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?
Monday, September 14, 2009
Posted by kah
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I don't know when it stops either. I've def. got used devices in my plots, so I kind of think it has to do with characterization. If we can get readers to pull and care about our characters, then the story might seem new because it's about someone the reader "knows".ReplyDelete
Your opening scene is fantastic just the way it is. Unless you have an agent or editor tell you it needs to be different don't touch it! I agree that there aren't anymore original ideas out there (or at least not many)-- just original ways to put them together into stories.ReplyDelete
I had a friend tell me once that even if someone had the exact same idea as you it would be a different book, because we're all such different writers.ReplyDelete
If you love the opening then I would leave it until, like Natalie said, an agent or editor tells you otherwise.
I agree with your friend. Leave it. Someone once told me that my book could never be the same as someone elses because I wrote it.ReplyDelete
You probably should leave it, although Alyson Noel's best-selling Evermore starts that way so you may want to be sure it's not too close. Tweak it a bit if it is.ReplyDelete
I had a surprise when I opened the first page of Fairest in the bookstore. I had never read it and it started 'I was born singing,' which was the opening of my WIP for a little while. Fortunately, I had already changed it. That would be too similiar, I'm sure.
Good questions. Wish I had the answers. I feel like maybe you could throw it out on Twitter during some sort of kidlit chat and might get an agent or editor's response?ReplyDelete
I get paranoid about this too. Like Tricia, I thought of Evermore when you said car crash kills the whole family. Evermore provided my own worry too because my novel has an aura reader like Ever. *sigh* I agree that there are no original ideas. However, if your scene can be tweaked easily, it may be worth a shot. You want to minimize any chance that an agent will jump directly to a comparison.ReplyDelete
Great. Mixed opinions just like my mixed feelings. lol. Corey-great idea about Twitter. I'll ask at Kidlit Chat tomorrow night. :) Thanks for everyone's input though. I do apprecaite it!ReplyDelete
Hmmm..good question. I am sure you will look inside and findthe answer that is right for you. But it is a great question to ask. Me? I'd leave it. Cause yeah, you could change it to the ferris wheel and some agent out there hates ferris wheels and sends it to the trash... who knows?ReplyDelete
Ooh! I know! Change your first line to "It was a dark and stormy night." That's never been done before!ReplyDelete
Seriously, though, with all the millions of books in print and all the millions not in print, no matter what you write there's a really good chance it will be similar to other works. That's where your voice comes in. Who knows? Maybe car crashes will be the next vampire/teenage wizard. ;)
I say leave it or tweak it, it's not neccesarily what you say, it's how you say it.ReplyDelete
give 5 artists a pallet with the same 5 colours, guarantee you'll get 5 completely different pieces ;-)
I'll just echo everyone who already commented; leave it like it is. It's wonderful the way you wrote it.ReplyDelete
I think you should just leave the story the way it is. That is how you wrote it originally and if the only problem you have with it is that someone else has already done that, then I think it's fine. If you change it, you might end up changing your voice and I think in the end, voice is the deciding factor of whether or not a story is good.ReplyDelete
Thanks everyone for the advice. I'm rewriting a new scene just to see if I like it better. I like having options, and I can't help but wonder what would happen if it all started differently.ReplyDelete
I am the same way, always afraid of an idea that is similar to mine, but like others have commented-it's how you put it, your own voice and your own take. Besides, sometimes it is the common ideas that draw us into a novel. We are all scared to death of dying or losing someone in a car accident. That will never change.ReplyDelete
A few agents ask you to send your first five pages with a query, but many don't. If your query letter conveys a fresh and original plot, you shouldn't have problems.ReplyDelete
I'm not an expert, just been reading many agent blogs so I'll be ready when my novel is finished.
The idea might have been used before and I don't know anything about Agents but as a avid reader, the beginning might not be original but if the plot is great and interesting, I could care less.ReplyDelete
Yes it's all been done before...but it hasn't been done in the way YOU do it. That's what gives each of us our unique edge. That "voice" they talk about that's unique to only you.ReplyDelete
How much is really original, anyway? So much depends on the execution - if you can bring it off with your writing, it doesn't matter if it's been done!ReplyDelete
Ugh. I know EXACTLY how you feel. I wrote most of my YA book before I started blogging big time and then suddenly I started seeing similar ideas pop up everywhere. AAAHH to say the least. Then I relaxed because life is too short. Good luck with deciding on your death and mayhem problem. :DReplyDelete