The Difference Between An Idea, A Concept, And A Premise

An idea is to travel to Florida.
A concept is to travel by car and stop at all the national parks along the way.
A premise is to take your estranged father with you and mend fences while on the road.


This is taken directly from the pages of Larry Brooks’, Story Engineering. I love the simplicity of this. It’s easy to remember and so useful.

I often come up with concepts or ideas, and think I’ve got a story, but I don’t without a premise!

The secret sauce to a Premise, is Character.

The inclusion of an estranged father is intriguing, posing questions which need answers. Mending fences is a just detail which could be anything to spice up the journey and cause further conflicts.



    This is why I think others get confused…

    Here it seems as though what she describes as concept is the idea and plot is the premise — or am I still getting it wrong.

    On another note…I am having trouble attempting to write a manuscript. I have always worked in the storytelling business, but doing screenwriting (film & graphic novels) and writing a novel is a different ball game. Do you have any advice for someone attempting to make the change?

  2. I’m with Larry on this one: Concept exists in the absence of character. Character creates Premise.

    Regarding switching from screen to novels: that must feel so daunting! I’ve never written for the screen, but can only imagine how intimidating it feels as it involves so much description and non-spoken narration.

    Here’s two approaches you could consider:

    write the entire novel dialogue only, then go back and write in the location and action descriptions using sparse and specific details. Even if the novel comes out short: that’s fine. Better to have a short, good novel, than a long dull one.

    The second approach is: write the story with a first person POV. That way you’re in the head of the character all the time and can probably transition from screen to page much easier.

    or… combine both methods?

    Hope this helps.

    All the best – Mark


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