Cracking the High Concept Code

Unknown Screenwriter told you why it’s important to write a high concept screenplay… Now let’s try to get you thinking high concept for your next project.


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Cracking the High Concept CodeLet’s keep beating the dead horse subject of High Concept. My last article told you WHY it’s important you try to write a high concept screenplay. This month, let’s try to get you thinking high concept for your next project.

What is high concept?

Go read my article, then come on back but to put it briefly, high concepts are compelling and provocative ideas stated in as few words as possible and easily understood by just about anyone.

Too many screenwriters… Especially newbie screenwriters simply do not understand high concept. Some think it’s selling out. Others think it’s formulaic. Still others believe it’s contrary to their “art.”

I can’t believe it but I’ve been writing screenplays for thirty years now and no, I haven’t kept track of how many newbie scripts I’ve read over the years but I can tell you it’s a lot. Out of all those specs, I can count on one hand how many were in fact, high concept.

From my own observation, most newbie screenwriters, and even old hands who’ve yet to get paid, often end up writing something that’s been done before and even if they spend a year on that spec rewriting, tweaking, and polishing—they usually end up with nothing more than a decent writing sample.

Notice I said, “decent.” Not good. Not outstanding. Not amazing.

Decent because it’s competently written but the concept is really no different from other movies we’ve seen before. No HOOK. Nothing unique. Nothing original.

In fact? Many of these very same screenwriters went on to tell me WHY their spec should sell, which usually consists of the very reason it will probably never sell i.e., “It’s no different than such and such movie and it sold.”

The majority of spec sales have some kind of concept or idea that is in fact compelling. It’s something that makes a particular spec DIFFERENT from other specs and movies within its genre.

Yet? The majority of spec screenwriters—even pros, often ignore this element at their peril. Peril means no sale, no representation… When I dig a little further about the impetus for their screenplay, I almost always find there was in fact a high-concept film that served as the inspiration for what they’ve written.

In other words?

They wrote something extremely similar to one or more movies we’ve all seen before. They thought since their inspirational movie or movies were high concept, so was their screenplay.

Nope. Not unless you come up with something different. On some level, most spec screenwriters know this to be true… i.e., that they need that out-of-the-box idea—that high concept but still… For whatever reason, they FEEL like THIS SCREENPLAY—THIS IDEA—just may be the exception to the rule… That anomaly. Hey… We’ve all been there and will probably continue to be there on occasion but the simple fact of the matter is that Hollywood runs on the big idea… The high concept.

Some of you… Maybe a lot of you out there read and or listen to a hell of a lot of screenwriting advice. Nothing wrong with that. In fact? That’s a good thing. But here’s the deal. Take ALL this shit with a grain of salt. Why? Because bottom line? I don’t know YOU. I can’t tell you what YOU need to DO to break into the business. I could probably read your spec and tell you what’s wrong with it but even fixing THAT wouldn’t necessarily propel you into the business. This business is as much about being able to sell yourself as it is your spec screenplay.

And? A little luck never hurt either.

With these articles about high concept, I’m trying to come at you with a foundation of screenwriting that’s already at a professional level. Competent screenwriting. Good story. Good, solid format. Good, solid structure. Something I don’t feel was a complete waste of my time reading even IF after reading it, I don’t think could sell.

In other words, that’s the LEVEL YOU need to be at.


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High concept is no substitute for mastering your craft. It’s simply the most effective way to capture an an agent, manager, or producer’s interest.

If you’re NOT there yet, you need to get there. Once you get there, implementing a high concept for your professional level screenplay is probably going to be the missing piece of the puzzle that gets you representation, meetings, sales, and gigs.

Having said that… You’re going to read and or hear “Just write the best screenplay you can write,” as if somehow, that worm farm debutante screenplay you just finished is somehow going to get you into this business.

Can a well-written screenplay get you noticed? Sure it can, but a well-written, high-concept screenplay not only gets you noticed but also gets you meetings, gets you representation, gets you sold.

1978 AMC PacerOur specs are all like used cars and the agents and managers out there are all used car salesmen… Like it or not. If you’re a used car salesman, and you have your choice between selling a 1978 AMC Pacer or a 2007 Honda Accord, which one you gonna choose? Don’t get me wrong… There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a 1978 AMC Pacer. They were in fact, pretty solid cars and got good gas mileage. They got the job done back in 1978, but do they get the job done today? Would you not agree IF you chose to sell the Pacer, your prospects of selling it would be considerably less than IF you chose to sell the Accord?

