High Concept Writing

I've been asked again to give more writing advice, and you should know that it takes a lot of courage for me to write advice because I have a lot of doubts about my abilities. But when you ask, I will deliver. No matter what.

So here we go. Let's chat about writing High Concept stories.


Cuuute London parakeet!

Most of my stories are so called "High Concept" stories, and I think it’s much got to do with the fact that I’m so entangled in the commercial film business world at this point that I subconsciously discard other story ideas immediately.

But, uh, what is a High Concept even??

A High Concept story idea is one that clearly encapsulates the vision and immediately engages the person listening to your pitch in a way that they have to read your story.

High Concepts sell!

But High Concepts don’t automatically make great stories if the plot doesn’t deliver on the High Concept’s promises. So here are some things High Concept stories need to deliver on:


1. The premise needs to be unique.

 It should be different to what is already out there, and this can be done by combining different concepts, tropes or twisting a traditional story around.


2. It has to appeal to a large audience.

If it’s never been done before, people will be intrigued to see what you’ve written.


3. It's often created by asking a “what if?” question. 

For example: What if Snow White was the dwarf, protecting seven beautiful princesses? And if this what if question immediately sparks ten more questions, you’ve got something interesting on your hands.


4. The story can be pitched in one sentence. 

If you can’t explain exactly what the core of your plot is with one sentence, it’s not concise enough.


5. It’s got a strong emotional focus.

The primal emotions are fear, hate, love, joy... Use them!! If the emotional core is clear, your story is much easier to pitch.


High Concepts aren’t necessary to build a good story. There are millions of incredible books and movies out there without High Concepts that are doing really well. And having a great idea doesn't guarantee that your storytelling will be great! Ideas are, most of the time, completely useless. It's how you use that idea that actually matters! But having your book or screenplay be a High Concept story can make it a lot easier to sell or pitch to agents and publishers.

There are no 100% original stories. But a High Concept comes pretty close to being original. It’s creative. It’s fun.

I love coming up with different High Concept ideas. They’re simple, sometimes weird, and you instantly want to see them come to life because they’re so intriguing.

And if you’re intrigued by a story, you can bet that someone else will be too.


London was a blast. I really freaking love parakeets.

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