A successful plot mutation is completed in four steps:

Choose a novel you love.
Boil it down to a single paragraph.
Make a simple but profound change.
Follow through.
Let’s go over these steps in detail.

1. Choose a novel you love.
We’ll stick with the first book of Harry Potter for this example.

2. Boil it down to a single paragraph.
Make sure you cut out all names and actual places until you’re left with a generic summary. Do include a phrase about the settings (e.g. “In a fantasy world,” “In the Wild West,” “In Victorian England,” and so on).

How do you know if it’s boiled down just right? Well, it should allow you to easily recognize the novel you’ve started out with (enough details), but it should also remind you of some other novels (enough free play).

3. Make a simple but profound change.
Start with underlining the elements that can be swapped. These will usually be the settings, the protagonist, the object of the protagonist’s desire, and the main obstacle in his or her path. In our Harry Potter example, we have “quiet English town,” “boy,” and “heritage/birthright.”
Now begins the fun. Try taking an underlined element and changing it. Instead of “quiet English town,” for example, let’s make it “ancient Japan.”
This alone is enough to completely transform the story, but you can go on changing other elements. Instead of “heritage/birthright,” we can have “a treasure,” or “a special power.” Instead of “boy,” we can choose “hardened assassin.”
Because we’re working with a big-picture summary, every minor variation creates a whole new story. Now all that’s left is to…

4. Follow through.
If you skip this important stage, you’ll end up with a cheap Japanese Harry Potter knock-off.
What you really want is to dig deep into how every change you’ve made affects the story. Don’t stop at the superficial level.
If you’ve changed the settings, spell out how a new settings affect your protagonist.
What new cultural elements do you have to work with? What impact do they have on your protagonist’s desire? What in this new environment would stand in your protagonist’s way?
If you’ve changed the protagonist’s desire, follow through on what a different person it makes your protagonist, what it says about the settings, and so on.
It’s in these little details that true originality comes to play. Revel in the details. Let them lead you to new worlds and stories. And most of all, have fun.

Content provided by