6.15.2006

High Concept

Dear Miss Snark,

I admit it-I'm clueless. Some of the agents' listings I've looked at recently mention that they want "high concept" fiction. What is "high concept"? I mean, I understand high (in all its many ways!) and I understand concept, but when you put them together and apply them to fiction, I haven't a clue.

Thanks for any enlightenment.

A devoted Snarkling.


High concept is a term stolen from the mooovies. Remember Robert Altman's hilarious The Player? The movie opens with a variety of people pitching movie ideas in 15 second sound bites. "Jaws in Space" = Alien. "Jaws in Heels" = Miss Snark's memoirs. "Cujo: The Early Years" = Killer Yapp Takes Manhattan

High concept means you can explain the book without actually ever talking about the content.

High concept means The Devil Wears Prada, The DaVinci Code and books by TC Boyle. It does not mean good or bad. It generally means commerical. Bill Vollman is not high concept, but Motherless Brooklyn and Silent Joe come pretty close.

The attraction of high concept is that the books can be easily explained to buyers and readers.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Miss Snark.

Your explanation helps. I didn't see the Player, haven't read Volmann or Motherless Brooklyn or Silent Joe. I am deficient in my literary and cultural heritage (and living in a remote location where a lot of this doesn't appear). Ask me to explain the recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings and I'm right on top of things. Guess I better expand my reading list.

But I get Jaws in space, Jaws on stilettos, Cujo the early years! And also the Prada and DaVinci references.

So I'm closer to understanding this nomenclature--high concept. Thanks again for the info and patience with nitwits and the clueless.

McKoala said...

I love John Cusack.

Only slightly relevant, but it needed to be said.

HawkOwl said...

Cool, my WIP is "high concept"! I call it "The Plague meets Huis-Clos sans French existentialism."

Foogle Bottom said...

McKoala: ME TOO!

Samuel L. Bronkowitz said...

From wikipedia. Most of it applies to novels.

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The plot of a high concept movie is easily understood by audiences, and can often be described in a sentence or two.

The story line is extremely efficient in that every scene and character is used to drive the plot forward. Often in high concept, characters and scenes that at first seem unnecessary are later used to reveal or explain a plot twist.

High concept movies feature relatively simple characters and a heavy reliance on conventions of cinematic genre.

Stylistically, high concept movies tend to be high-tech, crisp, and polished. Such movies also rely on pre-sold properties such as movie stars to build audience anticipation, and use heavy advertising, market research, and test screenings to ensure maximum popularity.

archer said...

I call it "The Plague meets Huis-Clos sans French existentialism."

You can't have it! Mine is A Christmas Carol meets The Hot Zone. The villain has 12 hours to learn the true spirit of Christmas or everyone in the world will get the Ebola virus and die.

Anonymous said...

Snakes on a Plane!

Couldn't resist.

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to see "Killer Yap takes Manhattan."

Georgia Girl