Dear Idea: are YOU a keeper?

I’ve been a bit out of the blogosphere and twitter the past days cos’ I’ve been a tad sick…I’ll be back full speed soon though 😀

Now, on to Road Trip Wednesday (get ready for a long post!)…

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

This Week’s Topic: What Shiny New Idea were you psyched to work on, but discovered it was too close to something already done?

I finished my first draft of my first-ever-finished-draft last month so I don’t have a lot of experience on this and I have plenty of ideas for my second/third/and upcoming WIPs…none of them I am tossing aside yet.

The question would be: How close is too close for comfort?

Let’s say I am writing a dystopian book and my new shiny idea is: a world where each year tributes from different sectors fight to death until only one stays alive.

This may sound a tad too close to something already published (*cough* The Hunger Games)…unless…it takes place in an avatar-like world and it’s beasts vs humans and we see the perspective of the monster and it’s in an arena where everybody can cheer them on and nobody volunteers for somebody else and the humans become more monstruous than the beast and a beast rescues a human and they flee the game and the winner of the game needs to kill them both if he wants to survive and it’s her brother and the monster and the beast discover they have more things in common and….the story is actually different. 

  • Does my actual draft (the one I wrote, not the imaginary one I just made up above) have similarities to something already published?

Yes.

  • Is it a bad thing?

I don’t think so.

My book has witches in them. It also has love, steamy kisses, sad moments and learning to know oneself. 

Plenty of books have witches and love, just like plenty of books had vampires before Twilight. And don’t get me started about books where love plays a role in…

  • Would you pick my draft  up and think: wow, wait a second, I read this and this French lady should totally be sued for copyrights’ infringement, like Deforges for Gone with the wind? (by the way I love the Bicyclette bleue series)?

No

I will not toss my idea aside for two reasons:

  1. By the time I am actually done with the process of seeing my book on shelves: revising, sending it to my beta-readers, making changes, querying, getting-the-agent-who-loves-my-story-and-the-way-I-tell-it, making changes, landing the contract with amazing-publisher,  possibly making more changes…, the market may be curious for new stories about witches.
  2. The story will be different. Let’s take another example the fairy tales re-telling…they have the same idea in them but the way they are told make them stand apart,

Let’s talk movies.

See, I love that movie!

And I love that one too 😀 (not ashamed to admit it)

And wow, Drew Barrymore in that one? (amazing…)

Ok to get back to point 2) 🙂 The story will be different because this is the one I wrote. We all bring ourselves to the paper, one way or another, if we recognize it or not. Books are not written in a vacuum – New Historicism amongst other literary theories help us to see this.  I get inspired by other people’s writings, by the sun, by the clouds, by music, by a certain light, by a smile…by many things. I get better thanks to other people’s writings but the story I am telling is still my own.

Sometimes, as a reader, we see story lines which ring a bell but we still dive into a novel because of the craft of the writer, because the characters become endearing, because this story becomes fresh in our eyes when we do so.

My story is original and I certainly hope that it will get the chance to see the wild wild world…And if it does not, it might get tossed aside for awhile but it will always hold a special place in my heart!

Wow…this was a looong post 🙂

I cannot wait to read your thoughts on this!

23 Comments

  1. Colin says:

    [Sorry, I messed up my reply above… let’s try again…]

    I tend to agree with you, Elodie. The statistical probability of two stories having similar themes and ideas, given the vast quantity of books on the market, is great. What makes your work unique is your voice, the way *you* tell the story. It just needs to be different enough–though how different is enough is a debatable topic (however, I’m pretty sure a story about a boy wizard called Barry Cotter who goes to a school call Sogwarts isn’t going to survive plagiarism court). 🙂

  2. Laurie says:

    Well said. Take any writing contest where the entrants are given a topic. Every writer comes up with his or her own unique spin. (Colin can attest to this after WINNING one of Janet Reid’s flash fiction contests 🙂

  3. “The market” is my most hated phrase at the moment. But like you said, the good news is, even if everyone passes on a manuscript because “the market” is saturated, you can always sit on it till people are more receptive. It’s interesting to me how many ideas I hear about that I would read, but that “the market” wouldn’t consider (i.e., anything dystopian).

