Sunday, March 24, 2013

Idea Garage Sale: Let's Play High Concept!

Back when I first started writing queries the "high concept" pitch was in vogue. People were seriously advised to strip our fiction down to one simple idea comparing it to something else. The classic high concept pitch is the one Gene Roddenberry used for Star Trek: "Wagon Train, in space!" If you really want to absent yourself and all personal vision from the pitch, it will consist of two titles of two works you had nothing to do with, with the word "meets" in the middle.

I'm pretty sure the exclamation point is de rigeur when delivering high concept. No one will take you seriously without it.

This struck me at the time, and strikes me even more now, as a silly way to pitch a story. (And I'm not the only one; nor is the popular conception of High Concept really what it's about, according to this article which you can read after you've finished with me.) If the result is an accurate summation of the story, then the story is not original; and if it isn't, then it's misleading and that can't be a good idea.

It's not a bad party game, though, and many a great, or at least a good, piece of work has started in playtime, so let's see what we get

I think someone has already done Jane Eyre in space, but I can't think who. If not, someone should. And follow it up with Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff would of course be an alien. Or possibly an android.

The Hunger Games meets The Princess Diaries!

Star Wars meets Anna Karenina!

Actually, Star Wars meets Oedipus Rex is just sitting there waiting to happen, says one who 'shipped Luke and Leia after the first movie (by which I do not mean The Fandom Menace) and isn't ashamed of it.

Pride and Prejudice meets The Big Sleep. There are more similarities in technique between Austen and Chandler than you'd think, or than (probably) either would cop to.

Twilight meets Jaws. Okay, now I'm being gratuitously mean. I haven't read or seen either and have no desire to.

Cinderella meets Bluebeard! And ultimately kicks his ass, I hope.

Got to go get ready for Game Day, but that should get the ball rolling, I hope.


  1. Sharon Shinn wrote a JANE EYRE in space: JENNA STARBORN. It wasn't bad, but it also wasn't the best Sharon Shinn (and I am a fan of hers).

  2. Ah, I knew I'd heard it within the last year or so, but hadn't read it. I don't think this sort of thing brings out the best in a writer; or anyway, if it does, it does so by giving you something to transcend. It doesn't matter how you get where you're going; but you won't get there if you hang onto your launchpad. So if it's still "Jane Eyre in space" by the time you're ready to pitch it, it's probably not as good as you owe it to yourself to be.

    Or maybe I'm just jealous 'cause I know I could never get something like that accepted.