The same applies to a well-written 2007 Honda Accordscreenplay versus a well-written, high-concept screenplay. Your eventual agent or manager or both know more outlets are available to them to set up meetings, future meetings, and pitches for YOU in the long run.

I’m not trying to convince you of anything… I just tell the truth as I see it and as I’ve experienced it, and I am here to tell you I wish someone had pointed out how important high concept was when I first started out screenwriting.

The fact is?

You can have just as much fun writing a high-concept screenplay as you can writing a well-written screenplay. You can have just as much passion writing a high-concept screenplay as you can writing a well-written screenplay.

And to be honest? If your current screenwriting is in fact competent and at a professional level? Writing a high-concept spec script is one hell of a lot of fun when there’s the real prospect and potential of bagging a sale.

I am not trying to tell you to guess what the market is looking for. A lot of podcasters and gurus might tell you pursuing a high-concept spec is YOU simply trying to guess the market. Writing a high-concept spec is not about second-guessing the market. It’s kicking up your hopefully well-written spec up a few notches when it finally comes to tossing it in the market. It makes your well-written spec more marketable.

Make sense?

Hollywood is inundated with thousands of well-written spec screenplays. Many of them are stacked up a couple of feet high and being used as door stops. All of them written well. All of them solid. All of them have decent characters and good structure. All of them derivative. That’s right, derivative of some other movie we’ve already seen and this one brings nothing new and different to the party but it does a great fucking job of holding that door open.

It’s okay. You don’t have to believe me. I don’t need the competition any more than you do.

Having said that? If you’re still here? Let’s get on with it… How do we turn our mild mannered concept into a high concept? How do you come up with something different? Fuck if I know… But I can tell you how I do it.

The very first thing I want to tell you BEFORE you attempt to perform any of the following exercises is to make note of HOW YOU FEEL when a particular concept or idea HITS YOU. Let’s get back to what you’ve probably heard and read from a lot of gurus… Write what you love.

As you perform these exercises to help you brainstorm a high concept, make note of the concepts that make you tingle. If nothing makes you tingle during your first session? No problem. Coming up with a high concept can be just as difficult IF NOT MORE DIFFICULT than writing the screenplay wrapped around it.

Just don’t give up… Brainstorming high concepts takes practice and practice makes perfect.

The concepts that do NOT make you tingle but sound interesting to you are also worthy of a note. You can use these ideas in future sessions to dig even deeper for the high concept. The ideas that make you tingle however, are the ideas you want to seriously consider wrapping a spec screenplay around.

Why?

These are ideas and concepts that, for whatever reason, resonate and mean something to you. Maybe they have something to do with your past. Maybe they promise to answer an as yet unanswered question you have about life. Whatever the reason, always make note of the concepts that make you tingle.

That brings me to the first exercise…

What fascinates YOU? What fascinates you might not fascinate me. Everyone is different. Make a list of what fascinates you. Make as long a list as you can. There are no wrong answers. In fact? Making a list of what fascinates YOU should be an ongoing project. Grab a notebook or open up a document and keep adding to it. Anytime you have writer’s block? Add more things that fascinate you to your list. You watch movies, right? You watch television? Read magazines? Books? Newspapers? Use all these and more as resources to add to your list of fascinations. Trust me when I tell you, there will be gold in that list.

Once you have a decent list of fascinations, it’s now time to play the What if game…

For instance… Let’s make a small list of my fascinations…

  • Motorcycles
  • Wolves
  • Coyotes
  • Ocean
  • Speed
  • Rattlesnakes

Hey… These just came off the top of my head but you get the idea. There are no wrong answers.

Now let’s take something from the list and play the What if game… This is where we get to be as fucking crazy as we want or need to be. Again, there are no wrong answers.

  • Motorcycles
  • What if I was riding a motorcycle and it began to lift up off the ground and soar into the air?
  • What if I rode a motorcycle into a wall but didn’t crash?
  • What if I went through that wall into another dimension?
  • Into another world?
  • What if the wall turned out to be a wormhole?
  • What if the wormhole spit me out into the future?
  • What if the wormhole spit me out into the past?

See how easy that is? Nope. No high concept YET but the idea here is to simply let loose! This is only step one. We need an idea to start our high concept rolling. Let one What if question create yet another What if question in your mind and ask that one next. Rinse and repeat.

