I live on a small farm with my horses and many others pets. I recently bought another horse whose name is Al Capone. He’s a beautiful jet-black boy with a small white star and looks to me more like Black Beauty than Al Capone! But his name really intrigued me. I knew that Al Capone was an infamous American gangster back in 1920s Chicago. I looked him up in the library and found out all these fascinating facts about him and suddenly I had an idea for a historical novel rattling around in my head.
But before I got carried away, I thought I should check first that other stories hadn’t already been written about him. I discovered that quite a few children’s books have indeed been based around him, including one intriguing title called Al Capone Does My Shirts! So I decided not to write this story as it’s already been done.
Then I remembered reading an article once about how all stories can be reduced down to seven basic plots:
1. Rags to Riches
2. The Quest (I thought about my own The Drover’s Quest)
3. Voyage and Return
7. Overcoming the Monster (I thought about my own Saving Sam)
What makes stories unique is how the authors tell them. So, even if a hundred books have been written on Al Capone, so long as I approach the idea with a fresh and interesting angle it really doesn’t matter. Think of the books you’ve read lately – can you fit them into the seven basic plots above?