What is a concept?

Novel writing is not a task to be scoffed at or taken lightly. It is a massive undertaking! Having a robust concept can help you keep a strong focus while taking plot deviations, encountering numerous characters and creating multiple twists and turns.

I have been writing about 1,000 – 1,500 words a day on my novel, but I’m floundering. Having found wholes in my storyline, I spent the weekend revisiting my research. And today I worked on writing the concept for my novel, thinking that this will help guide everything I do from here on in. But the idea of a story concept is foreign to me – I’m not actually sure what this is or how I go about developing one…so I read and researched and had a go.

“I hold the world but as the world…
A stage where every man must play a part…”                      

Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

You might think of a concept as the stage for a play – it is not the characters, costume, audience, set, backdrop, etc., but it is the place where the story is enacted.

“A story about discrimination and loneliness.” Does not make a compelling concept, so what exactly is a concept and how to you write an absorbing one?

“What if a young girl is lonely because she is subject to discrimination?” This is an ok statement, but not strong enough for to be a comprehensive concept for a novel.

“A story a young girl who moves to a new village and tries to fit in, but is lonely because the villagers discriminate against her, and drive her out of town.” This is getting better, it has some of the plot points that I want in there, but it is not a compelling concept. How can I develop this to be a riveting concept?

“Abandoned child seeking somewhere to belong is sent to castle to work for eccentric princess. The child makes three good friends and finds love but is persecuted by villagers, who out to burn her as a witch. Child escapes village with help of friends.” This is certainly better than my previous attempts, it conveys the core story without the themes of loneliness and discrimination, but the details are not quite right and it doesn’t convey the genre.

“A fantasy historical fiction in which an abandoned child seeking somewhere to belong is sent to a village to work in the castle for eccentric princess (who is suspected of vampirism). Child makes three good friends, finds love and discovers the secrets of her past, but is persecuted by villagers. Villagers, who accuse her of witchcraft, but child escapes village with help of friends and a little magic.” This is spot on. The core story is there, the genre is clear, and the details are succinct. I might choose to reword it slightly as I begin writing (it’s a little clunky), but as a platform from which to develop my novel, it’s pretty good.

Keep an eye out for the concept writing worksheet I will post tomorrow.

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