High concept?

High concept fiction is that which can be pitched in very few words and has mass, easily recognizable appeal. The term “high concept” has filtered into the publishing world from the movie world.

Here is a very succinct set of examples from Nathan Bransford to illustrate high concept versus not:

Kid wins a golden ticket to a mysterious candy factory? High concept.
Wizard school? High concept.
There’s this guy who walks around Dublin for a day and thinks about a lot of things in chapters written in different styles and he goes to a funeral and does some other stuff but otherwise not much happens? Not high concept.

As I research agents for submission of my latest manuscript (#3), I find myself questioning whether or not my story is, in fact, as high concept as I intended. My story isn’t Snakes on a Plane, which tells you all you need to know from the title.

I found a great line from Steve Kaire that has me thinking: “Non-High Concept projects can’t be sold from a pitch because they are execution driven. They have to be read to be appreciated and their appeal isn’t obvious by merely running a logline past someone.”

I’m not willing to divulge the premise or plot of my manuscript on the internet (sorry), but I will say that I’ve had one heck of a time boiling it down to a logline that really conveys the essence of the story. Could this be because the strength of my story is in its execution, not its concept? Or am I just a failure at coming up with a great logline?

By contrast, I know with certainty that my second manuscript IS high concept and my first is NOT. (And my fourth, my WIP, IS.) Why am I having such a difficult time determining the status of manuscript #3?

Well, I’ll be attending a conference later this month with workshops led by literary agents evaluating query letters and opening pages, and I hope to have my question answered.

In the meantime, some of you reading this post have read said manuscript #3. Thoughts?

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Here are a few links to info on high concept fiction:









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One Response to “High concept?”

  1. Chris says:

    #3 is high concept. At least as much so as wizard school. Of course, that concept took some selling, too.

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