Saturday, November 29, 2014

Why I don't worry about stolen ideas

This old fear still crops up occasionally on the Absolute Write forums. Sometimes we discover it while critiquing a query, because we ask for specifics. The writer hesitates, unsure whether to reveal the Big Premise or the Big Twist.

Or sometimes newer writers come right out and ask: how to prevent people from stealing their ideas? This is why I don’t worry about it. Here’s the same basic idea that I used for The Deepest Ocean (ship plus great white shark), used to tell five very different stories:

1. Young Adult

The hero is a fifteen-year-old midshipman. His father is an Ahab hunting the shark for his own reasons.

2. Horror/paranormal

He’s one of the best captains in the navy… but every month he changes into an instinct-driven wereshark.

3. Thriller

A shark genetically modified to be intelligent works with a destroyer to locate enemy submarines.

4. Romance

He’s a shark expert monitoring a great white’s release from Sea World. She’s the captain of a ecovessel out to stop a finning operation (anything that butchers apex predators for their fins is unspeakably cruel).

5. Cyberpunk

A battleship has to hunt down the last cyborg shark.

All these stories would appeal to different readerships. All of them would target different markets when the writers sent them out.

So why worry about the idea being stolen? If you and I both sit on eggs, I could hatch a turkey (albeit a bit late for Thanksgiving) and you could hatch a pterodactyl, because we’re different people and therefore we’ll produce different books. Both of which have their own place in the food chain.

Plus, I’ve got hundreds more eggs ideas where that one came from. Just never enough time to sit on them all.


DeConstruction of the Sekuatean Empire said...

I see "my ideas" in every other movie that comes out. It's frustrating. Thanks for some perspective.

Marian Perera said...

Heh. If I learned anything from Eragon, it's that you can sell a story that's remarkably similar to another story. Look at how many fanfics of Twilight were pulled-to-publish.

Randall said...

There's that, and there's "where do you get your ideas?" I don't understand either. Ideas are the easy part. Writing it is the hard part.

Marian Perera said...

Randall - exactly. I always have dozens of ideas for stories. The real effort goes into developing those, writing, researching, editing, revising, etc.