Friday, February 09, 2007

High Concept Books III

Okay, let’s finish up on some of the traits common to big concept books:

Examine most best-sellers, and you'll find they have a rhythm, an ebb and flow, a definite pace. The protagonist gets in trouble or encounters a problem, things slack off, then pick up again. Up, down, higher, higher. The physical danger grows or the emotional investment intensifies. Chapters end in mid-crisis or with a hook. The readers don't want to put the book down. They turn the page and keep reading. It's tense, the characters are intriguing, the plot gripping. We're caught up in the roller coaster ride.

Another thing about big books is that they tend to be told through multiple Points of View. We don't just stay in the protagonist's head. We see things through another character(s) eyes -- often the antagonist's. We not only see what they see, we hear, feel, agonize, hurt, and hope as they do. We empathize with them. We identify with, and are emotionally invested with, more than just the main character. That doesn't mean we automatically root for the bad guy, just because we're in his head, though.

Now ... should you use these points as a how-to to create a blockbuster? No. There's no formula that guarantees a best-seller. Of course there have been plenty of books that became best-sellers that had none of these characteristics. But, if you're wanting to write a big book, keep these points in mind. They are traits common to the majority of high-concept books. You might want to weave them into yours.

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