If, as you are asking yourself all these what if questions about each thing that fascinates you, something exciting POPS into your head, stop and write that down. *NOTE: I use a digital recorder to record the entire exercise. Listening to them later can and often will lead you to dream up even more What if questions along with more things that fascinate you.

The What if game is extremely powerful… Don’t just use it for what fascinates you. Maybe you already have an idea for a spec script floating around in your head. What about any characters you’ve already come up with for that story?

Cracking the High Concept Code

Once you’ve come up with a concept IDEA that makes you tingle, it’s time to create the perfect protagonist for that particular concept idea. A concept idea without a compelling protagonist to guide your audience through the story just ain’t gonna work.

Notice I said, COMPELLING PROTAGONIST. A compelling protagonist is what ultimately connects your reader, then your agent, manager, and producer to your story and screenplay. How do you create a compelling protagonist? Well, to be honest, you should already know that. A compelling protagonist is so important to your high concept, that it’s worth being a bit redundant here, so in order to make sure your protagonist is in fact compelling, here’s a short list of elements to keep in mind.

A Compelling Protagonist:

  • Has experienced some undeserved misfortune
  • Has secrets
  • Has fears
  • A crucial desire
  • A central vice
  • A central virtue
  • Makes decisions
  • Performs actions based on those decisions
  • Usually an underdog of some kind
  • Has an interesting job and or some unusual skill
  • The quintessential representation of his or her kind

So now you play the What if game all over again… That’s right. Start asking What if questions about your Protagonist in order to make sure he or she turns out to be COMPELLING. Go down the list and again, ask What if questions about each of these compelling traits and again, make note of the traits that make you tingle.

  • Undeserved misfortune
  • What if my protagonist’s father was murdered when he was a child? His or her mother?
  • What if my protagonist was a product of incest?
  • What if my protagonist was molested as a child?
  • What if my protagonist grew up in foster homes?
  • What if my protagonist spent years in a reformatory for a crime he or she didn’t commit?

I could be here all day making a list like this… Don’t hold back. This list of undeserved misfortune is GOLD for creating high concepts now and in the future. The above list is short because of space for this article. Your list can be as large as you want or need it to be.

Just keep going down the list with specific What if questions for each element on the list.

  • Secrets
  • What if my protagonist killed someone in their past?
  • What if my protagonist used to be a con man?
  • What if my protagonist used to be a hit man?
  • What if my protagonist is on the run?
  • What if my protagonist is a recovering sex-addict?

Don’t worry if one or more of your questions is derivative of some movie, television show, or book you’ve already read. This is just the beginning. You have to get your brain used to thinking this way. For some of you, this is going to be difficult in the beginning but it’s not unlike any muscle that hasn’t been used in awhile. Just keep at it and trust me, the What if questions will get better.

  • Fears
  • What if my protagonist has a fear of commitment?
  • What if my protagonist has a fear of heights?
  • What if my protagonist has a fear of small spaces?
  • What if my protagonist has a fear of animals?
  • What if my protagonist has a fear of crowds?
  • A crucial desire

Guess what? We don’t have to do this one yet! Why? Because we haven’t created our high concept. Once we do? Your protagonist’s crucial desire should be obvious. Now is probably a good time to tell you that your protagonist’s crucial desire needs to be external. Something we can sense with one of our five senses. Don’t worry about his or her internal struggle or growth. That’s gonna happen because you’re a writer.

  • A central vice
  • What if my protagonist is a narcissist?
  • What if my protagonist is a coward?
  • What if my protagonist is greedy?
  • What if my protagonist is controlling?
  • What if my protagonist is suicidal?

Again, sky’s the limit here. The trick is to find a vice that is as close to the exact opposite of your protagonist’s virtue. By vice, I’m referring to a fault, or negative character flaw within the context of your protagonist’s character. Choose wisely because it’s this vice that drives your protagonist through most of your story. For a little help in that regard, just head on over to Thesaurus.com and type in your protagonist’s vice:

narcissist

See all those synonyms and related words? Use those in addition to narcissist to drive your protagonist through his or her scenes. Doing THIS helps us, your eventual audience understand your protagonist even more and helps you organically push him or her through your story.

By the same token… Your protagonist’s virtue—that trait deemed to be morally good and valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being (thank you, Wikipedia) should be the exact opposite of your protagonist’s central vice and thus, use those words as mini-themes to help your protagonist make decisions and take action.


