aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

High concept? Or high crap?

A friend of mine has been working on a book that her editor wants to be more "high concept." The idea seems to be that high concept = BEST-SELLING BOOK. So a group of us have been talking about high concept and what it means. It's a term that is usually applied to movies.

Here's what one website has to say about it: "A high concept is an intriguing idea that can be stated in a few words and is easily understood by all. An asteroid the size of Texas is hurtling toward the earth. That's a high concept. Everyone knows exactly what that means. It arouses an emotional response and in just eleven words, everyone knows what the movie is about. Doomsday."

He says there are four elements to high concept:
- A fascinating subject
- A great title
- Inciting action (the problem)
- The hook (what's unique about your story).

Supposedly, high concept is easiest to sell for action-adventure or comedies.

But a lot of high-concept movies are just crap. Remember seeing trailers for Keenen Ivory Wayans' "Little Man"? The high concept there was "Little person poses as baby to retrieve stolen diamond. Wacky chaos ensues! " You can see how successful that high concept was.

High concept is all about plot. Flash Gordon meets cowboy movie = Star Wars. 'Jaws' in a haunted house in space = Alien. Cop and bad guy switch faces. = Face Off. Serial killer bases murders on the seven deadly sins = Se7en. Human adopted by elves seeks his roots = Elf.

There's something in me that rebels against the idea of sitting down with the idea of writing a high-concept novel. Writing a novel should be more than "it's like Speed, only on a boat!"

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