High Concept Improvement

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

Post by Down the well » June 26th, 2010, 9:45 am

Margo wrote:
Down the well wrote:You mean without adding in vampires, zombies, or werewolves? :P
HA! I love it. My project is urban fantasy. Maybe not having vampires, zombies, or werewolves is enough high-concept. :)
I seem to have cyberfootinmouth-itis.

Margo wrote:One of his books? I'm a Maassketeer! Got all the books and attended two of the workshops.
I went to his Fire In Fiction workshop this spring and came away with pages and pages of notes for my WIP. It was like he flipped the story on its back and pointed out all the spots on the belly I'd never noticed before.

polymath wrote:A story I've been developing and running into dead ends with just opened up again due to this discussion.
Excellent! That's why I like to take a second and third look at the Maass books - they get me thinking in new directions again.

Margo
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Re: High Concept Improvement

Post by Margo » June 26th, 2010, 5:12 pm

polymath wrote:Thanks, you-all, and Margo, for posing and discussing the high-concept question.
Nice to be able to help you for a change. :)
Urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and hot Norse elves. http://margolerwill.blogspot.com/

Margo
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Re: High Concept Improvement

Post by Margo » June 26th, 2010, 5:18 pm

Down the well wrote:I seem to have cyberfootinmouth-itis.
Nah, no worries.
Down the well wrote:I went to his Fire In Fiction workshop this spring and came away with pages and pages of notes for my WIP. It was like he flipped the story on its back and pointed out all the spots on the belly I'd never noticed before.
I'm jealous. I was registered for the FIF last November but had to back out. I attended the last High Tension workshop he did. We were all brain-fried by the afternoon of Day 3, even worse than the BONI (for me anyway). If I understand correctly, some of the High Tension stuff got rolled into the FIF Workshop.
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 27th, 2010, 4:48 pm

Margo wrote:So, does anyone have any good techniques for improving a high concept idea that may not be as high concept as you'd like?
In my opinion, it is easier to start with a high-concept; it is much harder to bring high-concept into non-high-concept material.

First, what is high-concept? A lot of people get confused. Here are a couple of good links:
http://thedarksalon.blogspot.com/2010/0 ... ncept.html
http://misssnark.blogspot.com/2006/06/high-concept.html

Basically, my understanding is that a high-concept story is one that involves a grabby (and often gimmicky) hook. The premise is unique and intriguing, and people are drawn to the idea out of curiosity. They premise can be explained succinctly.

Some examples:
The movie Click : What if you had a remote control that could fast-forward the boring parts of your life?
Cujo by Stephen King : what if a rabid dog traps you inside a stalled car

If you tried to insert a high-concept into a low-concept story, you would radically alter it. For example, I suppose a "low-concept" story would be about a teenage girl who is unpopular and wants to go to the prom. The high-concept version is that when the popular kids make fun of her, she gets supernatural powers and wreaks her vengeance, a la Carrie. (Stephen King definitely is a master of high-concept ideas).

It doesn't have to be supernatural, but supernatural content is one way to make the premise unique. For example, Miss Snark cited The Devil Wears Prada in the link above. In that case, just taking the villain to extremes helped make it high-concept (this goes with what polymath said, making the story more visceral).

GeeGee55
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Re: High Concept Improvement

Post by GeeGee55 » June 27th, 2010, 6:03 pm

http://www.fictionmatters.com/2010/01/0 ... h-concept/

This is a link to an article entitled What the Heck is High Concept? You probably will have to copy/paste it into your browsers address bar

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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.

Margo
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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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Margo
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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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Margo
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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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