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How to find THOSE words? Go back to narcissist and click on a synonym. Once you do that, take a look at the antonyms that pop up for that particular synonym. Rinse and repeat for your list of vices and virtues. Use the list of vices as mini-themes to get through your protagonist’s scenes when it comes to subtext in both dialogue and behavior. Use the list of virtues as mini-themes to get your protagonist through his or her decision-making and action-taking process.

The good news? You don’t have to completely figure out what your protagonist’s central virtue is before you start writing. Discover it organically as you push your protagonist through the seemingly insurmountable obstacles you create for him or her. Your protagonist’s eventual central virtue will be his or her character arc.

Cool. In the above discussion, we’ve also covered:

  • Makes decisions
  • Performs actions based on those decisions

No need to play the What if game with those as they should develop organically. Having said that? If you’re not pushing your protagonist enough, feel free to take the following through the What if game.

  • A central virtue
  • Makes decisions
  • Performs actions based on those decisions

Yes… It’s okay to use the What if game to come up with answers to the above as you’re writing. In fact? Anytime you feel stuck, get out your list of What if questions and start answering them again and use them to come up with even more interesting and twisted What if questions.

  • Usually an underdog of some kind

Let’s define underdog just in case you need a refresher…

underdog

1. One that is expected to lose a contest or struggle, as in sports or politics.
2. One that is at a disadvantage.

Remember Rocky? Braveheart? The Karate Kid?

Your protagonist doesn’t have to be an underdog but if you want him or her to be truly compelling? Find a way for them to be an underdog so we, your eventual audience will subconsciously root for them throughout your story and please make note that our subconscious rooting will organically turn into conscious rooting if you do this correctly.

Better still? Connect your protagonist’s underdog to his or her profession and or crucial desire. We’re hardwired to GET THAT. We understand it. We’ve either all been an underdog at some point in our lives or known one.

Underdogs almost always:

  • Chase a dream
  • Lose when they try to win
  • Exhibit hope
  • Exhibit determination
  • Lack self-pity

Play the What if game to come up with a way for your protagonist to be an underdog… Connect it to your protagonist’s profession or crucial desire and we’ll get on board your protagonist’s train and ride it through the rest of your story.

Which brings us to your protagonist’s profession, job, or skill. As an eventual audience, we’re intrigued by protagonists with a profession or special skill we’re not in or do not possess. Use this to your advantage and no… The special skill does not have to be related to your protagonist’s profession or job but it won’t hurt either. In other words? He or she can certainly have both.


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Let’s look at some of the protagonist’s jobs in the Highest Box Office Films of All Time

  • Jack Dawson in Titanic was a Starving Artist
  • Owen Grady in Jurassic World was a Velociraptor Trainer
  • Dom Cobb in Inception was an Extractor
  • Captain Steven Hiller in Independence Day was a U.S.M.C. F/A-18 Hornet Pilot
  • Dr. Ryan Stone in Gravity was a Medical Engineer

Starting to see the pattern here? That’s not to say your protagonist must have a profession we don’t know much about. That’s not to say your protagonist can’t just be an every man. That works too. The only thing I would say is to be sure to add that special skill if you decide to use an every man as your protagonist. That special skill could be one your protagonist already has or one he or she develops throughout the story:

  • Chuck Noland in Cast Away was a FedEx Systems Engineer who learns how to survive on that island
  • Sam Wheat in Ghost is a banker who learns how to move solid objects
  • Larry Daley in Night at the Museum is an unemployed and divorced father who learns how to organize all the historic characters to help him stop the criminals and save the museum
  • Bill Harding in Twister is a TV Weatherman who’s special skill is Tornado-Hunter
  • Nick Dunne in Gone Girl is an unemployed journalist now turned bar owner who’s special skill is figuring out the clues his wife leaves for him on their anniversary every year

Whew… And finally?

  • The quintessential representation of his or her kind:

Think Tom Cruise’s character, Lt. Daniel Kaffee in A Few Good Men. He’s the quintessential Navy Jag Officer who plea bargains his cases and never spends a day in trial.

When we say quintessential, NOTICE we are NOT saying the quintessential Navy Jag Officer. We’re adding in the fact that he’s a plea-bargainer who’s never been to trial. That is his ordinary world and Sorkin fleshes all that out for us so we know right off the bat WHO we’re dealing with. If he were just the average OR quintessential Navy Jag Officer, his character wouldn’t be nearly as compelling as a plea-bargainer who’s never been to trial.

