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A wie armageddon. by danirolli

This is a RE-blog from From my November post on the Supernatural Underground.

High concept: it can lead to a breakout novel or film.

Given that, it’s not hard to guess why writers want a clear concept at the core of their work, but pinning down exactly what that means can be challenging.

I’ve heard a lot of mini, fractured definitions, but every writer, and reader, knows what high concept is when they see it.

It a nutshell, it makes the story sing.

Still, that’s not a Webster definition.

According to Jeff Lyons, author of Anatomy of a Premise Line, high concept has:

  • entertainment value
  • originality
  • uniqueness
  • visual appeal
  • emotional depth
  • asks “what if”
Anatomy of a Premise Line:
High
level of entertainment value
High degree of originality
High level of uniqueness (different than original)
Highly visual
Possesses a clear emotional focus (root emotion)
Targets a broad, general audience, or a large niche market
Sparks a “what if” question – See more at:
http://www.scriptmag.com/features/story-talk-high-concept-yes-it-actually-means-something#sthash.LgUbQPEg.dpuf

You don’t have to slap your reader in the face with your concept – that’s best avoided – but the writer needs to know what it is, to stay on track. My favorite support for this is with the tagline – the short-short sentence or catchphrase that resonates with the story’s core values.

Condensing a novel or film to a tagline that reflects the richness of concept can be painstakingly difficult, but incredibly rewarding. Here are a few examples, some of which I am sure you will recognize.

When Parallel Worlds Collide . . . 

Journey by Night by Kim Falconer (the third book in my QE Series)

The last man on earth is not alone . . . 

I am Legend by Richard Matheson

Fifty million people watched, but no one saw a thing . . .
  
The Quiz Show based on Richard N. Goodwin’s memoir

In space, no one can hear you scream . . .

Alien by Alan Dean Foster 

Winter is coming . . .

Game of Thrones by George R R Martin

Your Mind is the scene of the crime . . .

Inception written, produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . .

Star Wars (1977)

An adventure 65 million years in the making . . . 

Jurassic Park  by Michael Crichton

Everybody Loves Ernest… But Nobody’s Quite Sure Who He Really Is.  

The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde (2002 film)

She has the power . . .

Lucy (2014)

One last chance for peace . . .

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes  (2014)

You can see that the tagline doesn’t include the full heart, essence, premise, design or images of the story, but if it has the same vibration, it will inspire readers to pick up the book (and writers to keep writing them). Once in the pages, or theater, the concept works invisibly behind the text and images to sweep the audience away.

What are some of your favorite film or novel concepts? Do the taglines reflect them?

I’d love to know what you’re working on now. Do you start with a tagline in mind? A core concept to keep you on track?

Feel free to share in the comments.

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