Q&A - Borrowing plots

I got the below message from Tonya, who graciously agreed to let me answer her questions on the blog in case some of her questions are those some of you are curious about, too.

Hey Camy! I just found your story sensei blog & think it's fabulous :) I have a few writing questions for you though
I obviously want to be a novelist. I took the CHristian Writers Guild Apprenticeship & decided to start working on my first novel. I've gotten to a point where I'm simply stuck. I feel like I have an idea of what the book is in my mind but what I'm writing isn't conveying it. It makes me wonder if my idea is above my skills levels when it comes to conflict & dialogue etc.

Camy: No. A writer doesn't need some sort of advanced skill or superpower to write out the idea in her head. It could be just that you need to think it through more, mull it over, or learn some plot skills in order to fully flesh it out.

So I'm seriously considering setting it aside for a while & working on something else. Is that bad?

Camy: Not at all. Sometimes that really helps you go back to it later with fresh ideas and a stronger sense of purpose.

Ive been trying to come up with another idea & haven't really zoned in on anything. I've started to wonder about trying to recycle or build off a classic possibly. My struggle here is that I've never read a classic. I've seen your list about chick lit (my fave) on amazon & was wondering if you could guide to me to some good classics that aren't overdone in remakes?

Camy: Rather than me telling you an idea for you to write (or a classic for you to read), think about books you've read that you really liked, and use that as a jumping off point. Obviously, don't copy the author's words because that's illegal, but take the core story idea and think about how you want to alter it or give it your own spin.

I know a lot of people like Jane Austen. I'm considering that bit aren't tons of things similar to P&P? Has it gotten cliche?

Camy: It depends on how you do it. Clueless was a really original take on Emma.

One thing I'm wondering about is taking a story like Emma (only read the synopsis on amazon. Oh & watched Clueless) & had it set in 2011 BUT from the perspective of the friend being made over & set up.   Is that the type of thing borrowed plots are like? Is that a good take?

Camy: Again, it depends on how you do it. My suggestion is to write something you really want to read yourself. So if you didn't care much for Jane Austen, you shouldn't use her novels as a jumping off point for your own ideas. Instead, pick a book or movie you really, really enjoyed.

I'd love to hear you thoughts!
Thanks so much -- loved the sushi series!

Camy: Thanks a bunch! I'm so glad!


  1. I completely agree with you, Camy.

    A writer should write only what they want. Not about what they think other people will want to read.

    I got my writing idea from a book that I was reading. I enjoyed the story, but the characters were bland.

    I guess out of my irritation, a character was born and I started to write a story that would explain him.


  2. thanks for the great advice to mull over :) It makes me want to keep a notbeook with me when I read books to sort of what I do like, what I don't, why?, and if it gives me any ideas in the moment to not forgot.

  3. Misha, I love that! LOL I should do that the next time I'm impressed with a story concept but not the characters. :)

    Tonya, that's a great idea! Also the more you understand why you like or don't like a book, the better writer you become because you can look at a novel logically and analytically.



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