Creating the full-fledged plot for a novel can be a difficult process.
There are many elements you need to consider before you can be assured of its strength and readability. Maybe you have some great ideas, but you’re having trouble working them into the correct story structure.
An easy way to know you’re on the right track is simply to get sneaky:
Steal someone else’s ideas.
Will they mind? Of course, unless you take their ideas and make them your own. Be assured, you can steal someone else’s plot and easily revamp it into something completely unrecognizable–even to the original story’s author.
Is it immoral? No way. There are only so many basic stories in the world. All the rest are simply variations of each other.
Famous Examples of Fiction Thieves
There are probably thousands upon thousands of examples of books based on other books, but here are 3 I’ve thought up off the top of my head:
- Vernon God Little, by DBC Pierre. Narrative style based on The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger.
- Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys. Prequel of Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte.
- Mister Pip, by Lloyd Jones. Built around the book Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens.
Each of these books borrows or builds upon elements from classic literature in some way, and have been all the more successful for it.
How to Steal Fiction
Whether you plan on using this system as a creative writing exercise, or you’re actually going to write an entire novel based on something you’ve read elsewhere, here are 7 key ways to steal fiction and get away with it:
- Try a classic. Take a hint from fairy tales, Bible stories, classic novels and epic poems for inspiration. Because they’re long dead, the authors of these books will hardly mind if you use their ideas.
- Change the setting. Take a story and set it in a different era, a different culture (think of the film Bride and Prejudice), or a different country.
- Combine two or more plots. If you can find two novels that share similar characters, themes or conflicts, try combining them in some way to create something entirely new.
- Choose a different narrator. Tell the same story, but from the point of view of another character. Wide Sargasso Sea is a prequel to Jane Eyre, but Rhys changes the narrator from Jane to Rochester’s wife, so we get a completely different point of view.
- Snatch a conflict. If you find the conflict of a novel particularly compelling, take it for your own. You can change the characters, the setting, the other elements of the plot, but simply keep the main conflict.
- Extend a plot. Take the original story and extend it in some manner. Write what came before the start of the story, or what happened after the ending. Imagine what the characters might be doing outside of the confines of what was original written.
- Take an outsider’s view. There are books based on people reading or studying other books. Perhaps they discover something life-altering about the characters or the author of the book.
Have you ever tried this for yourself, and if so, did you find it helpful? Do you have other suggestions to add to the list?
Please share other examples of books you’ve read which are somehow borrowed from other works of fiction.