Plot: It’s Not the Car. It’s the Driver.

There's a lot of discussion about the originality of story ideas (or the lack thereof) among writers. In fact, it can be quite the controversy, particularly when one writer feels that another has ripped off key aspects of her plot.

The truth is that there are only so many plots out there and they've all been done a million times, beginning with the first recorded epic poem, the Epic of Gilgamesh, an excellent example of the hero's journey. 

But as I often tell my son, it's not the car. It's the driver. Putting a little old lady behind the wheel of a Lamborghini doesn't make a bit of difference to the car's performance. That little old lady is still going to drive at thirty miles per hour through curves.

On the other hand, try putting a professional driver behind the wheel of a little old lady car, like, say, a PT Cruiser.** That driver will coax the very best performance possible out of the car. In a race between the former combination and the latter, I'll bet on the driver every time.

The same goes for plot. The Cinderella plot has been used a hundred times over, perhaps most memorably in E.L. James' mega bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey. Come on, now. You know this story. Rich boy saves poor girl from a desolate existence through the power of love (or, in FSoG's twist, the power of sex). 

And that's where a good driver can make all the difference. It's not enough to write a billionaire-savior story. That particular twist is getting a tad stale, thanks in part to the popularity of FSoG, so why not add a twist or three to keep things interesting? Switch the gender roles around. Set the story on another planet. Add a super villain. Or keep twisting until readers no longer recognize the root of the story as a fairy tale.

Like I said. It's not the car; it's the driver. Or in this case, it's the writer. Plot is the story's vehicle and you are the driver. It's up to you to decide where to go with it.

** Disclaimer: I drive a PT Cruiser. It's really a little old lady car. Do I drive it like a little old lady? Er, um. I plead the Fifth on that one.

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