Fiction Tips: Finding Ready-Made Plots

Fiction Tips: Finding Ready-Made Plots

We’re discussing fiction tips this week, with a focus on plotting. If plotting’s a challenge for you, you’ll find your own inspiration in our new Plot FAST, Publish FAST: Craft Bestselling Fiction In Any Genre program.

Plot FAST, Publish FAST: Craft Bestselling Fiction In Any Genre

Plots start with the seed of an idea. Most writers have more ideas than they know what to do with. Ideas for your plots are everywhere. Sadly, an idea isn’t a complete plot. As Google points out, a plot is: “the main events of a play, novel, movie, or similar work, devised and presented by the writer as an interrelated sequence.” Many writers get a great idea, write three chapters and stop. Ideas have a way of losing steam because they’re merely seeds.

What if You Could Find Plots Ready-Made?

It would be lovely if a plot were handed to you. They can be, if you know where to look. Shakespeare wasn’t big on original plots. As Shakespeare Online says: “With the exception of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Love’s Labour’s Lost and The Tempest, which are wholly original stories, Shakespeare borrowed his plots, down to fine detail.” If the bard can do it, you can too.

Let’s look at some sources for ready-made plots.

1. History: Hilary Mantel Grabbed Thomas Cromwell.

If you love history, you’ll find millions of plots, ready-made. Just find a person who intrigues you. Hilary Mantel did, and the third book in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy is due for publication in 2015.

I’m a huge Hilary Mantel fan; I love Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies even thought she writes in third person, present tense. This is a very up-close and personal third person. I usually hate this kind of affectation, but for whatever reason, in these two books it works. I got half-way through Wolf Hall, before I got confused with the pronouns in a paragraph and realized what she was doing… the woman can write.

OK, digressions aside, history abounds in plots. And writers use them daily, in books, movies and TV series. If you’re a fan of the TV series Vikings for example, you know that this is the saga of the Viking chieftain Ragnar Lothbrok.

2. Fairy Tales: Cinderella’s a Ready-Made Romance.

Fairy tales are sources for plots too. Poor old Cinderella’s story has been re-imagined by Disney, and by thousands of writers. It’s a ready-made romance. You could set it in the present day, or at any period in history.

How about story of the Three Little Pigs as a political satire?

3. Tales From the Gossip Columns… Romans à clef.

If you love celebrity gossip, you could consider a roman à clef.

Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics is a classic example of a roman à clef, a novel in which real people are disguised as fictional characters.

Ideally, when you write a roman à clef you’ll disguise your real people so cleverly that no one will ever know that your story’s based on real life.

Public Domain Sources for Plots: Be Careful.

“Disguising” brings us to a discussion of copyright. Generally speaking, any book which was published before 1923 is out of copyright, and its characters are fair game. This is why you see so many novels derived from Jane Austen’s books on Amazon. Jane’s world is open to anyone who wants to write about Austen’s characters.

However this is not always true. An example: Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan character. If you want to create a plot based on a book which appears to be in the public domain, check carefully that no extant copyrights apply.

Have fun looking for ready-made plots. If you’ve ever wanted to write a story about someone like Anne Boleyn, go right ahead. Or write a roman à clef, in which you heavily disguise the characters in the latest celebrity scandal. :-)

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Angela Booth is a copywriter, author published by major publishers, and writing teacher. She offers many guides, courses and classes to help writers to enhance their skills at her online store. She also provides inspiration and motivation for writers on her writing blogs. Angela has been writing successfully since the late 1970s, and was online in the 1980s, long before the birth of the Web. Her novels and business books have been widely published.

About Angela Booth

Angela Booth is a copywriter, author published by major publishers, and writing teacher. She offers many guides, courses and classes to help writers to enhance their skills at her online store. She also provides inspiration and motivation for writers on her writing blogs. Angela has been writing successfully since the late 1970s, and was online in the 1980s, long before the birth of the Web. Her novels and business books have been widely published.