Do you write high-concept? Or not?

H is for high-concept

It took me a while to figure out what exactly this meant. And for a while I didn’t even care. I just wanted to write the stories I wanted to write. That’s what a lot of the advice says to do. Follow your heart.

But is your heart always right? It might be. It might be that your writing isn’t up to par yet. Or it could be the story premise.

Check out Roni Loren’s post on the subject of high-concept stories.

So why should I, or you, as writers try for high-concept?

Well, it depends on your goals and what you want to accomplish with your writing. There is definitely a market for quieter books that appeal to the library and school market. But my impression is that it’s harder to find an agent with a quiet book. Am I wrong on this?

You tell me – do you try for high concept? Do you even care?


35 Responses to Do you write high-concept? Or not?

  1. Jessica Bell April 9, 2011 at 10:12 am #

    Nope Don’t care :o) I write what I love to write. Not in it for the money, or the agent, but if one wants to pick me up for what I love to write, I’m in! ;o)

  2. Carole Anne Carr April 9, 2011 at 11:03 am #

    Always fancied doing this. They sell well on our side of the pond.

  3. Kris April 9, 2011 at 11:24 am #

    I’m still not sure how to define this. It seems like such an intangible–you just know it, if it’s high concept, right?

    I didn’t try to do anything with my first book. I just wrote the story that was in me. But I’m really thinking hard about what comes next. It might be more high concept. Whatever it means. 🙂

    • Laura April 9, 2011 at 11:36 am #

      I think it’s such a fine line. Some ideas are not high concept but have such strengths in the character and the writing that it doesn’t matter. Other times, a story premise feels kind of blah without upgrading it a bit. It seems to be a personal decision. And I’d love to be able to say I’m not in it for the money at all, but yes, I would love to provide income for my family and justify the amount of time I spend writing.

  4. mooderino April 9, 2011 at 11:56 am #

    I think high concept makes people think of hollywood “danny devito and arnold schwarzanegger are twins!” type of stuff, but any story should have a good idea at it’s core. Otherwise you’re just appealing to people who just like the same old thing over and over (which admittedly is a huge market).

    Moody Writing

  5. Amie Kaufman April 9, 2011 at 11:59 am #

    I write what I love, but the WIP I’m on right now is more high concept than anything I’ve written so far. For the most part, I focus on having fun with what I write, but I know a high concept hook can definitely drag me in.

  6. Heather Sunseri April 9, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

    I’m always brainstorming “high-concept.” I like to keep a list of high-concept ideas churning in my head. When one sticks, I write it down.

    The story I’m working on right now is fairly high-concept. But I also enjoy reading high-concept. I enjoy reading an idea that sounds far out there just to see if the writer pulls it off. It’s so exciting when he/she does.

  7. Karen Walker April 9, 2011 at 1:40 pm #

    Not sure of the definition, but I’m with Jessica on this one. I write what I want and need to write and don’t worry about the rest.
    Nice to “meet” you on this a-z challenge journey.

  8. Monica April 9, 2011 at 2:39 pm #

    I think you should follow your heart and write what you love. Found you from the A-Z Challenge, so far it’s been a lot of fun, with maybe with a little bit of stress thrown in!! I’m now following you on GFC and I hope you have a chance to check out my blog!

  9. Lisa Green April 9, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    I do write high concept, but it’s not because it’s what sells or any such thing. It’s because it’s what gets me going; it’s what I love. I admire those that are more literary in nature, and when the two can be combined? AWESOME. I didn’t even realize I was writing High concept at first to be honest. I found out later. 😀

    • Laura April 9, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

      I love reading high concept but taking it one step farther – I love reading a story that’s a mix of literary and commercial!

  10. Shelli April 9, 2011 at 4:58 pm #

    I follow the muse. Maybe I can gussy some of it up and make it high-concept, but I don’t start out looking for high-concept ideas. Like you, I love reading a story that is a mix of literary and commercial, and that’s the kind of book I’d like to write.

  11. Alex J Cavanaugh April 9, 2011 at 6:15 pm #

    I don’t know if I aimed for high-concept as much as universal.

  12. Jenny Lundquist April 9, 2011 at 7:50 pm #

    Confession: I had to read Roni Loren’s post because I always forget what high-concept means. I guess I wouldn’t say my books are terribly high concept. For me, especially in the middle grade market, I want characters I really connect with. Although, when I think about the YA novels I like, I think I go for high concept more often. The best books, I think, are the ones that combine high concept with a great mc. HUNGER GAMES comes to mind.

  13. Kris Yankee April 9, 2011 at 9:27 pm #

    I try for high concept, but not sure that I ever achieve it. My agent has told me in the past that editors are looking for high concept ideas. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by it all, but I try writing that way as best as I can.

