Romance writer Jude Devereaux and historian Joseph Campbell have said, “There are no new stories…”
Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, “There is no new thing under the Sun.”
So every science fiction, fantasy, horror, romance, western, literary and WRITER writer is nothing but a hack, recycling stuff that’s been done a thousand times before!
We all know that in September of 2002, JK Rowling was vindicated when a New York judge threw out the lawsuit brought against her by Nancy Stouffer who claimed that Rowling had stolen the name “muggle” (and other things which were later declared insubstantiated) for non-magic people.
We all know Stephen King was sued in December 2010 by an author who claims King’s DUMA KEY is a plagiarized copy of Rod Marquardt’s PublishAmerica novel, KELLER’S DEN. The judge threw the case out.
We oughta be aSHAMED because, despite what the judges say about our multi-millionaire authors, there AREN’T any new stories, just old stories retold.
The internet abounds with summary statements like “There are only (insert number) basic plots in all of literature” (http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=210539). WRITER’S DIGEST author, Ronald B Tobias uses this concept in his 2003 book, 20 MASTER PLOTS AND HOW TO BUILD THEM. I’ve read the book – and discarded it.
As with all such “formula” books (I ranted against this a long, long time ago here: http://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/2008/02/flashicle-6-ugh-to-prescriptive-writing.html), what works for one writer may not work for another. This is the main reason that my “how-to write” library is so small (I might summarize someday here and rant against the books that “didn’t work”)
My favorite authors write stories that I know I can count on for quality and entertainment – but time and time again, I notice that they get stale after a book or two and I try a book from an author I’ve never read before. The problem is, is that there are only so many stories to tell and while authors try to tell them in different ways, the ending is rarely in doubt: the good folks wither win or lose. Books that end ambiguously are called “literary novels”.
And there you have the three “kinds” of books: the good folks win, lose or neither. Everything else is just window dressing and EVERY author (even me) can be accused of plagiarism.