I was recently at a workshop being given by the amazing, Kelley Armstrong and discussion turned to high concept vs low concept. Now this is something that I know a lot of my author pals are kind confused about. What exactly is high concept anyway? And how does one capture the elusive high concept idea?
The explanation Kelley gave made sense to me at the time, high concept is an idea that will make a lot of money...an idea that catches people's attention immediately and doesn't take a lot of explanation. It goes hand in hand with a great log line...those tremendously difficult one line summaries of our 90k blood sweat and tears.
While sitting in the workshop I started going through the ideas I've had over the years for my novels and wip. I came up with log lines that were okay...decent...maybe high concept...I think. Well, they certainly sounded good in my head at the time. But it wasn’t until I was watching the movie Limitless the other night that I truly understood what high concept meant...the log line for that movie crashed into my brain the second I turned my thoughts in that direction.
Down and out man is given a pill that allows him to tap into all of his brain power.
Whether you've seen the movie or not, whether you’re a writer or not, I'm sure you can come up with a million ways that would be a great story...and it was a great story.
How about this:
Man wakes up from coma to find the world overrun by zombies.
High concept. Exciting. (Well, at least two years ago it would be, pre-zombie saturation) Makes you want to know more right?
Sometimes the log line is amazing but the story that follows isn’t so great. Sometimes the log line stinks but the story is awesome. What I figured out about high concept is that the trick is to find that elusive idea that doesn’t already exist, in a new or emerging market, and then execute it in a non-suck kinda way.
Easy right? Lmao. Right.