18 August, 2011

You Pick Up A Book. You Read. You Come Across Something That's Very Similar To A Bit Of Your WIP

Only one conclusion can be made.

The author stole your idea.

Disregard the fact there's a chance you picked the word up and don't remember where.

Never mind the author died 8 years before you were born.

Surely the fact their book was published 24 years before you even thought of yours doesn't matter.

They must have future-reaching, idea-stealing machines that rip the only brilliant pieces of insight away from innocent writers.

And, obviously, the only thing left to do about this travesty is . . .

Sue their estate
Sigh and do something else, and/or hope your readers haven't come across the book you're reading.


Have you ever found a device/phrase/term/etc. in a book that's like something in your own novel? If so, how did you react?

-----The Golden Eagle


Sananora said...

Can't say I have had that problem...hopefully I won't ever.

Christine Rains said...

A couple of times, I've written a story and then found someone else had already published one very similar. It's frustrating, but I know I didn't steal the idea from them. I can only hope that what I wrote is original enough to stand apart from the other one.

Jessica Bell said...

Yes! And it was a metaphor! And I thought I was SO clever! Of course, I ended up discarding it :o(

Arlee Bird said...

I know I have written things that were very similar to something else I discovered later. Maybe I had picked it up and retained the idea subliminally or maybe it was a coincidence. There have been other stories and books that I've read that bore similarities to something done by someone else. I guess the real problem would come if the words and the style were the same.

Tossing It Out

L.G.Smith said...

I hadn't read Game of Thrones until about a month ago. I was reading along happily and got to a distinctive sentence in the book about dragon blood and it was almost word for word what I had written as the opening line of my novel.

Guess who had to change their opener. :(

Sarah Pearson said...

This hasn't happened to me since I was a teenager when my awesome idea (that I'd written out in half a page of an exercise book), was turned into a little film called 'Sleeping with the Enemy'. I was very annoyed. Still, good job I hadn't wasted time writing a word of it :)

Heather said...

I have, an entire idea actually. Once I read the novel though I realized it was different enough from mine that it wouldn't matter.

Clarissa Draper said...

Are you kidding me? I don't write my own books, I just steal lines from all the other books in the world! There are just so many and if you take one line from one book and the next line from another, pretty soon, you have yourself a novel. Of course, it makes no sense whatsoever but that doesn't matter, does it? I just call it art. But don't worry, I took one line from your book...

Great post, all kidding aside.

GigglesandGuns said...

It's happened and I yelled "Do Over!" Maybe that's not exactly what I yelled but I did do it over.

Nicole MacDonald said...

meh lots of stories have similar themes and characters. I don't think it's awful ;p frustrating but not too awful

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I use a lot of common science fiction terms, so they're everywhere. Several people have told me my book reminds them of Ender's Game, but I've never even read it.
Just keep moving forward with yours, Golden!

Summer Ross said...

Other than common romance antics, I have not had this experience, though it might break my heart if I thought I had a gold nugget of writing only to find out it was used before.

Crystal Collier said...

Actually, this has never happened to me. Yikes! Maybe I just don't hang out in the cosmic void of writer-dom.

Okay, that's not true. Stephanie Meyers wrote a vampire book a year after I wrote a vampire musical. *shifty eyes* Hey, it counts!

li said...

I recently entered a short story in a contest. About 12 hours later, I ran across a story elsewhere online that had an object/image almost exactly like mine. I hurriedly emailed the host of the contest, withdrew my submission, eliminated 2 lines, and then re-submitted. Phew!! Imagined being tagged as a plagiarist (shudders). Weird, though. Do we all draw from some gigantic cosmic pool containing all ideas that will ever be possible? Hmmm....

Marlena Cassidy said...

A while back, I was writing this awesome novel about vampires and stuff that I was going to pitch very soon and then Twilight suddenly burst into popularity. Imagine the rage.

Oh look, it happened again, with Crystal's comment! I didn't even *read* it until I was done with this comment. RAGE.

Beverly Diehl said...

In early pages of my WIP, it's mentioned that my MC has a particular flower tattooed on the inside of her left wrist. In my crit group last night, one of my friends brought pages where his waitress has... same flower tattooed in the same spot. Much joking and laughter ensued - it was clearly subconscious. His waitress is now getting a different tat, lol!

Old Kitty said...

Whenever I come across a story with enough similar to mine, I ditch mine and have some more chocolate! :-)

Take care

Carole Anne Carr said...

I keep well away from other children's book writer's work when writing my own. :0)

Angelina C. Hansen said...

Okay. So when I was querying my first novel, I kept hearing, "OOOOh it sounds a lot like X" a novel that had just sold but wouldn't be published for another two years. I gnashed my teeth. The book came out this year and has had great success. Vowing to hate it, I got myself a copy and read. So many similarities it made my skin crawl. But I liked it. And I don't begrudge the author one bit. Of course, I lie. Thankfully, I've written a lot of other books since.

LynNerd said...

