Liam Soutar's picture
Liam Soutar from Manchester, England is reading All The Pretty Horses September 5, 2014 - 5:30pm

Too many times I've thought of an idea, got real excited about it and jumped onto google to start researching only to find it's been done. Then I abandon the project regardless of how little or how large a resemblance it has to the version that already exists.

For a time I had an irrational fear of creating an idea that got me stupidly excited - I couldn't bare the thought of that heart-in-mouth feeling after realising somebody had already called shotgun on my plot. I would skim every page of google and amazon to see if I still had something original. Eventually I got into the mindset that even if my plot had already been used, if it wasn't on the first page of the search engine, it hadn't been done well enough - persuading me to keep my idea moving forward as a 'fuck you' to bad writing.

Nowadays I just don't care at all. I'm not about to go rip off Harry Potter or anything but I have no fear of someone saying "It's been done already".

My best example would be of a sci-fi story I thought of a few years ago. It was about a journalism intern who finds an ad in the paper titled "Time Travellers Wanted', and naturally decides to apply and write an article about his antics. About midway through outlining my plot, Safety Not Guarunteed was announced. If you've never seen or heard of it, it has an IDENTICAL plot. Like, for real, IDENTICAL. To say I was deflated doesn't even come close.

Has this ever happened to you? Examples? 

Aud Fontaine's picture
Aud Fontaine from the mountains is reading Catch-22. Since like, always. September 5, 2014 - 5:48pm

In my entrepreneurship class in high school, I wrote a business plan for a gum company specializing in classy dessert flavors. Just before I turned it in, Extra came out with their stupid dessert gum line. I still got an A+ on the assignment though so I guess that was pretty cool.

That's hilarious about Safety Not Guaranteed. But unless the main focus of your story would've also been the dynamic between the intern and the time traveller then I don't see why your story couldn't have been done, too. Just don't set it anywhere near the Olympic peninsula.

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers September 5, 2014 - 8:06pm

I used to worry about this a lot. Then I realized that 1) every plot has been done, which is a good thing, knowing someone else paved that road we all travel, and 2) not every character has lived every plot. Characters drive the story. Take Breaking Bad. We've all seen the downward spiral decent into Hell plot, but we hadn't seen a teacher with cancer take that road until that show. 

Now I agonize over original titles, which is quite a different pain because titles are not protected by copy right. Yes, you can write a book called Cujo and as long as it's NOT about a rabid St. Bernard, you're good to go. 

Carly Berg's picture
Carly Berg from USA is reading Story Prompts That Work by Carly Berg is now available at Amazon September 8, 2014 - 4:26am

Yep, I agree with Bob and I don't worry about it at all. Even when a group of writers are using the same writing prompt, the stories are all markedly different. Plots can't be copyrighted and it still won't be the same story anyway, so it's all good. :)