Make sense?

In other words… However you’ve created your protagonist—with whatever flaws, idiosyncrasies, skills, etc., tweak and polish him or her until they are the quintessential EXAMPLE of that character.

After you have your compelling protagonist, let’s get back to our fascinations… From your list of fascinations, you’ll want to try and find one that has mass appeal. If you’re not sure what mass appeal is, go back to the Highest Box Office Films of All Time. Simply browsing through this list is going to reveal to you the kinds of subject matter that have mass appeal… Let’s look at a few:

  • Aliens
  • Historical Disasters
  • Dinosaurs
  • Fast Cars
  • Secret Agents
  • Superheroes
  • Time Travel
  • Criminals
  • Heists

I could go on but again… You get the idea and in fact, it’s worth performing this exercise yourself i.e., go down the entire list of box office hits and make a list of those movies’ subject matter that obviously had mass appeal.

If you take a look at my list from the beginning of this article:

  • Motorcycles
  • Wolves
  • Coyotes
  • Ocean
  • Speed
  • Rattlesnakes

You can easily see that there’s really nothing there with mass appeal. So now what? We continue with our list of fascinations… Yes, you’ll want to build a huge list in order to find those subjects or topics that DO have mass appeal.

Space won’t allow me to get massive here (but you should), so I’ll just pick some fascinations from the list of box office hits that I like:

  • Fast Cars
  • Time Travel
  • Criminals
  • Heists

These are simply the topics or subjects from that list that fascinate ME. Your mileage will and should vary.

Now we need an inciting incident… It’s gotta be HUGE! Life-changing. It MUST REQUIRE your protagonist to ACT NOW. The good news is that if you haven’t yet figured out what your protagonist’s vice is, no problem. Go ahead and figure out your protagonist’s life-changing inciting incident and then figure out the perfect vice for your protagonist. The trick here is to juxtapose your protagonist’s vice against the ACTION your protagonist must perform because of this inciting incident. Once you know who your protagonist is, play the What if game to come up with the perfect inciting incident to get things rolling. Don’t worry… We’ll put all the pieces together once we’ve laid them all out on the board.

Ready?

Okay then… From the list of fascinations we’ve culled from the Highest Box Office Films of All Time, I actually like them all hence, why I picked’em. You could pick one or more as long as you can work them into a high concept.

Back to What if

  • What if criminals from the future traveled back in time to pull off a bank heist?

Hmmm. Seriously, that was right off the top of my head and now that I’ve typed it, I can SEE the potential. It certainly has the elements of high concept so let’s use it.

Now what? We need a compelling protagonist. One that works with what we’ve got so far. Again off the top of my head I’m thinking:

  • Armored car driver
  • Bank executive
  • FBI agent
  • Scientist
  • Engineer

Let’s go with engineer… Maybe we can make him an every man. Okay, so now we need our inciting incident.

  • An engineer is taken hostage during a bank heist

Off the top of my head… Not even digging deep here. Just going with what I think makes sense so far… If the engineer is our protagonist, we need him to be caught up in all this somehow. I also kind of like the idea of starting the story off with the bank heist because I know from experience, I can make this inciting incident occur within the first ten to twelve pages of the script. We can easily hit the ground running.

Let’s not forget that our Engineer needs to be compelling. Undeserved misfortune.

  • What if he designed a bridge that failed?
  • What if the failed bridge ended up killing several people?
  • What if the failed bridge killed a lot of people?
  • What if the bridge collapsed as his wife and children drove over it?

Does this undeserved misfortune even have to have anything to do with the bridge? Nope.

  • What if the Engineer’s wife and children were killed in natural disaster?
  • What if the Engineer’s wife and children were killed during a bank heist?
  • What if the Engineer’s wife and children were in one of the planes in 9/11?

Just keep playing the What if game until a specific undeserved misfortune makes you tingle.

What else do we need for this engineer to be compelling… We need his central vice. If we go with the idea his wife and children died because of some undeserved misfortune—him being suicidal comes to mind. Maybe he can’t outright kill himself but what if he takes chances because he no longer cares if he lives or dies?

Let’s go with it… Now we have:

  • A suicidal engineer is taken hostage during a bank heist

Now remember from our list of fascinations, we came up with:

  • What if criminals from the future traveled back in time to pull off a bank heist?

