Plots part 1

Spent a good portion of my writing time dealing with computer updates. Typewriters have their faults, but you never need to reboot them or deal with the blue screen of death. But I digress.

Today’s thought is on plots. I expended years trying to come up with an original plot, because that’s what I thought good writers did. Gradually I came to realize that there are no new plots. Every author borrows from those who have come before. Take Star Trek – The Wrath of Khan for example. It is basically a variation on  Moby Dick. Hell, they even used lines directly from Melville’s classic. Gene Roddenberry, admired the works of Will Shakespeare and often appropriated from his plays. The Bard himself borrowed from the Greeks, and I would bet good money that Homer borrowed from earlier writers.

While researching ideas for an upcoming work, I watched the BBC version of Agatha Christie’s The Yellow Iris with David Suchet. The plot interested me so I dug up a copy of Christie’s original work and was surprised to find it was a short story of no more than 10,000 words first published in issue 559 of the Strand Magazine in July 1937. Further research reveled that Christie’s reused the basic plot in Remembered Death (later renamed Sparkling Cyanide) published in February of 1945, a story in which  Hercule Poirot does not appear.For the 1993 BBC production, the screen writers borrowed from both stories and added a few twists of their own.

Borrowing plots ideas is a time-honored tradition used by authors both great and unknown. My suggestion, borrow from the best and work at making it your own.

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