It's been said (by more knowledgeable people than me) that there are no original stories. Plot lines have been recycled since the beginning. (Think Adam and Eve...well, maybe they were original.) So try as we might, there's not anything we can come up with that hasn't been done.
Don't let that discourage you, however. This is actually a good thing in many ways. For instance, people instinctively recognize these familiar lines and find comfort in them. That's why you might gravitate to mystery, or romance, or something that has a pattern that speaks to who you are. You're a product of your own experience, and that's why everyone of us comes to a story bringing a different interpretation to the events.
That can also be a problem as well. For instance, the other day I gave what I had of a current WIP to a writer friend to look at. It wasn't very much, about 40 pages. She came back with some wonderful suggestions that I'm excited to implement. She did say, however, that the initial scene where the hero and heroine meet reminded her STRONGLY of another novel. A best selling novel. One that everyone knows.
I was horrified. She was quick to say that she didn't think I'd set out to rip off this other story, but I might want to rethink that first meeting. As in "better change it".
I got me thinking, though. I could give you a basic plot line, say "Boy meets girl, boy and girl get together, boy loses girl, boy finds girl again". And each one of us would come to it with a different take. We'd have as many different stories as there are people. But there are certain shall we say, conventions, that we would use. There would have to be a first meeting. There are only so many places people can meet. They have to meet somewhere, or there would be no story.
So my question is this...If a popular story has some memorable scene or setting, can up and coming writers use those same conventions, or are they now the permanent property of the famous one? Can anyone else but Stephen King use a small town in Maine? Or have your boy and girl meet in a classroom at school? Or be invited into a magical world you never knew existed? I don't know that there is a definitive answer, but it's worth thinking about.
What are your "thinkings"?