Quick Writing Tips #4 – Concept

There’s a lot of ink spilled about ‘concept.’ When someone focuses obsessively on ‘concept,’ though, you can almost be assured they’re not a writer. So what is ‘concept’ and how do you explain your story to someone who thinks ‘concept’ and story are the same thing?

‘Concept’ Is For Bean-Counters

This comes from Hollywood, where people with more money than good sense finance movies. They want to know what the movie will be about, without bothering with nuance or subtlety, or even how to tell a story in the first place. This shortcut to ignorance has spilled over into books.

‘Concept’ is a one-sentence description of your story, that grabs someone’s attention and lets them know all they need to know in order to commit millions of dollars to making movie magic happen. Yeah. Once sentence. Your 80,000 word labor of love distilled into one sentence. Impossible.

So ditch the idea. Unless you’re going to be in the office of some Hollywood mogul – and let’s face it, you’re probably not anywhere close – forget about what ‘concept’ your story has.

You can probably distill your story into a shorter description than you have so far, but you’re too close to it to do so. That’s why you have friends. Ask them to read your story and tell you what it’s about. You’ll probably be surprise by how concise they can be describing your rambling tale.

Focus On What Your Story’s About

Beginning – Middle – End. That’s your story. There’s liable to be a theme or two in there, and maybe a lesson or message. But at a bare minimum, your characters start somewhere, go through some stuff, and come out the other side different than they were before. Maybe better, maybe worse, maybe a little of both. That’s your ‘concept.’

Can you tell your story in one sentence? Unless it’s a really long run-on, probably not. So don’t worry about it. Make the best story you possibly can. Think about how you would describe your favorite book to someone who’d never read it. There’s NO WAY you could distill it to one sentence. So don’t try with yours. You do your thing, leave the marketing to people better suited to it.

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