I haven't had that happen...yet. It would be eerie to experience that. They say there are no new ideas or plots, that it's how you tell it and in your own unique voice. But if there's a book already published or scheduled to be that's similar to our manuscript, odds of selling it aren't good.

I've heard about the "collective mind" and how if we get an idea and don't jump on it quick and write it, then someone else will. Seems to happen a lot.

I got a big kick out of Clarissa's comment. Funny!

Mercy said...

Hey, I tagged you! http://mercyvaughn.blogspot.com/2011/08/traveling-smoothie.html

Christine Murray said...

Lol, yeah that happens occasionally. If it's something small, I leave it. After all, everything has been written about before in some shape or other. If it's a large part of the plot, I discard it.

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Cally Jackson said...

I recently suffered heart palpitations while reading a Good Reads review for a book that sounded very similar to the awesome idea I've had for my next WiP. On closer inspection it's quite different, thank goodness! :-)

Shelley said...

No, that's never happened to be, mainly because I'm not writing an novel right now! :)

Paul Tobin said...

I have been very proud of lines that I have written one day only to descover the next day that I have lifted it off a song or a book! There's an old Philip K. Dick book, ZapGun I think it was called, about a weapons designer who is unknowingly linked with a comic book writer who is really coming up with the ideas. Very strange-like most of Mr. Dick's work.

Dia said...

Ohhhhh yes. I have done this so many times.

Doralynn Kennedy said...

Sue their estate! Ha! That was a fun (and funny) post.

Mark Noce said...

I've never had that experience, although I think people stealing others' ideas is rarer than it's made out to be. Nonetheless, you could probably just tweak your existing WIP, after all no one can duplicate your work because only you can write it and add your unique essence to it:)

The Golden Eagle said...

Sananora: Hopefully!

Christine: I agree. For the instance I wrote this post over, it was only a phrase--something changeable. It wasn't a BIG issue like a plot twist, or character.

Jessica: I love coming up with metaphors. I'm sorry to you had to discard yours! :(

Arlee: I think I've occasionally hung onto an idea from a blurb/something I read--and then used it, without realizing I'd taken it from somewhere else.

That would be a problem.

L.G.: Well, George R. R. Martin is pretty popular; it's too bad you had to change your opening, but having a few similarities (as long as they're not exact) to a famous author can't hurt, right?

Sarah: I hate it when that kind of thing happens, and the story YOU wrote ends up as something unrelated. :P

Heather: Glad you found it was different enough!

Clarissa: Call me Ishmael. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife, no?

LOL. Thanks!

GigglesandGuns: I gnashed my teeth and hoped no one would notice originally; then I decided it was okay to use the word, since it made logical sense. (It wasn't like a Fantasy word or name, which are pretty specific.)

Nicole: True. Though I still don't like the feeling of knowing that another author used the same idea . . .

Alex: I'm guilty of that one! I don't think any author has rights on "spacecraft", do you?

I haven't read Ender's Game, or your novel; maybe I should read the two and compare? ;)

I did!

Summer: Hope you don't run into this situation. :P

Crystal: I think it counts! It must be really frustrating to write something . . . and then have practically everyone else jump onto the same bandwagon because of another person.

Li: I don't know; some people probably would argue that we have a limited range of human experience and are simply basing our stories on that.

Marlena: I can picture it! I would have shot through the roof.

LOL. That's happened to me on Blogger before, too. I'll check the comments (before or after I post) and voila, someone's already said what I did. :P

The Golden Eagle said...

Beverly: Oh dear! That must have been a situation. :P

Hope he finds a good substitute!

Old Kitty: LOL. My instance was relatively minor (just a word, that I decided to keep since it made logical sense) but if I did come across a plot twist or character I'd be sure to ditch it--but I'd have to skip the chocolate. :P

Carole: Good idea. Less of a chance of picking up something subconsciously!

Angelina: Hey, wait a sec--I just used the phrase "gnashed my teeth" in replying to the comments here! Thief!

Just kidding. LOL.

I'm sorry to hear your novel was so similar to that author's; it must have been so frustrating to read it!

LynNerd: True. Not many publishers are going to pick something up that's already been done before. Or several times.

LOL. I agree! :)

Mercy: Thank you for tagging me! I love tags--will hop over to check it out. :)

Christine: Same here. Mine was just a word, so I left it; I'd be a lot more irritated if it ended up being some major aspect.

Cally: Hooray! :)

Shelley: LOL. Well, that helps. ;)

Paul: A comic book designed and a weapons designer? I would never have put those two together--Philip K. Dick sounds like an interesting writer!

Dia: It's frustrating, isn't it?

Doralynn: Well, what else are you supposed to do when the author has since passed away? :P

Thank you!

Mark: Yup--thank goodness for that. There might be a lot of similar writing out there, but none of it's exactly the same. (Unless it really was plagiarized.)

J.L. Campbell said...

If I come across anything that sounds remotely like what I've written, I guess I'd have to brainstorm to find another way get the idea across. I do like to work out uncommon plot ideas though.

