I heard long ago that there are only seven original plots in the world. Well, Rudyard Kipling claimed 69, someone else claims 20, 36, and one guy boils it down to three. But the saying most of us know (I think) says there are seven. If you’re curious what they are, here is a great blog about the subject. And I’m okay with it, knowing that I write romance, which every single time breaks down into boy meets girl, boy screws up/loses girl, then they live happily ever after.
However (and I say this in an extremely put-upon tone), the tiny details of the plot are supposed to be original. We all have ideas and think – wow! No one else could put that spin on the Regency ball/heart of gold athlete/long lost twin. Well, I used to be a wedding planner. From my descriptions of the very first wedding I ever coordinated, all my friends (through their snorting laughter) said “you should write a book!”. After about a year, I agreed. Not that my weddings were a cluster of improbable badness, but emotions tend to run high at events that eat up $45,000 in one day, and people do weird things. So I jotted down all the funny happenstances, fully intending to spin them into a novel one day.
That day arrived. I filled out my plot outline. And then, much to my chagrin, Nora Roberts debuted her Bride Quartet. Four books about weddings. How could I possibly be mad – she’s my favorite author, and the books are terrific. But I worried that agents and publishers would read my query and think I copied her – and am only a pale imitation of the Great One. Nevertheless, I pushed on, confident that with my years of wedding experience, I had a great story to tell, and it didn’t matter.
I finished it, and went to RWA shopping it around. While there, I picked up the much anticipated Christie Ridgway book Crush On You. I’d looked forward to this for a year, ever since I gushed to her at the previous conference about her knitting novels, and she’d divulged that her next trilogy would take place at a winery. Well yes, it is set in a winery, but they do weddings at the winery. Uh oh – another fabulous, famous author doing a wedding trilogy while mine was trying to get noticed. I thought – this can’t be good. But I kept reading, remembering the great spin I’d planned around a reality show about weddings that twisted throughout myseries. Wouldn’t you know it – a third of the way in, Ms. Ridgway introduces a reality wedding show. I almost chucked the book across the room in my frustration (but I didn’t, because it is a really fun book that everyone should read – love her!).
I didn’t get much sleep that night. Would the publishing world would dismiss my book as a half-assed imitation of the real thing? Or do I believe that there really are only seven original plots, and it is okay, indeed, expected that there are similarities? Spoiler alert – the book sold, not long after. Kind bloggers and reviewers even mentioned that fans of certain other wedding series would enjoy mine, as well. So it worked out. You’ll even be able to grab a box set of the entire Aisle Bound series in August.
And then two years ago, when I took a research trip to the Finger Lakes – not exactly a standard setting in the romance world. Planned out a trilogy. Started working on the proposal. Anyone know where this is going? Yup – as I was shopping it around, the wonderfully talented Kristan Higgins announced her first trilogy – set in the Finger Lakes. I banged my head on the desk. I swore. I threw back multiple Dark & Stormys that night and railed against fate and my brilliant peers. And despite adoring her work, I refused to read the books as they released, so that nobody could ever accuse me of borrowing even a little. Which killed me, because I’m a huge fan girl.
But that series sold, too. Book 1 releases in June (woo hoo!). So is my takeaway that I’m plot cursed? That there really are a finite number of ideas? Or that it truly doesn’t matter one bit? I haven’t figured it out yet. Has this happened to any of you? Did it throw you into a panic? Make you contemplate changing a plot or a setting or a theme? Make you switch a character from a sexy tattoo artist to a sexy acupuncturist (come on, there’s gotta be one, right?) I’d love to hear your thoughts.