High Concept – Write YOUR Book

The idea of high concept has been around a while. It makes us sit up and take notice.

From dictionary.com:

high concept



  1. popular appeal
  2. high-concept. (as modifier): Baz Luhrmann’s high-concept Romeo and Juliet



I have to admit this definition doesn’t do it for me. It’s much too broad. A few years ago I wrote up a post on high concept, and I actually had a hard time researching the topic. Not a lot of information was out there on what it really meant to write something “high concept”.

But lately high concept has become a buzz word and although I’ve done more research no one can come to a decision on what it really means.

I actually am writing this post to say that high concept is something much more complex than the definition “Popular Appeal”.

I truly believe that high concept idea has to be as basic a plot as there is but also be as unique as the writer who has created it.

Important Point #1: Basic plot

Basic plot does not mean boring. The idea of plot is that it be as straight forward as it can be. Grab a copy of Chris Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey,or Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat both are brilliant at demonstrating the very basics of plot construction.

Think of Star Wars.  Follow this link and scroll down to the storyline portion of the page. You’ll see how easily condensed the plot is. When creating high concept, your plot MUST be able to be condensed into a single sentence that tells it all. And don’t use shortcuts “It’s like Frozen, meets Godzilla.” That’s cheating.

A great device I use to create that single sentence synopsis is taken from Debra Dixion’s book on GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict, also an excellent resource.

This sentence needs to have Who=Character, What=goal, Why=motivation, Why not=conflict.

Here is the framework of your synopsis sentence:

A character wants a goal because he is motivated, but he faces conflict.

Use this to create your story’s simple but concise plot description. Easy. Right?
Important Point #2 (and this one is scary and challenging because it involves YOU)
In my original post on high concept I mention The List. As a creative artist you NEED this list. This list is created by you, and only could be created by you.
This list should have on it, every movie, book, activity, event that you have ever experienced that MOVED you. Not what you think would move other people, but moved you, or continues to move you.
Add hobbies that make you happy, books that make you cry, movies that make you sit on the edge of your seat, or make you twist ideas around in your head. Whatever moves you, add it to the list.
Keep The List safe, don’t share it. It’s yours. Uniquely you. And from this list you’ll be able to pull ideas that will excite you. To create something high concept using your list, simply smoosh (technical term) two or three of the items on your list together. Chew them up, play with them and see what comes out.
If these ideas excite you, they will excite your audience, because every writer has an audience unique to themseles and your audience will LOVE what you create from your list.
Read through your list from time to time, add to it, mull it over in your mind and let your unconscious play with it. Focus on the basic plot line. I can bet you’ll come up with something brilliantly high concept, guaranteed!

Want some help? Comment below!

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