It's been a good week. I'm gearing up for a lot of rewriting when the editor gets back to me, but I'm also developing new story ideas. I've got a pretty long line of these and I need to figure out which ones have priority. That's almost as hard as rewriting. But, in the meantime, I'm reading good books and watching good movies. Somewhere in there I had an epiphany: plot doesn't matter.
Okay, it does. A bit. A lot, in fact. Without a plot you have no story, and Aristotle considered it the most important part. But what I realized is that most plots are similar. If you pick up a book to read a plot structure you've never seen before, you're going to be disappointed. Books nowadays get their appeal less from unique plots and more from how the writer adapts the details of the plot and how the characters interact.
Which brings me to the main point of my epiphany. My favorite books, stories, movies, TV shows, etc. have characters I relate to and kind of love. The ones I dislike have characters I have a hard time relating to. For example, this past week I watched A River Runs Through It, which is a classic and a beautiful movie, but I had a hard time relating or even liking any character so it didn't do much for me. On the other hand, I love the movie How to Train Your Dragon because I can relate with the awkward, nerdy protagonist (that says a lot about me) and also because I like the other characters. They are funny and sometimes pretty awesome, and even if I'm not like them part of me sometimes wants to be. The same thing happens when I read Rick Riordan's books, the Artemis Fowl series, and many other books.
What does this mean for writing? Don't worry if the plot is familiar to you. I mean, if it's too familiar you may have a copyright problem, but in the end your originality will show through your characters. In essence, a story is about people and the plot is what those people do. If the characters are strong and likeable - at least, the ones you're supposed to like - readers will enjoy the story no matter how simple the plot. Hey, it works for Pixar.