Our “original” house, at its most basic level, is a copy of other men’s work. For example, it is a ranch style house with a large front porch. Because you have seen many such houses (built by innumerable men and women), you have a good idea of what my house looks like; and yet, at the same time, you have no idea. You don’t yet know what pitch of roof we’ve chosen, how many windows we built into it, or even what color the siding is. Or, is there siding at all? What if we chose brick? These, and so many other details are still a mystery to you, yet they are what makes our house “ours.”
So it is with plots. Every story is a copy of another man’s work. The trick is to mix and match the details to meet your character’s specific interests, needs, and desires.
Don’t believe me? Consider these examples:
1. The Harry Potter series oozes with mythic characters and mythic journeys.
2. Several episodes of the television series, “Home Improvement,” were based off plots introduced in the earlier sitcom, “The Cosby Show.”
3. The classic novel, “Jane Eyre” is a twist on the fairytale, “Beauty and the Beast.”
4. “Rebecca,” another, more recent classic novel, has elements of both “Jane Eyre” and “Beauty and the Beast.”
5. Mary Higgins Clark’s novel, “A Cry in the Night” is based on the original tale of “The Little Mermaid.”
Still don’t believe me? Then you must be one of those writers who has to watch and see and sweat out the truth on your own. But that’s okay. There’s much of that “do-it-yourself” characteristic in every writer. That’s how we improve. How we create that story that is explicitly our own.