Monday, April 20, 2020

3T Writing Tidbit--It must be High Concept! But what does that mean...?

Everything must be High Concept!!

Okay, sounds good. But what does that mean? If you ask, you'll get answers like--
  • Life and death!!
  • Galaxies at stake!!
  • Two exclamation points!!
Given these restrictions, I can think of only three different stories to tell. Where's the place for cozy mysteries, gentle reflections, coming of age tales? If it can't sell without a death in it, where's the room for comedy and happily-ever-after endings?

Don't lose hope! I've since seen the show Lucifer and had a shocking idea.

Any concept can be high concept.

What if high concept doesn't just mean humanity teetering on the edge of destruction? What if there's a very simple way to still write those gentler genres--but still make them more?

This is my take on High Concept.

Start with your concept. It'll probably have a couple parts that are in conflict with each other. Raise one of those items (bump it up a level). Then raise the other. Check the new dramatic possibilities. Use them to bump again. Repeat until you can't wait to write it!

Let's take a simple, universal example--

Boy meets girl. They fall in love.

Now bump up the boy. He's the son of a rich Italian family. Hmm... this has possibilities.

Bump up the girl. She's a poor waif in contrast to the rich boy...or wait. Make her the daughter of another rich Italian feuding with the boy's family. This has dramatic possibilities!

Bump up the love. They can't live without each other, so they form a suicide pact. Or wait, they pretend to suicide...or do they? What if one dies and the other kills themselves in grief? What if that tragic resolution reconciles the feuding families?

Yeah. In just three bumps, you've got the archetypal high concept Romeo and Juliet.

From Lucifer: Start with a demon who wants a vacation from hell. Bump it up to Lucifer himself. Bump that up to vacationing in Los Angeles. Bump that to him meeting a detective who doesn't immediately fall in lust with him.

See how, with each bump, the possibilities expand?

Now take your concept and raise it to such dizzying heights you just have to write it!

Published since 2009, over the years I've accumulated various items of writing wisdom. The Third Tuesday Writing Tidbit showcases these items in no particular order. Click here to see all 3T Tidbits.

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