I read articles on high concept. The definitions varied widely, but I was more intrigued with the elements that create what are called high concept stories. These elements can help with what I funnel into my stories—the bling. A great pitch naturally comes out.
First, what is high concept, which many publishers demand? Popular definitions mentioned:
- It’s a term used to pitch anything, but mainly movies.
- It’s the story’s premise or essence.
- It’s a device to quickly communicate an idea.
- It’s an attention-getting tagline or logline that evidences the story’s originality.
- It’s five or less sentences describing the plot in an enticing way.
The most popular pitch elements that make a high concept story:
- Entertaining. High concept stories that are:
- comedies make pitch listeners smile.
- action stories make listeners imagine action scenes.
- thrillers affect listeners like Houdini did.
- any genre make listeners curious about the fun, the tension, or romance.
In my case, I want to tantalize my readers with humor and goose-bump romance.
2. Emerge from a what-if question.
- “High-concept stories often begin with a “what if” scenario, and then the hook becomes clear. What’s the hook, you ask? That part of the concept that grabs the reader by the scruff of the collar and doesn’t let go.” (Jeff Lyons’s article, “Write Better: The 7 Qualities of High-Concept Stories”)
I want to brainstorm what-if scenarios until one truly stands out and will be fun to write.
- Originality. High concept stories offer
- one of the limited, familiar plot ideas with a compelling new twist.
- “A welcome slap in the face.” (Mark Malatesta’s article, “How to Write a Book that Sells – Understanding High-Concept”)
- something that gets this response: “’Wow! Why didn’t I think of that?’” (Steve Kaire’s article, “High Concept Defined Once and For All”)
I want to brainstorm twists in my opposites attract (or distract) idea that will be a welcome slap in an acquisition editors face.
- Incites emotions and senses.
- Listeners will react with intense emotion.
- Listeners, emotionally charged, will remember the idea.
I want to entwine details, color, and emotional events that will make my story memorable to editors.
- Garners mass audience appeal.
- “Mass appeal means that nine out of ten people who you pitch your story to would say that they’d pay ten dollars to see your movie first run based solely on your pitch.” (Steve Kaire’s article, “High Concept Defined Once and For All”)
- Mass appeal suggests the stories would appeal to readers outside the book’s genre.
I want to present acquisition editors, women, and some men with a hard-to-resist tagline that the story genuinely backs.
Use the idea of high concept to add bling to your story and your pitch. Click to tweet.
Which element could you work on to add bling to your story?
Hi Zoe, great and timely post. I heard high concept a lot at RWA National last month. Hence…a cowboy vampire someday lol.
Hi, Tanya. Ah, it is bandied about, then. Before I researched it, I’d heard the term, but that was about it. I think keeping what is expected in high concept stories in mind will help us write more interesting stories.
So, so, so much to learn here! Very helpful post as always!
I know, I know, Karla. I wish we could funnel writing ideas in and they’d automatically appear in our stories.