Formulating a Premise
A premise is the basic proposition behind a book. Transforming an idea into a well-articulated premise can be the first step you take in writing your novel.
Here are three premises that most readers can easily recognize:
Suppose a miserly, greedy, petty tyrant is murdered, and what if each of his four sons has good reasons for wanting him dead. (The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky)
Suppose a girl who wants to run away from home is whisked away in a tornado, and what if she lands in a magic land and must find her way home. (The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum)
Suppose an incurable epidemic of blindness strikes a city without warning, and what if all but one of the city's residents goes blind. (Blindness by Jose Saramago)
Once a premise has been articulated, it suggests all kinds of plot possibilities. You can tack on additional ideas for how a story might unfold with the words “and what if … and what if … and what if.” By transforming an idea into a premise and putting it into this format, you can start to see where you're going with your novel.