Time to dig deeper into this within the context of the suicidal engineer and the time traveling bank robbers pulling off the heist. Back to more What if questions:

  • What if the time-traveling criminals are on a schedule?
  • What if the time-traveling criminals have to hide out awhile before they can go back into the future?
  • What if the suicidal engineer figures out they are time-traveling criminals?
  • What if the suicidal engineer begs them to let him go back in time in order to save his family from dying?
  • What if the suicidal engineer outsmarts the time-traveling criminals and does go back in time and save his family?

We can just keep going and going… But just based on what I’ve thought of so far? I can feel a high concept starting to take shape.

  • We’ve got a suicidal engineer.
  • We’ve got time-traveling criminals.
  • We’ve got a bank heist.
  • We’ve got a suicidal engineer who figures out these criminals have traveled back in time.
  • We’ve got a suicidal engineer who, after figuring out these criminals have traveled back in time to rob a bank, decides to figure out how he too can travel back in time in order to save his family from dying.

So far so good… I’d watch that movie. Would YOU?

Okay… We have a compelling protagonist with a vice and life-changing inciting incident. Let’s see if we can create a high concept logline from it.

Just doing this off the top of my head. Remember, writing is rewriting. Once we get the logline more or less down, we’ll tweak it.

  • After time-traveling bank robbers take a suicidal engineer hostage, he figures out a way to travel back in time to save his wife and kids.

Not bad but now that I’ve read it, I feel like we need to reveal that his family was killed.

  • After losing his wife and children, a suicidal engineer is taken hostage during a bank heist, but once he discovers they traveled back in time to rob the bank, he decides to figure out how they did it so he can travel back in time to save his family.

Not bad actually. Only 49 words. Let’s tweak it again and see what we come up with.

  • After a grieving engineer loses his wife and children, his suicidal tendencies find him in a bank robbery where he’s taken hostage, only to discover the criminals traveled back in time to pull the heist, and now he must figure out how they did it so he can travel back in time to save his family.

56 words… I’d say either one of these works for our purposes. If we can come up with a great high concept title that ADDS to our logline, so much the better. I like to use idioms when I can… At least for working titles. Let’s see if any of these work:

  • AGAINST TIME
  • EVER AND AGAIN
  • PRESSED FOR TIME
  • BORROWED TIME
  • MATTER OF TIME
  • FINDING TIME
Cracking the High Concept Code infographic

Click to enlarge.

Hmmmm. Borrowed time rings with me personally. Since our engineer needs to figure out how the bank robbers traveled back in time, this assumes he needs to either steal or borrow the criminals’ method of time travel.

So NOW, let’s try it with a title…

BORROWED TIME

After a grieving engineer loses his wife and children, his suicidal tendencies find him in a bank robbery where he’s taken hostage, only to discover the criminals traveled back in time to pull the heist, and now he must figure out how they did it so he can travel back in time to save his family.

Again, I’d watch that movie. I’d also ask friends, family, and associates if they’d watch that movie. Read your logline to them and see what they think. Make note of their questions and or concerns after hearing your pitch. Always keep tweaking and honing your logline. Keep cutting it down as short as possible but always remember that it needs to contain all your high concept elements.

Playing the What if game is probably the most powerful tool you have when it comes to creating a high concept. Don’t discount it. Unfortunately, I’ve found a lot of screenwriters UNABLE to think very far out of the box. Their What if questions just don’t get it done. I only mention this because it can be a potential problem if you’re NOT used to thinking outside the box. You’ve GOT to push those questions. Make them seemingly absurd. Make them deplorable. Make them outrageous. Challenge yourself. Jump the fuck OUT of your safety zone for once in your life… You want to be a writer, RIGHT?

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One thought on “Cracking the High Concept Code

  1. pgsundling

    This is really in depth stuff. Thanks for the write up.

    I’m also a big fan of playing “what if”. In my upcoming novel, The Internet President: None of the Above. A fictional presidential candidate leads an audience through the “what if” game.

    My protagonist fits your list of underdog, except for no self-pity. He visits self-pity, like a pit stop, before he gets his epiphanies and strides off to face the escalating obstacles. It’s one of his flaws.

    From your list, “speed” from your list seems to dove tail with “fast cars”. You said there wasn’t an overlap, but there’s one, unless you meant the drug speed.

    P.G. Sundling

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