Sunday, March 18, 2012

Speaking of High Concept: Fitzgerald on Hollywood and Novels

In my quest to read or re-read classics, I've been reading F. Scott Fitzgerald's THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE DAMNED for the first time.  In one scene, set at a dinner party, a novelist meets a movie producer.  The following conversation ensues:
"I hear all the new novels are sold to the moving pictures as soon as they come out."
"That's true.  Of course the main thing in a moving picture is a strong story."
"Yes, I suppose so." 
"So many novels are all full of talk and psychology.  Of course those aren't as valuable to us.  It's impossible to make much of that interesting on the screen." 
"You want plots first," said Richard brilliantly. 
"Of course.  Plots first."  
Fitzgerald's novel was published in 1922, but this could have been a conversation at a writing conference today.  THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE DAMNED itself certainly falls more into the category of "talk and psychology."  Fitzgerald captures moments, conversations, characters and images with such clarity and has such magnificent facility in the way he uses words that plot just doesn't seem so important.  I doubt anyone would consider his work to be "high concept."  "Literary fiction" perhaps?

There's an interesting challenge:  Write a pitch or query for a classic work of literature.  Can you spin it as "high concept"?

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