Concept is, bottom line, more a CONTEXT for the premise-driven story that emerges from it.
Sometimes the context of a story is indeed situational. Sometimes, though, it is merely a contextual framework that could apply to any number of situations.
“Concept,” as a powerful storytelling tool, continues to befuddle and amaze.
I’ve heard from two readers on this recently.
One of them dismissed the whole conversation with an oversimplification: “Concept is setting. Nothing complicated about it.”
That’s true. Until it isn’t true. Because there are several other contexts that offer a story a compelling source of richness at the conceptual level.
The other reader, less sure and dismissive, suggested that concept is “a situation.” This is also often true… but sometimes a concept is less situation and more a description of focus and topical or issue-driven arena.
I’d like to share my response to the latter reader here. Hope it helps clarify.
The reason concept is tricky, hard to grasp, is that it can reside in several camps… each of them creating context before a plot or even a protagonist is added to the mix.
The primary criteria for concept is this: the conceptual “idea” is something that causes someone to say, “now THAT has my interest… haven’t really seen that before, or if I have I want more… so I want to read whatever story arises from that.”
Notice there is no story yet. Just the context for one.
It can be a thematic concept, such as “The Help.” What if we set a story in the 1960s deep south, from various POVs of domestic employees? You could argue that this is a sort of situation, but really, it’s not situational yet. It’s more contextual.
While these are, technically, “situations” in the loosest sense, I suppose, most of these are more CONTEXTUAL than situational… they present a compelling context to a story… or many possible stories… that are set within that context.
From this we can conclude that, as a truism, it is PREMISE that offers up a situation, because within premise there is a problem and a goal and an obstacle, which is the very essence of situation.
A situational premise, when it works, emerges from within the CONTEXT of the concept itself.
The risk is having nothing much at all that is conceptual, in any of these contexts. That handicaps a story right out of the starting gate. Just as true is a premise that isn’t situational, which means it is more or less void of dramatic tension, which almost always renders it DOA.
Story Coaching Discount for March
To fill some open slots in my late March and April schedule, I am discounting my Full Story Plan Analysis by 25% if you enroll by the end of March. Once enrolled you can take all the time you want to apply the Questionnaire to help develop your story plan prior to submission (and it’s a killer criteria-driven story development tool).
This is a great way to save some money by acting now, while greatly empowering your story in the process.
The normal fee for this Questionnaire-driven process is $245. Opt-in by March 31 and the cost is only $183.75 (first quartile pages remain available at the normal $350 add-on fee).
Use the CONTACT tab to request an invoice at this discounted rate.
Or, if you want to focus on your concept and premise for now, click HERE to learn about my Quick Hit Concept Analysis service, at only $49. Given the critical nature of concept and premise – the whole deal depends on you nailing this – this might be the best story coaching value in the history of the trade.