Plots for Novels and Short Stories

A plot is a plan or a scheme to be followed, like a road map. I always worried about making my plot unique, so I wouldn’t be imitating someone else. Then I remembered the quote from Ecclesiastes, which was amended by the satirist Ambrose Bierce: “there’s nothing new under the sun, but there are lots of things that we don’t know.”

That gave me courage to consider all of the books that have been written, and are being written right now, which have plots similar to some earlier book or story, and it opened the door to writing my way about anything I please. I could use up a legal pad writing possible scenarios starting with the letter “A” and working through the alphabet, and have a dizzying list of exciting settings to describe and write around—even stealing some ideas already written by famous authors. They won’t mind—many are dead, most won’t recognize it if they read it.

I wrote Dawn’s Revenge, a thriller set in the New Orleans French Quarter, and modeled the evil sheriff on a very good friend, the old south gentleman sheriff of the Parish I lived in at the time. He read it, praised it, and didn’t even recognize himself as the bad guy. I was afraid for a little while.

So how do you go about writing a story? Start.

So how many possible plots are there? I know how many. It is precisely 13.8 billion (4.3 × 1017 ), which coincidentally is the exact number of years and minutes and seconds since the Big Bang, the creation of the universe. Isn’t that unusual? And that’s how many plots there are.