  4. Jaime says:

    I have to agree with you on this. I have elements in my current WiP that people could say are similar to books that are already out there, but the reason I included these things is because they come from personal experience. No, I didn’t take it from so-and-so’s book, I actually went through this myself (like polygraph testing, for instance). I think we all put our own spin on things and as long as it doesn’t too closely resemble someone else’s then it should be fine.

    Another thing to do to safeguard yourself a little is to give props to the people who have influenced you. If you’re a major Suzanne Collins fan and you’ve been influenced by her work, then say so. If your story is a re-telling, then make that clear. If you’ve dropped little ‘nods’ to your favourite stories/authors, then make that clear as well (Beth Revis did that with her Across the Universe books).

    Great post, Elodie! Missed you around the interwebz the past couple of days 🙂

  5. Eve says:

    I completely agree. It’s all about your own spin on things. You have to make it different with your back story/mythology for the character/creature. The same story can be told a million different ways and still be different.

  6. Elise Fallson says:

    Like so many have already said, stories are bound to overlap at some point, (especially when we’ve only got 7 original plots to work with)what makes them unique is what the author brings to the page through personal experience and a desire to develop his/her own voice.

  7. Donelle Lacy says:

    That’s a great way to look at it, and true also! Everyone takes inspiration from many things, and, depending on where we live, what we watch and read, when we were born, etc, those things can be the same things. It’s all about our own perspective.

    I’m sure people will always want to hear new stories about witches, but I’m biased. I grew up on Dorrie the Little Witch books, and since then I’ve loved the idea of a young witch who learns how to be a witch. (which is why I also totally dig Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series)

    I think that some story concepts (like Cinderella) will always touch a part of us, and so people will always be writing stories based on those concepts.

  8. I totally agree. There’s an aspect of SHATTER ME that’s similar to my book, and when I heard about the book I was like, “Oh crap, blah blahblah happens in SHATTER ME. My book is unpublishable.” Then I realized nothing else was the same. And then I read SHATTER ME and realized even more how different the books are. So I guess I’m saying that, yes, you can have the same core idea–say, a character whose touch brings death–but that doesn’t make the books too similar.

  9. Um…can you write that one that is similar to HG? It sounded pretty amazing. And I’ve heard somewhere that there are no new ideas – every story boils down to a certain set of ideas – the same, but different. Yet people reading my story say they’ve never heard anything like it before. So I don’t know. But I do know this – the little bit you’ve revealed about your story – I absolutely want to read it!

  10. Liz Parker says:

    This is great response to RTW! I didn’t have anything that fit for this week, but I’m reading through those who did. I agree with you. If it’s not the same book, if it’s truly a different story, then hold on to it!

  11. Elodie says:

    Just wanted to quickly say THANK YOU to all of you for taking the time to comment 😀 (one-to-one answers will come this w-e but I just wanted to give you all big interweb hug!)

  12. Robin Moran says:

    Get well soon!

    I like books inspired by previous texts, especially if it’s a fairy tale or folkoric legend. There’s so many different versions of the tale you can find to tell, different P.O.Vs, twists to make with them. It’s finding a new spin on them. Like the Snow White films coming out. Same story, different paths, atmospheres and plot events.

  13. Jon says:

    Saying “hi” from campaign land. I’d say half of my ideas are out there or have been done already, but that’s why proper research (and different execution) is so key!

  14. Jillian says:

    Funny story about similar ideas and Hunger Games — I initially really didn’t want to read it because it seemed like a direct rip-off of Takami’s Battle Royale. Thank goodness I abandoned my stubbornness! The two books weren’t as similar as I expected, and the aspects that were really similar were handled so much better by Collins that the reading experience still felt exciting and unique. What you said about authors bringing themselves to each story and telling it in their own way is entirely true. I also miss getting to talk about New Historicism now that I’m out of grad school, so I love that you included that as well. Best of luck with the witches!

  15. Misha says:

    I think that if your story is different, people will pick it up even though it sounds similar to something else. The thing is just to convince them to try it. 🙂

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