What is a Plot Masher?


 I have a confession to make. I am a "Plot Masher".

What is a Plot Masher?

Well, it means I am constantly hunting for stories that are different but similar, which have aspects of the story which overlap.

Take for example the following films...

Die Hard - A small army of thieves take over an office building in a plot to steal $640 million in bearer bonds from a vault, while the hero (John McClane) is trapped in the building along with hostages (and his wife) and he needs to rescue the hostages and beat up the bad guys.

Enter the Dragon - Martial arts instructor Lee infiltrates a dangerous martial arts tournament and fights a small army of bad guys, all in an attempt to prove the organizer of the tournament is in charge of drug smuggling and prostitution.

Now if you're familiar with both of these classic movies then you know they have the following similarities:

1. They both have a small army of baddies.

2. They're both action films.

3. The gritty hero of the story gets beat up a lot, but survives.

4. The main villain is intelligent (but also cowardly).

And there are other aspects which also overlap.

What a plot masher does is look at the basic plot of multiple stories, looks for the things that hold the plot together that are similar, and then mashes the plots together to make a story which is more complex, compelling, but likely still feels familiar to the audience/reader. Thus it is a plot that has combined elements of various other stories to create something which is both new and different.

For example, earlier this year I released my new novel "The Coven's Wolves"...

The plot of the novel is basically a cross between:

  1. Clue (the board game)
  2. Jaws (the Steven Spielberg film)
  3. Hotel California (the song)

So how are these three things similar?

Well, the plot of the Clue board game happens within a large building and the people there cannot leave until they find the murderer. The plot of the song Hotel California is about people trapped in a hotel and they cannot leave because there is a monster that won't let them leave. The plot of the film Jaws is that residents of a small tourist town cannot go swimming because a giant shark is killing everyone who goes in the water.

See the similarities? The characters in the story are trapped and they need to kill the monster / find the murderer.

Thus "The Coven's Wolves" is similar to all three because it is a murder mystery taking place in an inn/hot springs, and there are evil Xarsian wolves with glowing red eyes outside the inn which wants to kill them... But are the Xarsian wolves killing the inn's guests, or is there a second threat in the form of a werewolf?

And thrust into the middle of this is our hero Wrathgar, who is not a sleuth, but the inn is running low on food and they need someone to go out into the snow and hunt for food so that the guests at the inn don't starve to death during the winter.

Below are 5 of the paperbacks from the Adventures of Wrathgar book series:

The books are:

The Assassin's Trail

The Blizzard's Daughter

The Coven's Wolves

The Demon's Sacrifice


The Sunken Castle (a short story that takes place between Books I and II)


All of the books are available via amazon.com/author/moffat

So is Plot Mashing cheating?


Think about it.

There is no such thing as an original plot any more. There are just variations of the same basic "hero vs villain plot", or "hero vs nature", or "hero vs monster", or "hero vs themselves", etc. There has to be a protagonist (or multiple protagonists).

All authors engage is some level of plot mashing or borrowing aspects of other stories. "Jaws" for example is based on a real story about a shark that attacks the Jersey shore back in 1916. It is a "hero vs monster" story.

The film "Dante's Peak" changes the basic plot of Jaws to a volcano, so it becomes "hero vs volcano", but other aspects of the film have a number of similarities to Jaws (and the film even references this because the hero takes the family 'shark fishing' at the end of the film).

At which point anyone watching the film should slap their forehead and go "Oh!!!! This is just Jaws, but they replace the shark with a volcano!!!"

Yep. The writer(s) just mashed together Jaws with various other films/books about volcanoes. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

So don't worry about it. If you're a writer you probably already engage in some level of Plot Mashing, but you just weren't conscious of it.

There is a subtle difference however.

A confessed Plot Masher like myself makes a conscious effort of designing the plot of the book by dumping aspects of their influences that they don't like, and keeping the aspects that they do like. We don't need everything from the source material.

A Plot Masher will also deliberately play with symbolism or by reversing the reader's expectations by doing things that are unexpected. (What if the shark was the hero?)

Or what if the hero was a bandit/thief (the classic Robin Hood role)? There is a reason why Robin Hood is such an endearing character that many people enjoy. We usually think of bandits as being baddies, but Robin Hood reverses this and makes the villain the Sheriff of Nottingham (and his cronies).

So for example, let's say I wanted to write a post apocalyptic book (similar to Mad Max / Fury Road with the cars/desertification of the planet), but I wanted the plot to be more like Robin Hood (the Kevin Costner version with all the awesome archery), but also to have aspects of Red Dawn (wherein the country has been invaded by communists).


The USA's economy has fallen apart due to desertification and they have been invaded by communists who install themselves as warlords. Guns and bullets have become scarce, so people have resorted to shooting at each other with arrows instead while fighting out road rage across the desert, and meanwhile the communists (run by a Sheriff of Nottingham type villain) have guns and access to an oil refinery... and they keep robbing the poor Americans just trying to grow food in the desert, so the Robin Hood/Mad Max character starts killing the communists and ends up building up a group of bandits who try to take on the communist army.


There you go. A classic action movie that I would enjoy watching.

Ever heard the phrase "Movie Plots are a Dime a Dozen"?

Same goes with books. Nothing is original these days.

The real difference is the WRITER. Can they write it well and make it enjoyable? You could give 100 writers the exact same plot and you would end up with 100 different stories which have very similar plots, but out of those 100 stories there will be a few gems that are really enjoyable because the characters, the interplay of the characters with the plot, and how the audience feels about the characters really captures the imagination of the readers.

So there is nothing bad or shameful about being a Plot Masher. You would be hard pressed to find a fiction writer who doesn't do some form of plot mashing.

Film script writers are especially guilty of this, especially if the film is based on a book. They will often change aspects of what was in the book and mash the plot together with something else that is more familiar to the audience, possibly creating a sub plot that wasn't in the original book. Or making it very different from the original.


The 1982 "Conan the Barbarian" film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger only borrows bits and pieces from the original short stories by Robert E. Howard, mashes those stories together, plus adds in aspects of Beowulf and various traditional viking stories.

Thus even if a film is based on a book or books, it is often a bastardized version of the book(s) and has been mashed together with other sources.

However just because a writer is conscious that they are borrowing/stealing aspects of other stories to write their own, that doesn't mean that they are a bad writer. Rather it means they are a good writer, possibly even a great writer, and that they are in the process of collecting stories.

That is really how I see it myself. I "collect stories" and then I mix those stories together like I am making a tasty cake to create something that is new and different.

Think of a story, any story, and ask yourself what other stories is it similar to? Chances are likely it is based on the mashed together plots of stories that came before it. Even true stories being retold are based on something else, the actual events. So even a true story isn't original.


Publishing a fantasy book? Make sure you get a professional fantasy book editor.

Study Archery in Toronto

So you want to study archery, but you are having difficulty finding an archery instructor who is local. However there is a solution. If you are willing to travel you can take a crash course in archery in Toronto, Canada. 10 lessons over a two week period will take you from archery novice to an experienced and capable archer.

Popular Posts