I write high-concept thrillers. Actually, when I first began my writing career I didn’t know that this would be my specialty genre – but as it turns out, the world of ideas shaking around inside my skull morphs itself into these ideas which push the envelope.
Most people know what a thriller is, just like they know what a romance or western or crime novel is – but what is a high-concept thriller?
Definitions vary depending on who you ask, but in my view of it, since I write in that world, the high-concept thriller covers sub-genres of thrillers, such as crime, scifi, geopolitical and suspense, all of which I write in, and what makes it a high-concept thriller is the originality and uniqueness of the idea which drives the book from the very outset. Whereas a romance novel, for instance, tends to appeal to emotions, sultry love scenes and betrayal of trust, the high concept thriller presents a unique twist which instantly conceptualizes an entirely different platform for the reader. A high-concept romance, if there is such a thing, would see the man falling in love with, let’s say, a woman from another dimension – thus converting it from the norm to the unusual. Such novels as Angels and Demons (Dan Brown), or The Martian (Andy Weir) might be seen as high-concept thrillers. The concepts themselves drive the story and the characters are developed along the way and add to the appeal.
In my case, my very first novel, The Buffalo Kid, is about a 71 year-old homeless man, living on the streets of Buffalo, New York. On a cold and windy night when his hungry stomach is growling at him, the old man, wearing little more than tattered clothes, unshaven and dirty, turns to a passing stranger and asks for some money. To his shock the man hands him a $50 bill and walks away. Stunned, the old man follows the stranger and soon discovers that the man is not from our world. And so begins a bizarre relationship and contract between an alien and a homeless man, and a test which they embark upon to see if mankind deserves what the alien can offer us. It’s a remarkably human story, with a lot of emotion, action, twists and turns, but the entire platform is based on an alien meeting a homeless man and what ensues – and that is a high-concept.
I thought I would just add my thoughts to help clarify this genre for readers.