Borrow Plots and Execute Them Differently

One of the hardest parts about writing a screenplay is not only coming up with a plot, but also coming up with characters and a unique setting. So make it easy on yourself and just borrow a plot from an existing story.

If this sounds like stealing, it’s not. Plagiarism is when you copy another person’s words. Borrowing a plot is not stealing as long as you put your own unique spin on the story.

Romeo and Juliet was turned into the modern day “West Side Story.” The Western “High Noon” about a sheriff facing a group of gunmen alone in a town was recycled into a science fiction version called “Outland,” which is about a lone law officer facing off against gunmen on a space station. “Alien” recycled the idea of a monster attacking people from “Jaws.”

Ultimately, there are no original stories but there are original ways to tell a story. Nobody would watch “Alien” and complain it’s too similar to “Jaws” any more than someone would watch “Under Siege” and complain it’s too much like “Die Hard.” Stories are great not because they have original plots, but because they tell a familiar plot in an original manner.

“Sleepless in Seattle” is about a man finding true love, which is similar to every other romantic comedy ever made. Horror movies like “A Quiet Place” is just another monster movie but with the unique setting of blind monsters that hunt by sound.

If you’re stuck on a plot, just borrow one from an existing movie or novel. Chances are good that that screenwriter or novelist borrowed a plot from another movie or book as well.

Plots are universal but how you tell your story is not, and that’s what makes your story unique is how you tell it with the characters your story creates.

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