Krispy said...

LOL, yeah this feeling sucks. It depends on the idea/thing. Like if I'm not totally invested in it, then I might discard it for something else. If I love it to bits, then I'll keep it and proceed with caution. Like they say, there's nothing really new under the sun. So I just have to do my best to give it my own unique spin.

Laila Knight said...

That would be disastrous. After days of sulking and yelling curses at the cosmos I would revert to doing research on the deat author and figuring out if indeed I was that person in a past life. :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Not yet! But I'm sure I will some day - there are so many books out there, ther have to be some similarities! :)

Jake Henegan said...

If I see something like that, I shake my fist at the sky and change my story.

I think someone said that there are no original ideas left. So I guess that means I can only hope not to come across a similar idea.

Jessica Hill said...

Yes! I actually saw a book that's about to be released that sounds so much like my first manuscript. I mean, the concept is practically identical. SO WEIRD. I guess it's a good thing I never went any further with that novel, ha! :)

Griffinclaw said...

It's happened a couple of times. It used to really bother me, but after a while... Unless it is like word for word, scene for scene, plot for plot exactly like mine, than ya, it'll bother me to no end, like disease might. But if it's just a similar theme and whatnot, I just go back and slightly change it. The biggest reason it doesn't bother me anymore, is because in the end, you can't ever get anything perfectly YOURS and super original, because pretty much every plot that can ever be used for stories, has been used. It's just how a writer tells the story differently what makes it their own story, and a great read. :) Hopefully that all made sense. :P

Liz said...

It's a case of simultaneous invention, how two people can get the same idea at the same time (or years later, I guess). How they can have pyramids in Egypt and South America built at the same time. How two movies studios make a Snow White movie each at the same time (and then compete to see who is going to release it first).

Has it happened to me? Oh yes. But the idea wasn't fleshed out too far, so I wasn't too upset to have to trash the thing.

Now, if only I could get someone to steal my idea for an app that can tell you where you saw that actor before, I'd be very happy...

Lydia K said...

I have. It's annoying, but inevitable that it happens to everyone.

DWei said...

I'd have to have written a book first in order to experience that. :P

The Golden Eagle said...

J. L.: I agree--that can be fun! :)

Krispy: It's kind of the opposite with me; I'll change something major but ignore the smaller issues. :P

Laila: LOL. I suggest you try out
then. She's a great author--and has a feature where people find out who they were in past lives. ;)

Jemi: Probably!

Jake: If it's major, I do that--but if it's a small phrase or word I figure it's not going to seriously affect my story and I leave it.

I think there can still be original ideas--depends on the definition. If you mean ideas that aren't based on others, then no, but I don't think any two people could come up with the exact same thing.

Jessica: That must have been frustrating! I would have thrown the book across the room. (In my head. I don't throw books in reality. :P)

Griffinclaw: True, most plots have been used before in some way; there would be books on basic plot structure if it was otherwise!

It made sense to me. :)

Liz: There were two studios making Snow White at the same time? I hadn't known that . . . I guess it was Disney who won that round? :P

I know! That would be handy. I keep running into people I think I've seen before, but it's hard to tell.

Lydia: Would be nice if a story could be totally, completely original, though. :P

DWei: That would probably increase your odds . . . LOL.

Jenna Blake Morris said...

In a writing book once I read that "All writers are thieves." I guess that's kind of true, since almost everything's been done in one sense or another, but I don't let it bother me too much. After all, you're the only one who can tell your story in your way, right?

As for coming across similar aspects of other books, it hasn't really happened to me. I try not to read books that are too much like my current WIP, so there's not even the chance of my subconscious picking anything up. This post made me laugh!

Madeleine said...

Tupperware container weather. I coined the phrase in 1989 and then I read the very same thing in a Bill Byrson book. I decided it was great minds think alike.
During my 1yr graphic design course they were always telling us "There's no such thing as an original idea!" :O)

Brian said...

Yep, the subconscious likely picks up things when we are not paying close attention!

RaShelle said...

It's totally okay. You'll make the idea your own. =D

Talli Roland said...

Yup. It sucks! :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I haven't seen too many books similar to my own. Not sure if that's a good thing or not.

The Golden Eagle said...

Jenna: True!

I actually read many books that are similar to my WIP, just so I know what other books in the field are like. Also, SF is my favorite genre. :)

Glad it made you laugh. ;)

Madeleine: I certainly think they do! :)

I suppose all ideas have to stem from others; with the personal touch added.

Brian: Darn that subconscious! LOL.

RaShelle: Hopefully! :)

Talli: Doesn't it? :P

L. Diane: I would say it's a good thing. Your writing's unique that way, and readers are probably more likely to remember it!

Donea Lee said...

I was reading Beautiful Creatures and there was a house in it that was described almost EXACTLY the way I'd described a house in my own story. A few other curious similarities, too (not that I'm claiming to write as well as Garcia and Stohl, mind you...)

My initial reaction was, "Ah, Sh*t."

But, I'm still plugging along! :)