© 2021 by Ann Marie Williams
Concept gets them in the door…
Story gets them to stay…
Characters get them to come back…
Yes, it’s a super broad generalization. But I think this general idea is worth considering…
Concept Gets Them in the Door
A potential audience will be drawn to a project (a book, a movie, a short story, a series…) because of the concept.
A man stranded on Mars. Alone.
A theme park filled with living dinosaurs.
A boy who learns he’s a wizard and goes to a school of magic.
Concept (also known as premise) is the one idea that a story is built around. It’s the idea that allows for the plot to exist.
Concepts are typically enough to “hook” a potential reader/viewer and get them interested enough to purse the project further. To watch the trailer. To read book blurb. Or, if the concept alone is intriguing enough, to purchase the ticket/buy the book/tune in to the show.
In other words: the concept is what (again, we’re talking generalizations here) will typically get the audience interested enough to jump into the story…
Story Gets Them to Stay
Once an audience jumps into the book, the movie, the series, they will fairly quickly realize whether or not the story will live up to the concept. Does the plot actually explore on the concept? Is the tone consistent with what the concept suggested? Etc.
But, perhaps most importantly, the story needs to be interesting enough for the audience to want to see it through to the end.
Story is often interchangeable with plot. But it’s also how that plot is told, how the characters’ arcs are interwoven with the events of the plot, and the pacing and richness of how the story are conveyed. If all this (and, yes, a lot more) is done well, the audience will remain in the theater, continue with the series, or read every page of the book.
The audience will stay.
And if it’s all done well, the audience will be happy. And, hopefully, come back to the story again.
Character Gets Them to Come Back
Okay, I totally admit that a great plot can get an audience to return to a story a second time — especially if there’s a mystery involved that the audience will want to revisit to see how all the pieces fit together.
But, beyond that, typically what will draw an audience back to a story time and time again… are the characters. The individuals who fill the story.
Once an audience knows what happens in the story (the plot), then there’s not usually a reason to revisit the story many times. Unless the audience loves the characters and wants to go on their journey with them over and over, even if they know how that journey unfolds.
If the audience loves the characters, there’s also a greater chance for a sequel, a second season, or a spin-off.
Of Course, There are Exceptions
And that’s wonderful!
Perhaps it’s not the characters that bring and audience back, perhaps it’s the world. Think Star Wars or Star Trek. Yes, we love those characters. But, in addition, those worlds are so rich that we want to explore them further. Want to revisiting them many times.
Perhaps what brings and audience back is the beauty of the words — the poetic dialogue, or the rich descriptions.
The exceptions are, in other words, many and varied.
But simply being aware of this idea — that concept will draw an audience to the story… that the story will intrigue the audience enough to see the book/movie/series through to the end… and that the characters will get the audience to revisit the story over and over and over — can be helpful to the story you’re penning at the moment.
Being aware of the theory, and being able to identify where a story does or does not match this theory, can give some insight into how a story will need to be pitched/marketed (or it might reveal where a story or characters or concept need to be strengthened).