In fourth grade I snapped my leg in half. It was about as pleasant as it sounds. (Also, loud.) As a result I had to use crutches for two months. All of the other kids were jealous because, come on, crutches? So cool!
Or not so much. Your arms get sore, and your ribs chafe. You inevitably trip on stairs, and just try carrying something from place to place. (On the bright side, they did get me out of cleaning the kitchen on the chores rotation--a fact my sisters were not pleased with.) The whole point of crutches is that they enable you to get from place to place, but they're utterly lacking in convenience, they hurt, and grace? Forget about it. You're going to be clunky.
Crutches in writing are just as bad. I've noticed in my genre particularly--but really in any high concept book--that the dependence on the hook can be so strong you lose other essential elements.
(You know what I mean by high concept, right? It's that BIG hook that shows up in a lot of books. A sixteen-year-old girl works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency. A teenage girl is forced to fight other teens to the death on national television. A girl falls into other people's dreams. A normal girl falls in love with a vampire/fallen angel/werewolf/faerie.)
I'll be the first to admit that having a big hook makes plotting easier. It adds instant drama, makes for engaging twists, etc. The story itself becomes larger than life. Which is why it is so important--absolutely vital--that you don't let the hook take over and use it as a crutch. Your hook should never, ever take the place of well-rounded and fully-developed characters. It should never take the place of tight plotting and engaging writing.
Take Hunger Games as an example. It's not an original hook--the idea of people hunting each other or even kids having to fight to the death has been done before--but where Collins knocks it out of the park is in execution. The world building is immaculate and the characterizations are fully realized. I don't want to be Katniss's best friend (since, uh, friends of hers have a tendency to die incredibly brutal deaths), but I feel like I know her. I don't agree with all of her choices, but I know why she makes them. She's a person, not just a vehicle for the Big Plot. Panem and the way it works isn't just a hastily-constructed background, it's an active and integral part of the story. The romance doesn't happen because the plot calls for it and so it must happen, it happens as a natural extension of who Katniss is and what she's put through.
That is why, I think, Hunger Games has done so well. Is it high concept? Absolutely! But the characterizations, the plotting, the setting, the writing--these are what stick with you. High concept novels are a dime a dozen, but it's only those that avoid using the hook as a crutch that make an impact.
The books that are the most disappointing to me are those that use their hook in place of character development. The main characters never become people--they're there just to serve the purposes of the hook, to act out their parts of the manufactured drama. I never connect, and no matter how cool or interesting the hook is, nothing stays with me after I close the pages.
So, let's remember: crutches are not cool. They're a pain, and they're awkward, and no one walks away from their time with crutches with any fond memories. I would say the higher the concept or the cooler the hook, the more imperative it becomes for all the other elements to be that much better. Don't expect to slide by on concept alone, or you may find yourself tripping on the stairs.
And I'll have absolutely no pity for your chafed ribs.
(Speaking of books with high concepts, the first seventy pages of Paranormalcy are available right now--for free! No pressure on me, after writing this post . . . heh . . . hmmm.)