In seeking originality, we are not talking about reinventing the wheel. We can take traditional subject matter that's been done before and add a hook or twist to it which then qualifies the material as original. Using the kidnapping plot, there have been dozens of films which covered that subject area before. In the film Ransom, Mel Gibson plays a wealthy businessman whose son is kidnapped. That story in itself offers nothing new. The hook of the movie which makes it original is that instead of paying the ransom, Gibson uses the ransom money to pay for a contract hit on the kidnappers. That twist makes the film original and therefore High Concept.Some plots are familiar and comfortable. There's room for such stories. But if you're trying to break in with agents and editors, I'm guessing something fresh is the way to go. When I’m judging fifty contest entries, I want something to POP off the page. And when agents and editors are reading through their hundreds upon hundreds of queries, they want the same thing. They want to be grabbed by something new and improved.
- Godzilla in Disneyland = Jurassic Park
- Rags to riches story at the race track = Seabiscuit
- Oliver Twist meets Superman = Harry Potter
My themes, settings, characters, and plots should be universally:
Sally Apokedak has published short works in a number of places, has won various and sundry contests, and has received an SCBWI Work in Progress grant. She's between agents at present, and can be found blogging about young adult novels at sally-apokedak.com.