I’ve been listening to and reading so much lately about the craft of writing that I now forget where I heard the recommendation to read James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure: Techniques and exercises for crafting a plot that grips readers from start to finish. This book and others I’ve read address the reality that there is a limited number of basic plots and that a writer must noodle his or her basic plot to make it unique in order to capture its audience and a publisher (something I think often about as an unpublished writer). I’m writing my first mystery and up until now, I believe that I’ve made my plot and characters unique, but now I’m a bit concerned and I’ll tell you why.
Even though I’m an avid reader and particularly enjoy reading mysteries, my love of mysteries isn’t limited to novels. I’m also a fan of television “mystery type” series, and I have several detective/legal/crime television shows that I regularly watch. A week ago I was finally catching up on watching episodes of one of those series that I hadn’t had time to watch. This show had originally aired a couple months ago. The plot in this legal drama was that a pregnant mother needed to have experimental surgery on her unborn child in order to save her child’s life. The insurance company would not pay for this expensive surgery because it was deemed “experimental.” A few other twists were also thrown into this episode to add to the drama; such as, the father had answered a question incorrectly on the initial application for health insurance, and as a result the insurance policy was null and void. Luckily by the time the hour long show ended, the baby’s life was saved.
Now perhaps had I watched this episode when it first aired, I wouldn’t have noticed that the legal show that aired earlier this week had the same exact plot as the show that I recorded and watched last week (with, of course, a few other subplots). This newly aired drama’s story line was that a child needed surgery performed in order to save her life, but here’s a shocker…the health insurance company would not cover the surgery because it was deemed to be “experimental.”
Now the reason I’m mentioning this is as a fledgling unpublished writer, I’m worried as to what hope I have of crafting a plot that is unique, has the right hook, etc. to capture an audience when network television writers appear to have fallen short of this goal in storytelling? So while I’ve spent hours and days outlining and honing my manuscript in hopes that it is unique... is it really? Or has it been done before? I guess only time will tell. In the meanwhile, I’ll keep plotting along and hope for the best. One thing you can be certain of, my manuscript does not include an “experimental surgery” not covered under my protag’s health insurance policy.