While it seems obvious to me, and many others, that a writer shouldn’t ask someone else for the plot of their next story, I am constantly seeing people ask for this very thing. So for all the would-be or current writers out there who have been tempted to do the same, I am going to try to outline the reasons why this is not a good idea.

First, and probably most important, is the fact that the plot is the story. This is one of the main jobs of the writer, no matter the genre or form. A plot encompasses everything from what happens, to the characters, to the theme. It is what makes a story, a story. And if it is going to be your story, it needs to be your plot.

Second, if you are planning to finish the story, especially if it is a novel, you need to have a vested interest in the story and characters. There has to be a reason you want to write the piece other than writing it on just a whim. Why? It is hard to write something that bores you. The unfinished story is like a nagging roommate. You need to be able to deal with it, not just ignore it and hope it goes away. When you have a connection with the story and characters you will write better and be able to deal with them in the long-term. If you have no connection, because someone else gave you the plot, you are more likely to stop writing once things become difficult. This is especially true if you are hoping to publish the story. Sticking with it through various rewrites and edits can become a nightmare.

Which brings me to point number three. Even if you manage to sidestep the second problem and finish the story, edits and all, what happens when you go to publish it? Since the plot is the story, when your book becomes a bestseller the person who gave you the plot might decide to take credit. Will they succeed? I have no idea. Even if they don’t the damage will have been done. You will get a reputation as being unoriginal at best, and will probably have to pay quite a bit in legal fees. If you lose you are looking at worse than that.

The last thing I would like to point out is despite how hard it might be to come up with a prompt, it is one of the funnest parts of the job. Nothing beats discovering a new turn for your characters to take, or a new twist to add at the end. Personally many of the ideas I get for my stories come from planning out the plot of a different story. This is because as writers we are trained to always ask “what if”. This questioning and discovery are things you will miss if someone just gives you all the answers.

So what do you do if you are having trouble coming up with a plot? You look for resources to help. There are plenty of websites and blogs, including this one, that offer writing prompts if you can’t come up with an idea. There are tons of articles on how to do an outline. You can search for clichés so you know what has already been done, and everyone and their mother has advice on what they would like to be included in your story. Just keep in mind that it is your story, and your responsibility. Don’t contract out the best part just to save a little time and energy. You will regret it.

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