Monday, November 16, 2015

When Parallel Worlds Collide . . .

A wie armageddon. by danirolli
High concept: it can lead to a breakout novel or film. Given that, it's not hard to guess why writers want a clear concept at the core of their work, but pinning down exactly what that means can be challenging.

I've heard a lot of mini, fractured definitions, but every writer, and reader, knows what high concept is when they see it.

It a nutshell, it makes the story sing.

Still, that's not a Webster definition.

According to Jeff Lyons, author of Anatomy of a Premise Line, high concept has:

  • entertainment value
  • originality
  • uniqueness
  • visual appeal
  • emotional depth
  • asks "what if"
Anatomy of a Premise Line:
High level of entertainment value High degree of originality High level of uniqueness (different than original) Highly visual Possesses a clear emotional focus (root emotion) Targets a broad, general audience, or a large niche market Sparks a “what if” question - See more at:
You don’t have to slap your reader in the face with your concept - that's best avoided - but the writer needs to know what it is, to stay on track. My favorite support for this is with the tagline - the short-short sentence or catchphrase that resonates with the story's core values.

Condensing a novel or film to a tagline that reflects the richness of concept can be painstakingly difficult, but incredibly rewarding. Here are a few examples, some of which I am sure you will recognize.

When Parallel Worlds Collide . . . 

Journey by Night by Kim Falconer (the third book in my QE Series)

The last man on earth is not alone . . . 

I am Legend by Richard Matheson

Fifty million people watched, but no one saw a thing . . .
The Quiz Show based on Richard N. Goodwin's memoir

In space, no one can hear you scream . . .

Alien by Alan Dean Foster 

Winter is coming . . .

Game of Thrones by George R R Martin

Your Mind is the scene of the crime . . .

Inception written, produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . .

Star Wars (1977)

An adventure 65 million years in the making . . . 

Jurassic Park  by Michael Crichton

Everybody Loves Ernest... But Nobody's Quite Sure Who He Really Is.  

The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde (2002 film)

She has the power . . .

Lucy (2014)

One last chance for peace . . .

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes  (2014)

You can see that the tagline doesn't include the full heart, essence, premise, design or images of the story, but if it has the same vibration, it will inspire readers to pick up the book (and writers to keep writing them). Once in the pages, or theater, the concept works invisibly behind the text and images to sweep the audience away.

What are some of your favorite film or novel concepts? Do the taglines reflect them?

Sup authors, I'd love to know what you're working on now. Do you start with a tagline in mind? A core concept to keep you on track?

Feel free to share in the comments.

Kim Falconer is a Supernatural Underground author writing paranormal romance, urban fantasy, YA and epic science fantasy novels.

You can find out more about Kim at the 11th House Blog, and on FaceBook and Twitter.

She posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month and runs Save the Day Writer's Community on Facebook.

Her latest release is "Blood and Water" in Supernatural Underground: Vampires Gone Wild.


Helen Lowe said...

Hey Kim, a great post -- as always. :)

You asked what we're all working on right now. As you'll know from my SU posts, Daughter of Blood, the 3rd book in the Wall of Night series, is due out in January, so I have a lot to do to support that.

But I am also thrilled to be in the early stages of the 4th (and final) book in the series (Working title, The Chaos Gate.) It feels wonderful to be starting a new project, but I don't have a tagline for it, beyond that for the whole series: "If Night Falls, All Fall..." But we are getting to that final "fall of night" so it feels apt, all the same -- which probably isn't surprising since the WALL series is really 1 story told in 4 parts.

What about you, Kim, by the way--what are you working on right now? I'm betting there is a core concept. :)

Terri Garey said...

Oh, those pesky tag lines... how can something so short be so complex, hm? :) I always start with a core concept, and come up with a tag line only when I have to! For my Nicki Styx series, in which the main heroine sees the dead and solves the various mysteries surrounding their deaths, the tagline is "Dead girls are easy, it's the live ones who cause trouble!", and for my Devil's Bargain series, in which the Devil finds himself at a loss after being rejected by a mortal woman, it's "Idle hands are the Devil's workshop..."

I love that photo you used in the post, Kim!

T. Frohock said...

Great article, Kim!

I hate taglines. I only come up with them under duress and deadlines.

I usually write works first without considering the necessity for blurbs and taglines, then I try to find a catchy phrase within the manuscript that might encapsulate the idea behind the story.

I'm really tickled with the tagline my editor came up with for my Los Nefilim series: THE FATE OF MANKIND HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH MANKIND …

The one I came up with prior to that was: EVERYTHING DIES ... EVEN THE ANGELS.

Currently, I'm working on the last novella in the Los Nefilim cycle: THE SECOND DEATH.

Kim Falconer said...

Helen, I'm excited about that 4th book and yes, I find that, when writing s series, it's really one long story arc told in multiple titles. Inherited from J R R Tolkien I suppose.

Love your tag - "If Night Falls, All Fall..."

I am working on an Urban Fantasy series with a core concept of . . .Post fracking disaster plunges the world into chaos and only one woman has the key to survival. To bad nobody knows where she is . . ."

That's not the tagline, but a concept guide.

Working tagline is: "Some things are better left in the dark . . ."


Kim Falconer said...

Hi Terri, I love those taglines!

The image is amazing, isn't it. The link take you to the artist page on Deviant Art.

T! I love it when someone else "gets" the concept clearly and can come up with a tagline, just like that.

I admit to spending hours and hours struggling over them.

Thank you both for jumping in with your examples.

Helen Lowe said...

"Some things are better left in the dark . . ."

I like it!