Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Wednesday Words: Plot Point for Point

There's an old saying in the literary world that there are only ten original plots. Characters, settings, languages, and genres change, but when you strip a story down to its bare bones, it will fit into one of these boxes that has existed for hundreds and hundreds of years. I don't actually believe this, but let's roll with it, shall we?

That can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending how you look at it.

On the one hand, as a writer I'm kind of annoyed. I'd like to think my great idea is mine and it certainly becomes a big part of me as I dedicate hours and give pieces of my soul to it. Of course on the other hand, I guess some of the pressure is off then because I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel.

Except I am, because I want my wheel to be so fabulous that someone will be my agent and it will get published.

Anyway! Similarities between stories feels like an inevitability. But I recently read a book that I totally loved, but couldn't help but notice a lot of similarities that it had with another book I adore. Protagonists shared more than a few personality traits in common, not exactly the same setting but close enough in that they both had fish out of water in a beautiful place thing going on, complicated relationships with family and friends, and a romance that is fought against because it's a bad idea for reasons X, Y, and Z, but that doesn't matter because these characters have to be together (and frankly, you see it coming from a mile away). There were even even multiple characters across the spread with a deep love for the same band (though I'm not going to penalize anyone for loving The Beatles - I'm fine with that trait being among all people, fictional or not).

So the question becomes this: when this happens, when two books are so alike, where do you draw the line? Is it cute, or redundant, and can you ever read the second one with fresh eyes or are you always comparing it to the one you read first?

These are non-rhetorical questions, people! Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

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