  14. Ansha Kotyk April 9, 2011 at 9:49 pm #

    I’ve always been enamored by the idea of high concept. I love reading it, and I strive to write it. It’s one of those elusive things where you’re either right on the money or out in left field (Cowboys vs. Aliens with Harrison Ford???)

  15. Patti Mallett April 9, 2011 at 10:30 pm #

    Loved the subject matter and the website you linked us to. The idea of high concept hasn’t been on my mind but I see now that it should be, if only as a guideline. Thanks, Laura!

  16. Marcia April 9, 2011 at 10:48 pm #

    I’d like to get higher-concept than I’ve been in the past. I’m now writing the highest-concept story I’ve ever attempted, because one day the idea just kind of hit me upside the head. I wouldn’t go chasing HC just to be commercial, but I’d like to explore my capacity to move into it more, if that makes sense.

  17. Carolina Valdez Miller April 9, 2011 at 11:31 pm #

    I think some of my stories are more high concept than others I’ve written. I guess it depends. Can’t always control the stories that pop into your head. I definitely wouldn’t force it, trying to come up with high concept stories for the sake of trying to write a blockbuster. Passion makes for much stronger stories, and usually passion is born, not created.

  18. Carolina Valdez Miller April 9, 2011 at 11:32 pm #

    Dang it, hit send by accident.

    I was also going to say, great questions, Laura. Definitely worth considering.

    Also, you won my giveaway! 🙂

    • Laura April 10, 2011 at 12:33 am #

      Thanks everyone! Sometimes I think it’s easy to get a little confused by the whole high concept concept. I’ve loved both high concept and lower concept – so there is definitely room for both. Like Carol said, I don’t think it’s something we can force because then it sounds, well, forced!

  19. Laura Marcella April 10, 2011 at 3:54 am #

    Hmm, well, I don’t think about it that way. I just try to write the best story possible. Let the critics argue about whether it’s high-concept or quiet or whatever, hahaha.

  20. Shannon Lawrence April 10, 2011 at 5:10 am #

    I just write what it is in my head, but maybe when I’m further along on my journey I’ll have to look at working toward a specific type/goal.

    Good luck on the A to Z Challenge!

  21. Susan Kaye Quinn April 10, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

    I was surprised when an editor called my MG MS “high concept” – and then I had to go figure out what it was! Once I did, I realized that was (part of) what I liked about the books that I loved. Learning how to write high-concept (well) is another challenge. I think I’m getting better with each book, but then that’s part of my objective! I’ll have to check out Roni’s blog…

  22. Shelley Batt April 10, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    No I don’t care about high concept. I care about the story I want to tell and where ever that leads, it leads:)

  23. Dawn Simon April 10, 2011 at 6:12 pm #

    It took me a while to wrap my brain around high concept, too. My current WIP is high concept. I’m having a blast with it!

  24. Julie Musil April 10, 2011 at 8:53 pm #

    I’m a big fuzzy on whether or not mine is high concept or not. If I’m not positive, then maybe it’s not!

  25. Leigh Moore April 11, 2011 at 1:30 am #

    I think I do… but that’s just how my juvenile brain works. Needs lots of action, twists and turns. 😀 xoxo

  26. Pam Torres April 11, 2011 at 3:47 am #

    I think that “high concept” is one of those fuzzy things like voice. You know it when you see it.

  27. Samantha Vérant April 11, 2011 at 7:51 am #

    I don’t set off to write a high concept story, but my stories (with the exception of my memoir) end up being high-concept.

  28. Anna Staniszewski April 11, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

    Interesting question. I think the more I understand story structure, the more high-concept my writing becomes. That’s not to say it IS high-concept, but it’s getting closer! 🙂

    • Laura April 11, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

      Susan – Anna – Sometimes it takes so long for craft to sink in but once it does….

  29. Margo April 11, 2011 at 6:34 pm #

    I had an amazing A HA moment after I mulled over the advice that comes from a lot of agents/editors – they are looking for something fresh and unique, or a “twist”. So I looked at the story that I loved and wanted to write, and played with a few different twists to it. And then I still had my original beloved story idea, but I had suddenly made it so much better (well, better of course is subjective) by putting a twist on it!

    So yes I am all for High Concept! I can see why publishers want more of it.

  30. Elle Strauss April 11, 2011 at 11:04 pm #

    I understand when someone gives me an example of high concept, yet I find it difficult to come up with examples myself. I have no idea if my books are high concept, and if they are, then why.

  31. Karen Strong April 12, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

    Thanks for that link, Laura. That is probably the best explanation I’ve seen of “high concept.”

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