Recently I finished reading Jostein Gaarder’s The Ringmaster’s Daughter; it tells the story of a guy named Petter who has such an incredible imagination that writers would kill for. He can spout out three complete and elaborate plots in the span of an hour. However, Petter has no desire to become an author, but he is more than happy to sell his plots to those who are willing to pay a good price.
It was interesting to see the huge number of authors who succumbed in the face of an expertly woven plot that could be all their own for a certain price. As the story progressed Petter had become a sort of story dealer and authors came flocking to him whenever they had Writer’s Block or wanted to write a new bestseller, to the extent that it seemed that nobody came up with their own plots anymore. However, there were some authors who weren’t swayed by the temptation and refused to buy anything off Petter. On the contrary, they felt cheated. Here they were spending years of their lives perfecting a plot, while other authors were running about and winning awards for plots that did not even belong to them.
Now… I’m proud of my imagination. I have more story ideas and plots than I can count, and they’re always bouncing all over the place. Of course, it falls short before the greatness of Petter’s imagination. For example, I can’t come up with all the details of a plot in five minutes. And I certainly don’t spout more than two at the most per day, and definitely not every day. Would I be tempted if someone offered me a fantastic plot on a silver platter? I’d be lying if I said no. But would I actually take it and pretend it was mine? I don’t think I can live with the idea.
The brilliance in writing a story is coming up with everything on your own. Sure, an excellent plot may win you a number of awards, but will the feeling of satisfaction be the same? If you think about it, this does not differ from having a ghost writer. You provide the ghost writer with a plot and he writes the story, but Petter provides you with a plot and you write the story. Different means, same end – you cannot truly call the book your own. This has made me wonder how many known authors out there rely on ghost writers or take their plots from other people. It’s something to think about.
Suppose someone like Petter approaches you and presents you with a gorgeous plot that you are sure will become the next bestseller, what would you do? Would you buy it? Would you show contempt? Most importantly, do you think that what he’s doing is wrong?
[This book would make a good read for authors, by the way. I do recommend you check it out.]