High Concept

I keep hearing about the “high concept” idea and I want one. There are lists to follow and statements out there that are supposed to make this all clear to us as writers. I’ll share what I’ve learned, but does it really explain what everyone is talking about?

Catchy Title

I kinda hope if I pick a title that it is catchy. Think of some of the titles that stick in your minds: Legally Blonde, Jurassic Park, Santa Clause. I admit they are pretty good and they do give you a clear understanding on what the story is about.

Tagline

“Believing In Yourself NEVER Goes Out Of Style!”

“Life finds a way.”

“This Christmas, the snow hits the fan.”

The loglines above are linked back to the page I quoted them from. Check it out if you’d like to read more about the movies.

It turns out they are more vague and to the point than my previous post suggested. Here I get the catchy logline, and I still remember “Life finds a way.” That one I believed. The other two I smile when I read them, but do they summarize the whole story?

Yeah, I think they do, but I didn’t notice until I stopped to think about it.

When I posted my spiel about loglines it was . . . good vs evil and what might happen if good doesn’t win. I’m wondering if I should rethink this.

Universal Idea

An idea that touches or appeals to the masses, then add a your own twist.

Okay I can see this with Santa Clause because it answered tons of questions I’ve had since I was a kid. I did find Tim Allen very likeable, and easy to watch. The way he played the character made the bad stuff funny. Legally Blonde, I loved it too. I can’t say why. Was it revenge or that it took trying to keep a man undeserving of her before she truly realized her worth? And Jurassic Park had so many likeable characters, but it was much more terrifying.

I remember a young friend of mine asked me if he could go to Jurassic Park and he didn’t mean the movie. I told him if he went he would be an h’orderve and he didn’t understand. I finally said, “Honey, to a dinosaur you are just cheese and crackers.” Well, the little guy just laughed and laughed. Even after that he was still willing to take a chance. Now that is appeal

High Stakes

Well, I did see some high stakes during Jurassic Park, lives were2180127 on the line and Santa Clause had Christmas and believing in magic on the line, but Legally Blonde—not so much. Okay, so I don’t remember. Shoot me. 🙂

So what movies, or stories did you come across that fill all the requirements? Do you think the Harry Potter books did? How about the Lord of the Rings Trilogy? Do you have an opinion on why some missed the mark? I’d like to hear about it. As a writer I really need to know.

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17 responses to “High Concept

  1. High concept, I want one too. 😀 Hunger Games has a catchy title. Not sure about it being a universal idea, but the stakes were pretty high in the story. I think some stories miss the high stakes mark when there isn’t lots of conflict to have the character scrambling to overcome them. The character (s) should have something he/she isn’t willing to lose, or live without…or something like that..:D Great post, Em! 🙂

  2. Interesting thoughts, Em. 🙂 I think there’s a difference between a log line and a tag line. To my mind, what you’ve included in this post are tag lines–catchy one liners that are (as you pointed out) pretty vague. A log line sums up the entire plot and consists of a main character, an inciting Incident, a risky undertaking, and finally a disastrous consequence. 🙂

  3. This is fascinating, and I can certainly think of one liners in books that will forever be linked to a book, such as Hunger Games “May the odds be forever in your favor”. I think Potter meets all the requirements and a recent book that does is Beautiful Disaster ..just the title alone sums up the book.

  4. I just saw Rise of the Guardians and I think this fit all the bills. Classic mythological heroes completely revamped, with a wildly imaginitive story that had adults on the edge of our seats, and the kids rooting for more. It was something I watched and though “Why the heck didn’t I think of that?”

    Fantastic story. Maybe I’ll blog about it. Hmmmmm…. Off to write it up!

  5. Yeah, I wish I could think up those clever titles as well. Titles are just not my ‘thing’ 😉

  6. I hadn’t given much thought to loglines before. These are some really interest ones, and some good ideas.

    Sarah Allen
    (From Sarah, With Joy)

  7. Very interesting post. To me the best log lines are short and concrete. ie I get an image in my mind right away.

    I think writing good log lines for movies and books is related to copy writing and advertising. Apple sold a bazillion Ipods based on the line “1000 songs in your pocket”. You get it right away, a picture forms in your head, and there’s no technical jargon.

If you're new to writing, ask me anything and if you're experienced, feel free to share what you know. Learning something new in the craft is always welcome.

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