Go Green with Your Writing: Reuse

Apr 16, 2013 by


Is it OK to have a plot that feels like it’s been done already or ‘reused’? It actually is!

You might have a story that resembles someone else’s whether that’s because you didn’t know about theirs at the time or unintentionally copied or whatever the reason; I know I have stories like that and I’m going to share what I learned.

Number one, there aren’t that many original ideas anyway. A lot of stories boil down to the same thing, just look at comic books, romance novels and murder mysteries, after awhile  they tend to have similar plot structures. Since I know more about superheroes than the other two I mentioned I’ll use that as an example:

  • Someone is mad at the world and probably wants revenge
  • Accident happens and a guy ends up with powers, armor, magic item, etc.
  • While figuring out these new powers the hero is slowly introduced to the villain
  • The villain’s evil plot is revealed
  • Girl is in danger
  • Hero saves the girl and defeats the bad guy

How many stories did I just sum up? So what makes us go back for more time and time again? Two main things:

One, details, I doubt anyone else could tell The Lord of the Rings like Tolkien did; and chances are no one can tell your story like you can.

And second, the characters, going back to superheroes what really makes Iron Man different from Spider Man isn’t their abilities or social status but they themselves. Peter Parker and Tony Stark see being a hero differently so when we see their story we see it differently too and it doesn’t feel like the same story.

Also plot twists help stories from seeming reused, it’s so much fun to make someone think they know where the story’s going. I know that’s easier said than done but try figuring out what the most obvious thing to happen next would be and change it up. (It also helps to have beta readers and see what they think will happen next.) For example say you’re writing a seven samurai/magnificent seven like story, everyone knows what happens, a group of people all come together to save the town; but what if when they got there we find out that they’re really there to con everyone and have no interest in saving the town? Or what if in the end one was revealed to be a bad guy in disguise?

Well that’s it for this green writing tip, come back on Earth day for the last one.

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