Do you ever read a book or watch a movie and think "Aw crap! I used that idea in my story!" It can be something simple. A phrase. Trigger event. Name. Clothing style. Anything. Do we see the similarity because we wrote our story and know it so intimately that we can pick out any minuscule resemblance to our own characters or plot?
Are there any truly original ideas left out there?
My story begins with a car wreck where my MC loses her parents and brother. It's been done before. I know that. If I Stay is a great book and has the same trigger event, but what happens after that crash beginning is a very different story.
I can defend that argument until I'm blue in the face, but will it matter when an agent reads my first chapter? Will they think "Seen it before." And hit the auto reject button? Do I change my opening scene so it starts with a train wreck, or a bombing, or something else that isn't so trendy or popular right now?
I discussed this with a good friend last night and he told me, "There are no original ideas anymore. You wrote your story the way it is for a reason. Leave it."
While I am a huge believer in the everything happens for a reason concept. I've evolved enough as a writer to know there are times I should bend so my story doesn't break me. I have no problem weaving a new pathway to death's doorstep for my MC's family. Not to sound heartless, but I just need them to die. If car accidents aren't considered "fresh" right now, I've got many more tragic events in my large briefcase of an imagination.
But how do we know what to change and what not to? If I write a new opening scene where the family plunges to their death in a faulty Ferris wheel cart, will I read a book about carnivals next month and decide amusement park fatalities are too overdone?
Where does it stop? I see similarities between stories everywhere I look--and read. As writers it's our job to create something new and different, but has that become an impossible task? Or just nearly impossible, with a lot of research required to make it fresh?
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