Overused Plot Gimmicks

Question: Can there be overused plots?


Authors constantly write about somewhat the same things, mutation, aliens, "I'm in love with the supernatural", et cetera, et cetera, but if you write something that fits in the same category, is it probable the media will not accept it(either it doesn't get published or it doesn't get read)? I am going to use a form of mutation, but if it turns out to much like other books or movies would it not be accepted? Would I be sued for plagiarism? MAYBE I'm just paranoid, nevertheless it is better safe than sorry...

Answer: First off, aliens, mutation, vampires, etc. are not plots. They're just ideas. You can have any number of plots that incorporate those ideas.

Second, you can't copyright an idea, only the way you express an idea. No one can sue you for using the idea of mutation. But they would object if you wrote a novel about a Professor Charles Xavier who starts a school for teenage mutants who call themselves X-men.

Obviously, there are many books about vampires, werewolves, aliens, and mutants. But you should create your own unique characters and plot, even if you build upon established conventions.

Of course, the reading public (and publishers) can lose interest in a particular genre after it has been hot for a while. But you cannot predict when trends will change. Even if the public gets tired of fantasy, an truly original fantasy book can revive interest in the genre.

For instance, J. K. Rowling triggered a renewed interest in fantasy books when she put her wizard school in modern day England. Twilight did the same when it gave us vampires caught up in high school romances for the first time.

Bottom line: your concerns are valid. You can write about mutants. Just make sure your mutant novel is not the same as every other mutant novel. Give a twist on the genre. Do something with mutants no one else has yet done. Then it won't matter if people are tired of mutant books, because yours won't be like any other mutant book.

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