So, I’ve got a logline and synopsis…the last thing I’m missing is my high concept (the hook).
I dread this.
Well, let me clarify. I dread this for Three Proposals. I’ve had no problems coming up with high concept ideas for the other stories that are swimming around in my brain. But for this one? Ugh. It’s been a struggle.
For the uninitiated, a high concept is a way to convey the story in a few short, easy to recognize ideas that hook the reader (or listener). Here are some examples:
- “What if we could clone dinosaurs?” – Jurassic Park
- “When he said ‘I do,’ he never said what he did.” – True Lies
- “Snakes on a Plane” – (sometimes the title is the high concept)
- “Jaws” – (ditto on the title)
James Bonnet, writer and story consultant, identified in his article Conquering the High Concept four basic things you should identify to help create your high concept:
- Fascinating Subject
- Great Title, which tells the audience not only what the story is about, but the genre
- Inciting Action, which is the problem of your story
- Hook, which reveals the uniqueness or special circumstances of your story. Bonnet used a few examples: a baby left on a doorstep, not of a kindly nanny, but of three bachelors; star-crossed lovers meet not at a church social, but on the Titanic; a volcano erupts, not in the desert, but in the middle of a city.
So I did this for Three Proposals:
- Fascinating Subject – a pretend/masquerade marriage
- Great Title – Three Proposals isn’t all that exciting. I’ve been tossing around The Masquerade Marriage. Maybe that suits the story better. Another option is The Marriage Sham.
- Inciting Action – Susannah’s uncle forces her to marry someone she doesn’t wish to
- Hook – To avoid a real marriage, Susannah agrees to a fake one, or perhaps “she’s married to someone she isn’t really married to”
But I still felt stuck. So I did a bit more surfing on the ‘net and found some more suggestions on the Writing Room website to help me come up with a high concept.
- Think of opposites…stories, scenarios, and stereotypes that are turned on their ear. The examples they have are a lawyer that can’t lie (Liar Liar) and Peter Pan grows up (Hook).
- If that doesn’t work, ask “what if?” The Jurassic Park example above does this. Just try to think of this from a unique perspective.
- A third prompt is putting a spin on the traditional. Pick a favorite book or movie and spin it. Pretty Woman is Cinderella on the streets of LA.
I’ve thought a lot about movies that could help describe my high-concept. For example, one of the books I want to write is about a spy who’s been hired to find a missing girl. What no one knows is she had a baby out of wedlock at a home for unwed mothers and refuses to return to her family until she finds her infant daughter, who’s been sold. My high-concept for this one? James Bond meets Philomena.
But for Three Proposals? I’ve thought about movies with real-but-fake marriages, like Greencard and The Proposal, but they’re not quite the same. Still, they might be worth trying.
Here are some examples I’ve come up with (you can tell I’m not modest, because these are horrible):
- What happens when a woman falls in love with the man she marries, but isn’t really married to?
- It’s like Greencard, but with an illegitimate marriage and no French accents.
- It’s a marriage of convenience that isn’t even legal.
- Two strangers who “marry for love,” but aren’t really married.
- It’s like True Lies, but with an illegitimate marriage and no foreign accents.
(Yeah, that last one was a stretch…I know).
In any case, that’s the best I could come up with. If you have suggestions, no matter how silly/off-the-wall/crazy, I’m wide open. Throw them out there. Ditto if you need help with your high concept. Perhaps with enough collective brain power, we can come up with a good high concept idea for 3P, or for your story.