Monday, February 1, 2010
A Day Late and a Story Short
Okay, so have you ever missed the idea boat? Gone to jump on board a brand new ship just to discover it sailed the day before? Had a completely awesome idea that you just knew that no one else on the face of the earth has ever had before? You get so excited you grab the nearest pen or computer and madly scribble notes and ideas, you spend hours researching, you let your crit buddies know that the best thing they have ever read is on its way, you sit and you type and you type...and then you take a break. You pick up a book that everyone has been raving about - and about half way through, you realize IT'S YOUR STORY! (and how was that for one long awesome sentence *ahem* )
Well, this has happened to me, on more than one occasion. Maybe not quite that drastically. Somewhere deep inside I know that there really isn't such a thing as a totally brand new idea. Just new ways of spinning old tales. But still, sometimes it's a bit of a shock to be reading a story and have elements of your own story rear up and hit you in the face. Especially if the similarities are strong and it's a story you've never heard of before in your life.
So what do you do when this happens? Do you scrap the whole idea and start over? Do you continue on your merry way and not worry about it all?
For me, I think it depends on how striking the similarities are. It really is possible to have almost the exact same idea as someone you have never met, whose work you have never read. It's a bit depressing when it happens, a little disappointing - but for me, I usually sit and think about how I can tweak it, how I can spin the idea to make it even more different than the story that beat me to the punch.
I mean, why did Stephanie Meyer go so big? Were vampire love stories a new idea? Not even close. But vampires that can go in the sun and sparkle like a diamond? Yeah, that's a new twist. If you give ten writers an assignment to write a ghostly love story, you are going to get ten completely different tales, even if there are very similar elements.
So I try not to worry about it, for the most part. Yes, I do try some tweakage, and I make it a point not to read books that are in the same story arena as the one I am working on, just in case I accidentally pick something up. I'll read YA if I'm writing YA, but if I'm working on a YA ghost story, I'm not going to read any ghost stories until my book is completely done (though I probably wouldn't go reading ghost stories anyways...I live in a very old house and have a ridiculously overactive imagination) :D
But I think the best thing you can do is just write. Chances are, you'll be fine. If not, revisions are always fun ;-D
So how do you handle it?