Finding a good argument is not easy. If it were, we’d all be best-sellers. It’s complicated but not impossible. If you want to find a good story, there are some tips that can help you.
The Best Seller Paradox
Great thrillers often have plots that can be described in a single sentence. And of course they are great ideas. If you stop to think about your favourite novels, you will realize the paradox that their plots imply, because they are, at the same time: unusual and obvious (at least they were at the time they were written). That is because they are powerful premises, easy to sell.
The «High-Concept» and the frames
First of all we are going to define what the High Concept is. Although it is mostly used on television (shows and series), it is about the symptoms that make your book something that will be easy to sell. Some of those symptoms are these:
- Easy to explain
If the plot of your novel is easy to explain, it will attract the reader’s attention immediately (and in the end, that’s what it is). As soon as they know what your novel is about, they will have an immediate idea of whether or not they are interested in what you have to tell them.
It is assumed that the idea of High concept was invented by Michael Eisner, who was a producer for Paramount and Disney, responsible for great successes such as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade or The Lion King. He used that concept himself to produce some of the best movies of recent times.
Why do you need a High concept plot
First of all, it will help you define in a few words what your book is about, what the essence of your novel will be. With that in mind, you can focus on writing.
Second, it will make your novel sell more easily. If you are going to sell your novel to an agent, a publisher, or you are going to sell it yourself, you need to catch future readers. If you can’t do it quickly, they won’t buy you anything. If your plot is difficult to explain or understand, it will cost you a lot to sell your book.
How to find that idea
The best way to find those big ideas that are both obvious and unusual is to reference something familiar and turn it around completely. Then your reader will see the obvious (that familiar, familiar story) and the special (whatever spin you want to put on it). Your reader will see that you have been able to tell a familiar story, in a completely different way.
Here are five ways to generate ideas:
- Bring two authors together
- Mix two books or two movies
- Take a book, an author or a movie and imagine it from another point of view
- Ask yourself: What if…?
- Search the news (and flip it)
Two writers together
Many authors define their works as a mixture of other authors.
What would The Spy Who Came from the Cold look like if it had been written by Suzanne Collins?
What would 39 Steps be written by Ian Flemming?
Mix two books or two movies
Another good idea is to mix two movies or novels that apparently have nothing to do with each other.
What if we mix Casino Royale with El Día del Jackcal?
A misplaced book or writer
This is a great way to be obvious and unusual. There are some stories that cannot be written in any other way. Although that does not mean that we cannot move them around, move them around to see how they work from another point of view.
I would love to read The Hunt for Red October set in space.
Imagine The Scarlet Pimpernel during the Vietnam War.
Search the news
What’s in the news What is happening right now? As I write, fundamentalist terrorism is more fashionable than ever, our freedom of expression and in some way our entire way of life are at risk. What can you get out of all this? Think about what Tom Clancy would write.
What if? (what if…?)
This is where you can let your imagination soar. Think about what you want, history, things that are happening right now and ask yourself: What if nothing is what it seems? What if this is all a lie? Search the internet for conspiracy theories (it’s full), some of them boast a very flowery imagination. Get engorged!
What if Snowden is actually a CIA agent?
What if Wikileaks is actually the Chinese intelligence service?
What if Islamic terrorism is financed by the Vatican?
These ideas don’t make sense
Yes, they are huge bullshit. But that’s where I wanted to go. Think about it, we are brainstorming. Turn off the switch on criticism and reason for a while, put on the gullible disguise, and let all the ideas flow. The crazier the better. Anyone can come up with normal ideas.
What you have to understand with this brainstorming is that different ideas, unusual ones, are so difficult for us to find. The problem is that most of them look like bullshit to us, like this:
Swans are actually alien spies.
It is a different idea, unusual, but surely you will not like it and you will not pay much attention to it. But a good professional ghostwriter would know how to make it work, maybe as a comedy. Although, let’s face it, it would be difficult to sell.
The best thing you can do is keep brainstorming, writing more and more crazy ideas, until you find the one that says, “It’s me, I’m here. I am the one who is worth it. “
Wait! I want to read it
Now that you have your idea, you have to make sure that you will be able to explain it in a few words, in order to attract the attention of your readers. The issue is to explain the plot of your novel, and make the reader think: I read it!
Make your plot as easy to explain as possible. Imagine that for every extra word you use, you’ll have a 10% less chance of selling your book.
Ideas, and what else?
Well for now we have discovered a few things:
- You need an idea that sells. A High Concept idea.
- The keys to brainstorming.
- How to specify that idea to make it more attractive.
If you are able to follow this method you will soon discover how easy it can be to come up with great ideas. But… I think something is missing, right?
Having an idea and writing it is fine, but the success of a novel depends 100% on its ending. Do you want to know how to write the best ending for your novel? Then you will have to visit Behind a Writing, from my friend Ana Bolox. There I explain how to finish your novel in a big way.
Are you going to miss it?