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Five Qualities of High-Concept Stories for Your Written Work

March 28th, 2014

So you’re about to begin the process of writing the initial draft of your essay, your novel, or your creative non-fiction piece. Chances are that you’ve already brainstormed about a dozen concepts or ideas for your literary project. Regardless of the literary form and genre, you begin by searching through submission guidelines and numerous ‘how-to’s online to establish your writing framework or skeleton. In this process, you might discover that almost every literary competition across the globe is looking for “high-concept stories” – those that encompass a high form of art through narrative and content. What exactly are the traits of these types of literary pieces?

High Degree of Originality

What makes content successful is its ability to showcase what’s fresh, new and innovative. Thus, your creative output should be original, with an innovative plot, a set of interesting and unpredictable characters, and fresh scenes to contemplate. Since almost all concepts in the book have been explored by thousands of writers since time immemorial, your challenge here is to deliver a different and ground-breaking approach to the previous clichés.

High Level of Entertainment Value

For your written work to stand out, it must have a high level of entertainment value with a mass audience appeal. And this criterion is not only applicable to fiction stories; any written content (including marketing copy, blogs, and online journals) should possess this quality. As reiterated by Lets Get Wise, all the messages that you wish to convey should be ”bold, clear, and catchy” if you want to reach more customers or, in this case, more readers. Just like visual art, it must be stimulating and appealing to the readers’ senses. How do you do it given the absence of a visual element? You can play with your characters. Make them compelling by highlighting their extraordinary abilities. You can also entertain your readers by creating a unique setting or a completely different world from reality. Try to highlight something profound and unique about your character that will interest your readers.

Highly Visual and Clear Imagery

Show, don’t tell. High-concept stories must be highly visual. When you read it yourself, your mind should be able to conjure the written images and grasp how the story unfolds. If you look into movie adaptations, novels with high cinematic imagery are the ones that draw more audiences to the box office.

Derived From “What If” Questions

What if people are born with a single eye? What if dogs suddenly start speaking? What if babies can predict the future? “What if” questions will help you awaken your creativity and sense of imagination. A high-concept story that begins with a what-if scenario “grabs the reader by the scruff of the collar and doesn’t let go,” wrote Brian Klems of Writer’s Digest. By integrating “what if” concepts with your written work, you are letting your readers see and explore a whole new world that you’ve just created.

Conveys a Lasting Impression

Great stories are always memorable. They must have a lasting impact on the readers. To make your work truly memorable, your story must end with a mystery that is yet to be solved. We are not suggesting that it shouldn’t have a conclusion. What we mean by this is that there must be a teaser for a sequel, a glimpse of the aftermath of your story, or a minor conflict that is left hanging in the air. It must also stand the test of time, generation after generation.

These are the five qualities of high-concept stories. Do you think you can pull off a literary piece with these credentials?

About the Author:

Allie Cooper is a certified online creative writer. Her passion has always been towards writing fictional short stories, lyrical poetry pieces, and one-act plays. She believes that she can touch the lives of various people through her written work. Currently, she’s in the early stages of her story line development for her first ever novel project. Say ‘hi’ to Allie via Twitter and Google +.


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