Tuesday, February 12, 2008


For sometime I've been a little disappointed with the ideas I've been generating in regards to plots - too trite, done before, not original enough, etc, etc.

I then remembered hearing somewhere (not sure when or where), that things are similar to ideas that have come before because there are only seven original plots.

I had an idea for a short, a little different to one I'd read last week, a different way of looking at the same thing. I was worried it wasn't original enough - solution - discover more about these so-called original seven plots.

My research has turned up some amazing stuff.

Within Google Answers I found this http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=210539 which has another link to a better article on the theme here http://www.ipl.org/div/farq/plotFARQ.html

Poe's Deadly Daughters has a slightly different take on this http://poesdeadlydaughters.blogspot.com/2007/09/only-so-many-stories-seven-original.html

So obviously I'm not the first (and I won't be the last) to have come to this conclusion that my ideas aren't original.

While struggling with this concept I read the current issue of Shadowed Realms (Issue 11) in which 13 short horror tales are told (including "Finding the Words" by Steven Cavanagh - 2006 winner of the AHWA flash fiction competition). They are all beautifully told tales from the dark side of writing that I would be loathed to try and categorise into one of seven basic plots. (Especially since a number of them are also written by fellow AHWA team members)

Of course I did but then I won't divulge my conclusions - try it yourself after reading them.

Even the 36 plot list found above seemed constraining so I looked further.

And I found this - http://emmajanedavies.wordpress.com/2004/04/02/plots-for-stories-and-novels/

This is an amazing breakdown of plots and an excellent article on the original plots in its own right. In the end Emma Davies (read her BIO - she's definitely different) breaks down the 36 point plot list into a staggering 380 something sub plots! If you're ever stuck for a plot idea, have a scan through this.

In the end, plot is important but there are only so many of them. It's your characters and what you do with them that will pull a reader in. More importantly, it is how you write what your characters do that will pull the agents and editors in.

No-one will look at a plot exactly like you do. No-one will use the same characters or the same traits that you give them. No-one will do to them what you will.

That is where the differences and originality needs to be. Dark stormy nights in ramshackle houses will always be around, but what happens within those walls, to who, how and in the manner it is presented to the reader is where you will win.

Good luck with those submissions.

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