High concept

What to do with all this new learning I recently acquired in the writing department? Simple. Write a story. Next question.

Where to start? Again, simple. Find your story’s “high concept”. Terry Rossio gives a great explanation of the term, here.

So, all I have to do now is to get down to it.

Okay, so maybe, do some basic exercises to get on the right track?

Exercise in identifying ”high concept “ (in movies and novels)

What if…

  • the world was discovered to be built on a code that kept mankind enslaved? (The Matrix)
  • the dinosaurs were brought back to life? (Jurassic Park)
  • the robots took over and started a nuclear war? (The Terminator)
  • real life blended with animated life in a murder mystery? (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?)
  • a dusty archaeology professor turned out to be a high-octane adventurer? (Indiana Jones series)
  • an ancient Egyptian high priest was brought back to life? (The Mummy, 1999)
  • humanity traveling in time and space could save the world? (Star Trek, 2009)
  • two infamous pirates, one dead and one alive, fight each other for treasure? (Pirates of the Caribbean)
  • a child was telling the truth about being able to see dead people? (The Sixth Sense)
  • a single day was to repeat itself over and over again, seemingly for ever? (Groundhog Day)
  • vampires did exist and only a reluctant schoolgirl could stop them? (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
  • the toys of a child lived in a world of their own? (Winnie the Pooh)
  • a sleepy town was suddenly faced with the benevolent anarchy of a girl with magic powers? (Pippi Långstrump)
  • all the evil powers of the world was to be found in a single ring? (The Lord of the Rings)
  • a child discovered that they belonged in a magic world? (Harry Potter series)


That’ll will do for now, but to be noted: The high concept is often embedded in a good story title, in order to point the audience in the right direction (and whet their appetite).