The High Concept Novel

© 2018 DiAnn Mills

Are you a novelist striving for a high concept story? Have you heard the term and not fully understood what it means? Worse yet, has an agent or editor challenged you to create a high concept novel, and now you have brain freeze? Let me help you unpack what agents, editors, and readers are desperately seeking.

A high concept story is one that has potential to spread like wildfire, either within a genre or across a large audience. Think of Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Hunger Games, Divergent, Forrest Gump, Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, Les Misérables, and the list continues.

Agent Rachelle Gardner writes, “High concept means the premise of your book will get attention before anyone sees even one word of your writing.”

Are you still scratching your head? What is this thing called a premise? How do I discover the premise to my story?

Ask yourself these questions.

  • Do you know why this story must be written?
  • What is the burning passion to spend hours perfecting the craft?
  • What is the moral truth to be explored, revisited, and turned upside down?
  • What sears your heart with a what-if?
  • What keeps you up at night and preoccupied during the day?

Sometimes the premise can blow away an agent or editor in one sentence; sometimes it takes three. But it must be unique to the writer and to the story’s concept, something the writer has never written before.

Another element is how the premise affects the writer and why the writer is the only one to write the story.

When writers are brainstorming a novel’s potential high concept, they ask the following questions:

  1. What is the distinctively different premise?
  2. How is the story original?
  3. Why are you the only writer who can pen this story?
  4. How are the characters intriguing?
  5. Is the story idea fresh and exciting?
  6. Are the plot twists super-unpredictable and yet believable?
  7. Will the story touch the hearts of cross-genre readers or a wide-niche market?
  8. Does the story entertain?
  9. Are strong emotions a part of the high stakes?
  10. Can readers step into the character’s closet and emerge satisfied they have lived a true adventure?

Now write a high-concept idea in one sentence. Make every word count. Don’t settle for the first draft. Refine what is written. Let the passion swell. Give yourself time to ponder ideas and consider if this type of novel writing is for you. Come back to it later. How has it changed?

Perhaps your story idea falls within the high-concept criteria. I hope so! If you believe in your premise, then get started with the groundwork of making a novel idea the next bestseller.

What high concept premise is burning in your mind?
DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed novels. She penned The Dance of Character and Plot to show serious novelists how to create story. DiAnn’s newest book, High Treason, is a February 2018 release—the third book in the FBI Task Force Series. Connect with DiAnn and her social media platforms on her website.



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