers
Summer's Storm-Deception leads to exposure
Spring's Fury-Acceptance brings happiness
Autumn's Flame-Need destroys false self-sufficiency
A Love for All Seasons-Hunger exposes deception


Only one main character in your story must be changed through the action of a premise; both can be but one must be. However, the second main character will reflect the emotional value of the premise and be lead to the same outcome in a less dramatic way.

Example: Gone with the Wind
Premise: Frustrated love destroys selfishness

Selfish Scarlett loves Ashly although she knows he is devoted to Melanie. No matter what Scarlett does, she cannot convince Ashly that she is the better woman. Upon Melanie's death Scarlett runs to Ashly fully expecting him to fall into her arms at long last, only to be rebuffed. Her selfishness prevents her from seeing that Ashly cannot love her.

Equally selfish Rhett is hopelessly in love with Scarlett. No matter what he does, he cannot break through her obsession with Ashly. Not even marriage brings the love he so desires. Only after their daughter dies does he finally understand Scarlett isn't capable of returning his love. As he recognizes this, he's changed; his selfishness is destroyed, along with his obsession with Scarlett.


Romeo and Juliet: The tale of a love so great, it caused both characters to defy their families' tradition of hate and throw away life to unite in death.

Premise: Great love defies even death

King Lear: He is a vain man whose oldest daughters' flattery causes him to blindly trust them. But, flattery cannot be trusted. Those who do so are often led to destruction and ruin.

Premise: Blind trust leads to destruction


Copyright ©  Denise Domning.
All rights reserved.


About the Author


Hailed by critics as a "first class writer on her way to the top", Denise Domning's is a Cinderella story. Her first book, a medieval romance, sold to the second publisher who read it, then went on to win the Romantic Times' coveted award for Best First Historical Romance of 1994. Since then, she's written two novellas and four more medieval novels and has recently started a new series of books set in the time of Queen Elizabeth I. The first, Lady in Waiting, was recommended by Publisher's Weekly as "well-written, well-researched, with an accurate portrayal of [Queen] Elizabeth". You can e-mail Denise, or visit her website.

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