Script readers consider many different things when providing feedback. For example, there are five main categories in WeScreenplay coverage: Character, Plot, Structure, Dialogue, and Concept Analysis. Though it may not be one of the most common notes given by readers, let’s talk about story concept.
What’s a “concept” of a story? It’s what the story is about. For script coverage, this category is scored based on how compelling and interesting the idea for the story is. At its core, a strong concept makes someone want to read your script based on the logline alone.
We asked a professional script reader to give us an idea of what a good story concept looks like, so take a look at these examples from some of today’s top TV shows.
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Existing Shows That Would Earn a ‘Virtually Perfect’ Story Concept Rating
The logline for Severance is “Mark leads a team of office workers whose memories have been surgically divided between their work and personal lives. When a mysterious colleague appears outside of work, it begins a journey to discover the truth about their jobs.”
It’s a high-concept series with a premise that immediately invites us into a mystery, makes us want to know more, and connects to its audience with a universally relatable theme. It’s easy to describe and leaves room for the show to explore the mystery through multiple seasons.
The logline for The Boys is “a group of vigilantes sets out to take down corrupt superheroes who abuse their superpowers.” This story concept asks the crystal clear “what if?” question of “what if superheroes weren’t the good guys?”
It’s simple, but it takes a well-worn and easily recognizable genre and turns it on its head in an original and attention-grabbing way.
The logline for Barry is “a hit man from the Midwest moves to Los Angeles and gets caught up in the city’s theatre arts scene.” Again, this story concept plays with our existing understanding of certain types of characters and subverts them.
It’s a fish-out-of-water idea that makes us wonder what will happen when that character is placed in such an uncharacteristic situation.
The logline for Succession is “the Roy family is known for controlling the biggest media and entertainment company in the world. When their father steps down from the company, the family begins to tear itself apart from within.”
Already we know the stakes are high, we know that there will be endless family conflict, and the catalyst for the series makes us want to know what’s going to happen to the family.
The logline for The Dropout is “a TV series that chronicles Theranos founder and accused grifter Elizabeth Holmes’ attempt to revolutionize the healthcare industry after dropping out of college and starting a technology company.”
IP and stories based on true events will almost always spark interest. Audiences love to learn more about sensational people and events.
How to Improve a Low Concept Rating
“If a script gets a low Concept rating, then the idea of the story doesn’t elicit interest,” shared our reader. The story concept should be attention-grabbing and, down the line, marketable. Ask yourself why you are telling your story and why that story would appeal to your audience. If you feel that you have a strong concept then you must also ask yourself if you actually executed your concept in your screenplay.
“Ask yourself what about the story and characters is unique and sets the script apart and how can you pull those elements out?” suggests our reader. “Maybe the story currently plays it safe and we’ve seen the plot and characters too many times before. Maybe the stakes are too low, and it’s hard to care if the characters solve their conflict or not.” It’s not just about having a vision — it’s about executing that vision with compelling characters and plots.
A Low Concept Rating Doesn’t Mean Your Script is Bad
It’s important to keep in mind what you hope to achieve with your script. If you’re an emerging writer, your goal might not be to market and sell the script but to secure representation. That said, potential reps are looking for material that can become profitable.
“A low concept, character-driven script might get a low Concept score, but that doesn’t mean the script itself is poor. It does mean that your script will likely be harder to sell — and if you’re earlier in your career, focusing on a concept that makes your audience want to learn more is advisable.”
If your logline doesn’t excite your trusted colleagues, then you may have to work a bit more on getting to the heart of the age-old question: “why this story and why now and why are you the one to write it?”
Shannon Corbeil is a writer, actor, and filmmaker in Los Angeles with recent appearances on SEAL Team and The Rookie. An Air Force veteran, her articles have been published in Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, and Military.com. She has written and produced hundreds of digital videos with millions of views. You can read more about her on her website or come play on Instagram and Twitter!