What is high concept? An intriguing idea that can be stated in a few words and is easily understood by all.
Your mind is the scene of the crime. A blonde goes to Harvard Law School. He’s having the day of his life, over and over gain. Middle school survival guide—in comic form! Fight to the death on national television. Love story between two terminal teens.
A small town is in the midst of an unseen supernatural battle. 1986 #10,530 paperback #6167 Kindle ($6.83) 574 book reviews The story of those left behind after the rapture happens. 1995 #823 paperback #5092 Kindle ($8.26) 2799 book reviews God invites a man to talk with him in a shack in the woods. 2006 #722 paperback #1218 Kindle ($4.54) 7565 book reviews In 1850s gold rush, God tells a farmer to marry a prostitute. 1997 #823 paperback #2205 Kindle ($7.99) 2171 book reviews
Why try for a high concept idea? -It can open a lot of doors. -It helps you find what the story is really about. -It helps you communicate your idea. -It makes marketing easier.
A high concept… 1. is universal (It resonates with everyone). 2. is unique (Or it has a fresh twist on a familiar idea). 3. involves an empathetic hero, dealing with a BIG problem. 4. can be summed up in a few specific words that give a good picture of the entire story. 5. has a great title.
A high concept is universal Everyone understands it. Either we know what the experience feels like, or it's an experience we've all fantasized about. The weirder the idea, the more it has to be grounded in universal human emotions or behavior.
A high concept is unique Find something that hasn’t been done before. Or find a new twist on an old idea. Blend the familiar with the strange.
A good concept should be both unique and universal. If it’s unique, but no one can relate to it, it's not high concept. If it’s universal, but we've seen it a million times, it's not high concept.
A high concept has an empathetic hero, dealing with a BIG problem -an unforgettable character -an impossible situation -a relentless threat
Also consider… -the stakes -a time limit
A high concept is short Imagine that every word reduces your chance of success by 10%. Then choose those words carefully.
A high concept has a great title Legally Blonde • Star Wars • Miss Congeniality Running Lean • She’s the Man • Four Christmases Jaws • Uglies • Alien • Shakespeare in Love Assassin’s Apprentice • To Kill a Mockingbird The Sixth Sense • Titanic • Saving Private Ryan Roswell • Gladiator • The Mummy
Jaws High concept: Horror film in the ocean. Logline: A police chief, with a phobia for open water, battles a gigantic shark with an appetite for swimmers, in spite of a greedy town council who demands that the beach stay open.
The Fugitive High concept: An innocent man is convicted of killing his wife. Logline: A fugitive doctor wrongly convicted of killing his wife struggles to prove his innocence while pursued by a relentless US Marshall.
The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet High concept: Revenge through literature. Logline: An outcast teen finds therapy writing her enemies into her story, but when her novel is published, she faces the consequences of using her pen as her sword.
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Who Framed Roger Rabbit? High concept : A cop must enter cartoon land to solve a crime. Logline: A toon-hating detective is a cartoon rabbit's only hope to prove his innocence when he is accused of murder.
Jurassic Park High concept : Dinosaur theme park. Logline: A family struggles to escape a remote island park whose main attractions—genetically restored dinosaurs—have been set loose by a power failure.
Here are some more. Can you guess them? Which of those were books before they were movies?
Speed What if a boy found outhe was a demigod? The Lightning Thief Fairytale characters trappedin our world. Once Upon a Time A lawyer who cannot tell a lie. Liar Liar Die Hard on a bus. What if Peter Pan grew up? Hook A man dies and becomes hiswife’s guardian angel. Ghost What if a girl and a vampirefell in love? Twilight
Ways to find a high concept idea -Ask “what if…?” -Opposites attract -Meld the familiar with the strange -What is your fascination? -Add a ticking time clock -Look for the supernatural -Look to the zeitgeist -Play with high concept phrases
To test your idea to see if it’s high concept, ask yourself the following questions: -Is your idea universal? -Does your idea have a unique twist? -Is your protagonist likeable, or can we relate to him? -Are the stakes of the BIG problem high enough? -Can you summarize your concept in a few words? -Does your title capture the spirit of your story?
Let’s try it When the ocean swallows their homeland, the survivors of two enemy kingdoms take to the ocean to look for new land, but their common plight isn’t enough to stop the war between them. When his homeland is destroyed, a prince leads a fleet of ships in search of new land, but an enemy gives chase, bent on war. Fantasy Battlestar Galactica at sea.