Monday, August 13, 2012

Outline Madness Wrap-up: Steal This Plot

Tip of the Day: The online writing conference Write On Con starts tomorrow morning. Check it out!

Okay, so you have a great setting and characters and you need some more ideas. Here's my last bit of advice: why not steal a plot?

I don't mean from your critique partners. But why not use a tried-and-true template to build on? Fairy tales, Shakespeare, the Honeymooners. My last book starts out with a brother and sister who live with their father. Food is getting scarce, and the new woman in Dad's life wants the old family gone. The brother and sister try to rescue each other. Yup, Hansel and Gretel. There are hundreds of settings and time periods where you could use the beginning of that fairy tale, and a wide variety of characters who would react to that set-up in different ways.

International folklore is another gold mine of plot ideas. Do you know what a ghoul is? In ancient Arabian folklore, dead prostitutes lured men out into the desert and devoured them. I've already got a story idea based on that hook.

Check out this title coming in 2013, The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd. It's based on the fictional life of the daughter of Dr. Moreau from The Island of Dr. Moreau. I really want to read that!

Whether your characters are making a Faustian bargain, getting help from a guardian angel, or being toyed with by a trickster fairy, take that traditional plot and give it a good twist. What bothers you about the original story? Where do you think it should come out differently? I hated that at the end of Hansel and Gretel, the kids run back to their criminally negligent father and the stepmother has magically disappeared. I knew my story wouldn't end like that. Also, it's hard not to be sympathetic to the ghouls. Has anyone ever taken their side before? You will imprint your personality onto the story like that. So it's not really copy-catting. It's,um, drawing from our rich cultural heritage.

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages


DeenaML said...

Aha! Hansel and Gretel! Got it!

Emily Marshall said...

As they say, there are no new plot lines anyway. So might as well start with some basic plots and completely make it your own!