H is for… High Concept
April 9, 2012
Well yes, it’s also for “Huh?”
I confess that when I first encountered the term I had entirely the wrong concept. I now know that the term originates in the world of film, and is most simply defined as a story idea that can be encapsulated pithily in a way that instantly indicates the idea’s marketability. In a few words, the universality and the originality of the story are obvious.
Does this apply to anyone other than a marketing specialist? Yes. How?
As James Bonnet points out in this excellent article from Script for Sale.com, Conquering the High Concept, it truly makes the writer — of novel, screenplay, or even picture book — grapple with what the story is about. If the theme can’t be boiled down to a succinct, universal and appealing statement, perhaps the book or movie itself won’t have enough universal appeal, either. Perhaps there is more work to do in the revision stage.
Also, everyone these days is pressed for time — especially agents, editors, producers, the people who have a real say in whether a writer’s project ever gets to an audience. Having an “elevator pitch” is essential. A “high concept pitch” takes the elevator pitch to the nth degree of conciseness and appeal, and is more likely to hook the person one is pitching to, whether that pitch takes place in an actual elevator, in a query letter, a screenplay proposal, or some other venue. (NOT the restroom at a writers’ conference. That is the epitome of bad form, and will not earn you the flush of success.)
Is your concept ready to be pitched? Or do you need to aim Higher?