Copy Plots to Make Screenwriting Easier and Storytelling Less Intimidating

When people try to create a story, they often try to create something original, forgetting the fact that there are no original plots but plenty of original ways to tell the same plot. So the key to making screenwriting easier is to borrow plots from other sources.

Before you worry that copying plots is beneath you, just realize William Shakespeare borrowed plots from other stories all the time, and then people have borrowed Shakespeare’s plots from “Romeo and Juliet” to create “West Side Story”.

When you borrow a plot, you risk slavishly copying the original story, so you need to make your story unique by populating it with distinctive and empathetic characters. Then the struggles these characters face will let you tell the same plot in a unique and distinctive manner.

Just look at “Rocky,” which is about a down and out boxer fighting in the heavyweight championship. That plot was essentially borrowed by “The Karate Kid,” but now the hero was a teenager fighting in a karate championship. That plot was borrowed one more time in a comedy called “Golden Arm,” which is about a down and out woman fighting in an arm wrestling championship.

The plots in “Rocky,” “The Karate Kid,” and “Golden Arm” are identical, but it’s the unique characters that make each story fresh and original.

“Golden Arm” is a comedy about a woman with a female truck driver as her best friend who convinces her that she has a golden arm. By entering this woman in an arm wrestling championship, she helps the hero stand up for herself and create a better life from the one she started with. Even though the plot is similar to “Rocky” and “The Karate Kid,” the unique pairing of two women in an arm wrestling championship is funny and different.

So the next time you’re stuck for where your story should go, look to other stories for inspiration. You may be surprised at how easy ti can be to adapt a plot from another story, and then marvel at how that recycled plot feels unique within your own distinctive story world.

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