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Creating high-concept story ideas, part I

Recently, at our local Field’s End Writing Conference, author Shelia Roberts spoke about high-concept novels. Whenever I hear the term “high-concept,” it always brings images of espionage thrillers like John le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or a complex, multi-charactered story like Stephen King’s The Stand.

But what I learned from Roberts was that “high-concept” doesn’t necessarily mean exceedingly complex. A high-concept idea is one that is unique, unusual, or stands out in some way. Roberts describes it as, “stepping outside the box.”

A high-concept story simply means the idea is fresh and unique and makes us go “ahhhhh” when we hear it.

A few “highs” of high-concept novels:

* High Stakes – Something big has to be at stake. In The Stand the entire world is at risk.

* Highly Unusual Story – Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park comes to mind. Dinosaurs in the 21st century? Cool!

*Highly Memorable Characters – Think Hannibal Lecter.

In my next post, I’ll discuss places to look for high-concept ideas, including how I discovered the high-concept story idea for my memoir (yes, memoirs can be high-concept!)

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