By: Linda S. Clare
The words “high concept” are tossed about on the Internet seas with increasing frequency, but even some seasoned writers scratch their heads. High concept sounds exciting—and really desirable—until some novel writers are asked to define it.
Writing Tip for Today: Let’s discuss exactly what High Concept means to novelists and why we should employ one for our stories:
Most writing gurus talk about story question or premise, story idea and concept interchangeably. Larry Brooks, in Story Engineering, defines concept as being different from idea, premise or theme. He gives the example of a non-story idea as a trip to Florida. To make this idea a concept, Brooks argues that you would add to travel by car and stop at all the national parks along the way.
A premise would be to take your estranged father with you and mend fences while on the road. In Brooks’ words: A concept is an idea that has been evolved to the point where a story becomes possible. A concept becomes a platform, a stage, upon which a story may unfold.”
So we can think of concept as the fancy version of our basic story idea. Robert McKee (Story) says, “A Premise is rarely a closed statement.” Usually you can state your concept as a question. What would happen if. . .? And for you “pantsters” who are organic in your writing approach, Donald Maass says, “A strong premise can emerge after many drafts.” You don’t have to know your concept at the outset—but it’s easier if you do.
WHAT’S HIGH CONCEPT?
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