Monday, August 25, 2008

High Concept - What is it?

Okay, I’m a fairly bright girl. I’m bright enough to admit when I’m unsure or just plain ignorant of something. I’ve heard lots of people holler about High Concept (HC)and what it is or isn’t. Originally, I think, screenwriters and producers used the term (probably thought it made them sound smarter, heheheh) All I know for certain is it’s a tool to help you sell your work. But how do we define it?

We don’t (ahem, using royal ‘we’ there, lol) We’re busy people with far too little time as it is. So we decided to see what others had to say about High Concept.

After Googling the term, the very first page it came up with was Steve Kaire

He says ‘High Concept is a term that’s been confused, misunderstood and misused by writers for decades. The common belief is that it’s any movie that can be pitched in one sentence.’

Okay, now that I’ve heard before – a one-sentence pitch. Mmm.

I don’t know about you but getting the essence of my books down to one measly sentence is hard, hard, HARD work! And I’m never really sure if I’ve captured it or not. But if we (not royal, this time :D) read Steve’s article, he’s got some pretty cool suggestions/definitions. I’ll list those for you down below.

One of the things he does say is that High Concept stories are pitch driven, where other stories are execution driven. This is kind of intriguing and, maybe, just a little disheartening if true. Does it mean that HC stories can be a little generic (though one of his requirements is originality – but then aren’t ALL our stories original???) We all know the difference between plot-driven and character-driven, right? So what is pitch driven? A pitch is a selling tool, a way to arouse interest or curiosity. A HC is a way to arouse interest/curiosity. Okay, I can buy that. What’s execution driven? A blow-by-blow retelling of the plot? Um, can’t boil that down to one sentence (unless it’s a 250 words long sentence, lol) I might have to wrok some more on understanding execution-criven pitches.

I’m willing to concede he may be on to something with the HC though. Let’s look at his rules to create it.

Requirement #1:

YOUR PREMISE SHOULD BE ORIGINAL AND UNIQUE

Yeah, okay. Nobodies gonna argue that.

Requirement #2:

YOUR STORY HAS TO HAVE MASS AUDIENCE APPEAL

Again, no arguments. Very few of us want to write for that one odd, little character sitting by his lonesome on the other side of a tall hedgerow (unless you're just being nice :D). We want to write to sell as many copies as possible, hence we want to write for – tada – the masses.

Requirement #3:

YOUR PITCH HAS TO BE STORY SPECIFIC

I guess that means it can’t be interchangeable between books.
Or that you can't do a 'fill-in-the-blank' kind of pitch. Darn.

Requirement #4:

THE POTENTIAL IS OBVIOUS

Potential? Potential for what? Making vast heaps of money? Probably not (though THAT idea is really appealing, lol) He does explain that you should see the potential for the genre in the pitch/logline. If it’s a romance, you see the potential for romance in the HC. Or if it’s action oriented, you can see the potential for action in the HC. Same with comedy or mystery.

Requirement #5:

YOUR PITCH SHOULD BE ONE TO THREE SENTENCES LONG

Which is what every site/expert on pitching tells us. Nothing new there.

I’m not sure if this really helps define a HC or not but it might be useful to help create a better pitch which is really what a High Concept is all about in my humble and ignorant opinion.

What do you think? Do you know how to define, AND CREATE, a High Concept? Tell me, tell me, please!

-- Lynda
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2 comments:

Savanna Kougar said...

Hi Lynda, not a dang clue. Unless it's the slick salesman way of doing biz in Hollywood. In which case, I would be a miserable failure.
Okay, this is a tag line I'm using for When a Good Angel Falls ~

Where angels fear to tread, 2012 Earth ~

Is that what he's talking about? Or, have I left out the part where it makes High Concept dollars?

Lynda K. Scott said...

It's intriguing, Savannah, but is it what he's talking about? Is it High Concept? Who knows? I will say I admire anyone who can condense their story down to a sentence though. Kudo's to you on your attempt!