Saturday, 30 March 2013

There's Only So Many Plots...

Quite a few romance writers were surprised to read that Mills and Boon author Kate Walker and Harlequin had recently been the subject of a copyright violation case; and were happy to hear that Kate (and her publisher) had been cleared of any wrong-doing.

Kate revealed the news on her blog earlier this week. You can read it here.

Kate ran a Romance Writing workshop for Nottingham Writers Club in 2012 that I arranged, and I'd have no doubt of her innocence.

She would never infringe another writers copyright.

And the judge agreed...

Please read the judgement that you can find here you will learn a lot about the elements in romance writing that are not considered protected, and those that are. The detailed analysis starts around page 9.
It really is worth the time reading this judgement if you want to write romance...

The link was available on The Pink Heart Society blog, whose post 'A Troupe of Tropes' has an explanation of tropes and archetypes in relation to copyright, by the editor of the PHS blog, Michelle Styles, who is also an Harlequin Historical author.

It is sad that this case even came to court in the first place.(My personal opinion only.)

As a reader of category romances of over thirty years, I can recall a number of Mills and Boon novels that used scenarios and plots that 'the plaintiff' used in her unpublished synopsis, and first chapter (that formed a part of her claim for copyright infringement).

There are only a limited number of plots, whether you are writing a contemporary romance or an historical. They even apply to futuristic stories.

The scenarios of Star Wars and Harry Potter share many similarities, and it occurred to me today, that even Pip in Charles Dickens, Great Expectations has shared scenarios...Nothing is new, just the uniqueness of your story and the characters you've created.

We all want our heroes and heroines to fulfil certain demands in a romance. Whether you go for the tall dark and handsome man, or prefer the blue-eyed blonde, they are all recognisable.

And red hair does often genetically go with green eyes, like blue eyes with blondes...

My novella uses a returning character to resolve a past situation in the story. But so do a lot of romances...

The only essentials, with stories and characters, are what you do with them and the details that make them yours...

It's all just a variation on a theme...

Do you have a particular plot or scenario that you find yourself regularly using in romance writing? Or are there any you don't like, or wouldn't use?


  1. I was told there is too much breast squeezing in one of my novels, so I suppose I must repeat myself at times, however much I try to avoid it!

  2. Hello Carol

    I have been surprised on several occasions when my, as yet (now there's optimism for you!) unpublished novels have similarities to a book I am reading. Such as a job my heroine is employed in, the obstacle in life she must overcome or names and pitfalls. I agree that there are only so many storylines, but thankfully we can give our own voice, scene setting, characters and outcomes.

    How awful for any writer to be wrongly accused of copying someone else's work. Poor lady.

    PS. Lizy's comment made me chuckle!

    Love Angela x

  3. Lizy, it's easy to repeat ourselves without realising, but there's a lot of alternatives if needed. Good luck.

    Hello, Angela. You're right, it is the writer's voice, scene setting and characters that make the same plots different- thank goodness. :-)

  4. Interesting piece, Carol. How awful for Kate to be accused of such a thing. From what I read in the document, the things she was accused of seem a little tenuous; the HM&B books in some lines are built on the male being phenomenally rich and good looking, and if they're going to be Italian, pretty much assured they're be 'tall, dark and handsome'. If that's something that three's a copyright on, I'm invoking it on behalf of my hubby! He's my original tall, dark and handsome (just sadly not the enormously rich part ha ha!). Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

    And Lizy, you're a scream! :D


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