Plots are limited, and that’s a fact. If you think you can make up a unique plot all by yourself, think again. I’m not saying that it isn’t possible – maybe you can do it — but it’s as difficult as climbing Mt. Everest without oxygen.
Why is this so? Because there have been writers for centuries and centuries, and every plot you think of has already been done, been written or been told in one form or another. The details may be different – the characters may be different, and the setting may be different. But the plot will be similar; the issue of plagiarization will rise.
It’s a big claim to make. Is your writing original? Maybe you struggle with plots. Maybe you can’t seem to find a suitable plot.
Maybe it doesn’t fit.
Maybe it seems like it’s been done before, and many times.
And this statement may be true. After all, there only some plots in the world. The human brain can’t make up plots. What are plots anyway? They are happenings. When you write them, it feels that they are fictional, that they haven’t been done before. But they have been. They were real once. Then stories were told of the real happenings. Facts were twisted a bit. Imagination was brought in to make them more dramatic, more story like.
The result? You had a plot. This went on for centuries. In fact, Christopher Brooker said that in the world, there are only seven different plots in fiction. All over the world, editors agree with him, saying there are only so-and-so plots, man against nature, man against man, man against himself etc. New stories may be unique and special, but the plot which acts as the foundation of them most certainly isn’t.
Now we worry about plots. We search and hunt for plots. We search out brains in vain. We look at the newspapers. We get a few, but then worry that they aren’t unique. We search again. We buy books. We watch TV. We listen to the radio, hoping to catch the One Plot which Evades Us. In vain. Nothing happens. No plot, only frustration.
That’s when we see that hunting for plots is futile, worthless, and useless.
Search for Ideas, Don’t Hunt for Plots
Roald Dahl once said that he wrote down ideas which appeared to him in a small notebook. He said that he did this because “plots themselves are very hard to come by. Each year they get harder and harder to find.”
I loved that last statement, because it is an acknowledgment that plots are limited and as new books are published, they get more and more so. An idea is better. There are so many ideas. Hunting for an Idea isn’t as futile as hunting for a plot, because ideas can be unique, and plots can’t (at least now).
Where can ideas be found? Everywhere. In your own previous writing. Your journal (if you happen to have one). Newspapers, novels, television, films, etc. Don’t try to steal plots; if you do, then your writing will not be original, and that’s a strong bad assessment. Only try to take an idea. If you can’t seem to find one, then make it up. Ideas are often only a sentence or two long. If you told me to find ideas, I would give you 500 in 15 minutes (not exaggeration). If I had to write a story for each of them, then I wouldn’t have time to hunt for anymore.
You can make up ideas just by reading and observing. It’s as simple as that, the same formula for trying to write an essay. If you really do observe, then naturally, ideas will occur to you. Take a good one.
Once you have an idea…
Create a Character
Yes. Create a three dimensional character. Create his flaws. Create his ambition. Create everything, his looks, his intellect, the things he excels at, and the things he fails at. He should be like a real life person.
If you do manage to create the character which meets the description above, congratulations. Then you don’t need to worry about a plot. Because there’s a well known expression out there, the one which says “Let your characters take the wheel.” Yes, you do need to plan beforehand (your idea comes in handy now), you do need to know what happens ahead, but when your character leads you to a different path, maybe you need to follow him/her. Maybe it’s better.
And then you realize that if you create an awesome character, there’s no pressure to hunt for a unique plot. Your character will make it up. No, it won’t be unique. But the story will certainly be, because your character is!
Don’t Rule Out Searching for Plots
Maybe you’re a different kind of person. Maybe you do need to hunt (yes, fancy word) for a plot. That’s okay, all fiction writers are different. No need to follow my advice if you love plot hunting, aren’t frustrated with it, and the results are good.
But for the rest of us… plot hunting is undesirable (at least, for me. Feel free to disagree on this).
Have Your Say
What do you think on plot searching? Do you agree that it is worthless and we should look for a better alternative? Or do you think that it serves its purpose and isn’t so bad as I make it out? Your comments, rants, discussions etc are welcome, so come leave a comment below.
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