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Discussion Starter #1
I'm outlining my new novel and I'm concerned that one of the plot twists might have been done to death.  My main character's wife finds a large bag of money while cleaning a hotel room. I know that "finding a bag of money" inciting incident has been done in No Country for Old Men, A Simple Plan, A Single Shot, etc. so I'm concerned it might come off tired or cliched. Nothing else about my story is similar to those books, but is that device something readers come across with a "been there/done that" groan?
 

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Unless you've got some grand, original story arc that follows that discovery, yes, it's tired and cliched...imo, of course.
 

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Everything has been done to death. It's up to your writing as to whether or not it's cliche.
 

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What is money?  How much are you talking?
 

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I think you're good if you mix it up a little. For example, maybe she's called in to help clean a house where an older man with dementia has just been moved into a nursing home. The man's daughter jokes about her father once told her with a wink that he had a jar of gold coins hidden in the property. And then the woman finds the gold. So you've also got the problem of how to safely deal with it.
 

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My family owns several rental cabins.  Over the last 30 years, you name it we have found it.  Money, guns, dead people, abandoned pets, drugs and more.  If your character needs to find something of value.  Instead of money, have them find something else like an old comic book, or a presidential pin from Abraham Lincoln that's worth the big bucks.
 

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Probably, but that doesn't necessarily mean the way you're doing it will be. If you think it's important to the story, I think the "finding a bunch of money" plot device is a fun one. Seriously, nothing's new, but if you think you can make it interesting, keep it.
 
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TonyU said:
I'm outlining my new novel and I'm concerned that one of the plot twists might have been done to death. My main character's wife finds a large bag of money while cleaning a hotel room. I know that "finding a bag of money" inciting incident has been done in No Country for Old Men, A Simple Plan, A Single Shot, etc. so I'm concerned it might come off tired or cliched. Nothing else about my story is similar to those books, but is that device something readers come across with a "been there/done that" groan?
For me, the reason I hate this plot device is because it usually depends on people being greedy/stupid. You find a bag of money in a hotel room or laundromat or some random public place. Common sense tells you to turn it in the police. This is actually not an uncommon occurrence in the real world (whether it is a bag of money, a wallet, a bank deposit bag, or whatever). And in most cases, people turn the lost property in. Only people who are really stupid or stupidly greedy would try to keep it.Now if your protagonist IS stupid and/or greedy, then the plot device works. But if your protagonist is an otherwise decent person capable of functioning in society, it just feels contrived. Kinda falls into the TSTL pattern of behavior.
 

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Bards and Sages (Julie) said:
Only people who are really stupid or stupidly greedy would try to keep it.
Or desperate. Finding a bag of money can tap into a core, or primal, instinct: survival, or maybe a certain degree of freedom. Yes, it may still be stupid from the viewpoint of an observer, but the person in those circumstances may make a snap decision based on instinct, rather than reason. Sick kid, no money, and a deadbeat dad? It would be very tempting for many people.
 

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Michael Parnell said:
Or desperate. Finding a bag of money can tap into a core, or primal, instinct: survival, or maybe a certain degree of freedom. Yes, it may still be stupid from the viewpoint of an observer, but the person in those circumstances may make a snap decision based on instinct, rather than reason. Sick kid, no money, and a deadbeat dad? It would be very tempting for many people.
Right, I think it's pretty easy to justify. She was laid off recently while she is taking care of a husband who can't work due to PTSD or cancer, or whatnot, and in desperation she's taken this job cleaning motel rooms to help pay the bills for her family. It has been tough, really tough, and she is praying nightly to God for some sort of miracle. Then the miracle comes, or seems to come. Who can't sympathize with that character, even as we know it's going to lead to trouble?
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks for all the feedback!  In broad strokes, here's what I had in mind.

My main character is a mechanic, recently disabled after losing a leg in an accident.  His wife works two jobs, cleaning rooms at a motel and a cashier at a department store but they're still not making ends meet. One morning she goes into a motel room to find a dead drug dealer and a bag with several hundred thousand dollars.  She hides the bag of cash in her laundry cart before telling anyone about the body.  She then calls her husband and tells him what she found and what she did.  He's then left trying to figure out how to keep her out of trouble. That's actually all back story to the main plot which is taking place a few months later and he's "remembering" everything that's happened to get him in the situation he's now trapped in.  I'll have two parallel story lines occurring, which sounds convoluted when I type it out but it makes send in my head. ;)
 

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I think the Sith Witch has a good point with greed.  I would recommend finding a random item that is valuable but she doesn't know it.  Let some time pass and have her disabled husband find it laying in the pockets plate on the washing machine one day.  He knows its value. 
 

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Jana DeLeon said:
Everything has been done to death. It's up to your writing as to whether or not it's cliche.
This. If you can do it well, then you shouldn't have a problem. Having said that, I have an idea for a suspense novel that involves identical twins, but I doubt I'll ever write it as I'm too afraid that readers would form a posse to hunt me down and kill me.
 

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I don't think I've read anything where someone found a bag of money. Not all readers will have read the books you mentioned. Besides, it's your story so go with it and make it unique. I can think of a dozen different ways to tell the story where it begins with someone finding a bag/briefcase full of money. And my plots range from romance to horror.
 
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MichaelWallace said:
Right, I think it's pretty easy to justify. She was laid off recently while she is taking care of a husband who can't work due to PTSD or cancer, or whatnot, and in desperation she's taken this job cleaning motel rooms to help pay the bills for her family. It has been tough, really tough, and she is praying nightly to God for some sort of miracle. Then the miracle comes, or seems to come. Who can't sympathize with that character, even as we know it's going to lead to trouble?
I have no sympathy for people who think "God" would just deliver them a bag of money. Of course, I am Sith. So take that with a grain of low-sodium salt :p But I would classify those people under the stupid category so if the character is supposed to be one of those Prosperity Doctrine evangelicals, it would totally work.

Which kind of goes to my point. Yes, there are people who would keep the money. BUT those people tend to have certain overarching ways of looking at the world that would justify the behavior (not "justify" in that it is OK, but "Justify" as in it makes sense for that person). But to keep the money, it needs to be organic to the characters behavior and consistent with the character's world view.
 

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Bards and Sages (Julie) said:
Only people who are really stupid or stupidly greedy would try to keep it.
(Wow! Remind me to never sit next to you at a writer's convention.)

Beyond "stupid or stupidly greedy" there is at least one more kind of person for the Original Poster to write about: someone abjectly, profoundly desperate. The task for the author would be to make the story plausible and the Finding Person sympathetic. The Finder does not even have to be the Main Character. That right there could lead to all sorts of interesting plot developments.
 

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Hi Tony. As long as the rest of the story is worthwhile, I wouldn't waste time worry about who might have done what before you. If you feel you have a story in there, do it.
 

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Other options to finding money, could be finding a kilo of cocaine, finding a folder full of bearer bonds, finding a small but very valuable artifact, any number of things could be substituted for a bag of money.
 

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Several hundred thousand would need a big bag.  Not to mention the 10 grand law.
 
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