High Concept Improvement

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress
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wilderness
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Re: High Concept Improvement

Post by wilderness » June 27th, 2010, 9:02 pm

I have to respectfully disagree with the article you posted, GeeGee55.

The article you pointed to implied that every story has a high-concept, that a high-concept is the same as a one-sentence pitch. If that was the case, it would be meaningless for an agent to say she or he is looking for a high-concept story.

Every story has a once sentence pitch, you just have to find the right one for your query. That does not imply that every story is high-concept; high-concept stories have a highly unique and marketable premise.

Margo
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Re: High Concept Improvement

Post by Margo » June 27th, 2010, 10:59 pm

Yeah, I have to agree that high-concept is about more than boiling any story down to one sentence. Entries on storyfix.com have covered this very well, with some nice additional links to other ways of explaining the idea.

I wasn't so much interested in what high concept is...so much as how to improve high-concept quality, how to make it higher concept, stand-out quality. I think several of the suggestions so far have provided food for thought: visceral elements, heightened contrasts, higher stakes, elements of personal passion/fear, consideration of the target audience...
Urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and hot Norse elves. http://margolerwill.blogspot.com/

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wilderness
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Re: High Concept Improvement

Post by wilderness » June 28th, 2010, 2:04 am

Right, I was trying to say that I don't feel it is natural to "add" a high-concept. For the most part, you either start with a high-concept premise or you don't. That is not a judgment on quality, but presumably you begin with your premise and go from there. You don't begin with a story and then add the premise. If you did, you would radically alter your novel.

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Re: High Concept Improvement

Post by Margo » June 28th, 2010, 11:01 am

wilderness wrote:Right, I was trying to say that I don't feel it is natural to "add" a high-concept. For the most part, you either start with a high-concept premise or you don't. That is not a judgment on quality, but presumably you begin with your premise and go from there. You don't begin with a story and then add the premise. If you did, you would radically alter your novel.

As I'm still in the planning stages, that's not a problem.
Urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and hot Norse elves. http://margolerwill.blogspot.com/

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polymath
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Re: High Concept Improvement

Post by polymath » June 28th, 2010, 11:16 am

How about a thought exercise building high-concept premises? Say, for instance, starting with the old time standbys of a stranger comes along or a native leaves home. The stranger or the native can be a force, an object, a setting situation, an idea, a character, or an event. It's worth mentioning the stranger/native situations are opposites of each other. The stranger left home at some point. The native is a stranger away from home.

Let's play.
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Edited to correct a misspelling.
Last edited by polymath on June 28th, 2010, 1:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: High Concept Improvement

Post by Margo » June 28th, 2010, 1:45 pm

polymath wrote:How about a thought exercise building high-concept premises? Say, for instance, starting with the old time standbys of a stranger comes along or a native leaves home. The stranger or the native can be a force, an object, a setting situation, an idea, a character, or an event. It's worth mentioning the stranger/native situations are opposites of each other. The stanger left home at some point. The native is a stranger away from home.

Let's play.
*deep sigh* The first step to recovery is admitting that I am powerless against my addiction. I am.

I made a template. Again.
Urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and hot Norse elves. http://margolerwill.blogspot.com/

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polymath
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Re: High Concept Improvement

Post by polymath » June 28th, 2010, 2:46 pm

Margo wrote:*deep sigh* The first step to recovery is admitting that I am powerless against my addiction. I am.

I made a template. Again.
Preparing templates, diagrams, graphic representations are good thought processes for grasping and organizing concepts and adopting them so they become second nature and useful during draft writing, rewriting, and revision. Visual, aural, tactile, and kinesthetic learning rely on eye-ear-hand-mind coordination.

Part of addiction's power comes from achieving ecstatic highs, epiphanies in the case of writing, and wanting them again and higher, more profound and sublime. Kübler-Ross' five stages of grieving repesent the stages of addiction recovery too: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.
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Re: High Concept Improvement

Post by Margo » June 28th, 2010, 3:03 pm

polymath wrote:Part of addiction's power comes from achieving ecstatic highs, epiphanies in the case of writing, and wanting them again and higher, more profound and sublime. Kübler-Ross' five stages of grieving repesent the stages of addiction recovery too: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.
Okay, now that's just weird. I just finished pasting some Kubler-Ross research into one of my (many) templates. You spend much more time in my head, I'm charging you rent. :P
Urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and hot Norse elves. http://margolerwill.blogspot.com/

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polymath
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Re: High Concept Improvement

Post by polymath » June 28th, 2010, 3:47 pm

Margo wrote:Okay, now that's just weird. I just finished pasting some Kubler-Ross research into one of my (many) templates. You spend much more time in my head, I'm charging you rent. :P
Perhaps it's a side effect from building rapport. I investigate the Kübler-Ross model for parallels with plot. Chuck in a few crises and there's a readymade plot. An inciting crisis, a junky busted for possession and distribution intent. Denial. Anger. A tragic crisis, conviction. Bargaining. Depression. A resolving crisis, purposed rehabilitation during confinement. Acceptance.
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GeeGee55
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Re: High Concept Improvement

Post by GeeGee55 » June 28th, 2010, 10:10 pm

I agree with your disagreement, Wilderness. It's beneficial to see what others think about certain articles. Personally, I tend to write low concept. I just write what I feel like writing about, and it's usually characters overcoming interior struggles. Then, I go back and revise everything, but not usually considering whether it's high concept or not. Interesting thread, and one cannot go wrong thinking about what Polymath offers in his posts.

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wilderness
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Re: High Concept Improvement

Post by wilderness » July 1st, 2010, 5:28 pm

I have a couple of ideas in exercising your high-concept muscles.

1. Posit a "What if" question. A simple "what if" scenario provides a succinct premise. If the scenario is interesting and unique, ideas on how to develop the rest of the plot will flow naturally. In fact, they will ultimately flow naturally from the end-reader too, which would make them curious to read your book and find out if the author's conclusions were similar to their own ideas.

2. Use the Rule of Twenty - Nathan recently linked to this blog post: http://upstartcrowliterary.com/blog/?p=1527. The conclusion is that the first few ideas are unlikely to be unique, but your twentieth idea (or fiftieth, or hundredth) might be getting there.

3. Bring two elements together that you wouldn't normally think of together. One way is a unique setting: set your civil rights story under the sea! Or it could be characters that you wouldn't think of having to interact: The President of the United States and a gardener. By introducing an unexpected element, you can make a story "higher" concept.

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