Monday, March 22, 2010
The other day, I was reading the New York Times review of Audrey Niffenegger’s “Her Fearful Symmetry.” I like the book and I haven’t finished it yet – it’s one of the several books I’m reading now – and the review is a good one.
I was quite intrigued by the reviewer describing the book as a “high-concept tour de force, with the flashiness that the term implies.”
I didn’t think of this right away, but then I asked myself what “high-concept” meant. I had no idea.
Of course, I turned to Google and immediately found plenty on the topic.
An article by James Bonnet, a long time writer for television and film, starts with the sentence “In Hollywood and New York, the concept is king.” And later, he writes: “a high concept is an intriguing idea that can be stated in a few words and is easily understood by all.”
This is how most of the articles that I’ve found define high-concept: an idea that is immediately accessible and appealing to many people, something that is relatable, familiar, and universal yet has a unique, interesting twist. In addition, a high-concept novel usually has a catchy title that tells the reader exactly what the novel is.
James Bonnet lists four elements that might help one build this high-concept story:
- the fascinating subject – a subject that is in itself intriguing;
- the great title – a title that also reveals the genre of the story thus whetting the reader’s appetite for the feelings associated with that genre;
- the inciting action – the onset or the cause of the problem;
- the hook - a unique aspect of the problem that suggests intriguing possibilities.
All this got me thinking…
How about you? Do you keep such elements in mind when writing your stories? Do you plan them accordingly? Does your novel have the characteristics of high-concept?