Thursday, February 08, 2007

High Concept Books II

Continuing with high concept books … here are a couple more things to keep in mind as you contemplate writing one:

In addition to larger-than-life characters, big books usually have "high concept." To me, that means two things. One, the premise of the book is outlandish or highly dramatic. It can even mean bizarre or unbelievable. (Of course, the author's job is to make it believable.) A high-concept book is exciting, sweeping, maybe controversial. But despite all that, the "big idea" novel, secondly, has a single or simple backbone. It has a dramatic question that the reader can hang onto. In Silence of the Lambs, that backbone was "Will Clarice catch the serial killer?"

If you're trying to write that high concept novel, consider the setting you choose. Big novels tend to be set in exotic locales. Does that mean you have to travel to Africa or Antarctica? Not necessarily. Look around. Do you live on a reservation? To a lot of readers, that's an exciting setting. Do you have first-hand knowledge of what it's like to be a Secret Service agent? That's a world only a few can live in, but a lot of people would want to know about. Do you love medieval England? Could you take your readers into the little known world of a forensic pathologist? Do you know the behind-the-scenes workings of an airport, mega-amusement park, or the IRS? Can you write about rich, powerful, or famous people and the world they inhabit?

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