A man goes to sleep and wakes up in the future. He finds that everyone that he used to know is dead and the world has changed around him.
This idea is not by any means original. As a matter of fact, depending on the genre in which you write, you might have already thought of at least three different books, comics, graphic novels, movies, or television series with this same idea at the center. I can come up with at least five.
So what’s the point of writing a story if the idea has already been done? Do you give up on your story when you see that someone else has published a book or created a movie or television series based on the same idea that you are working on?
The answer is simple, No.
It’s not about the idea because there are no truly original ideas and ideas cannot be copyrighted. Only stories can be original. The story is what’s important.
Take the idea I stated above. You start with Rip Van Winkle (1819), then go on to the Sci-fi movie Demolition Man (1993), next is the series Andromeda (2000-2005) and add the Sci-Fi book series The Lost Fleet (2006-2010) and just for kicks and giggles, the comedy Idocracy (2006).
Now, if you’ve read any of these books, or seen the movies and television series, you are probably saying, “They are nothing alike.” For the most part, you are correct. Except that each of these has at its core, the idea of a man who has been asleep for various reasons and at various lengths only to awaken to massive changes in the world around him.
The stories; however, are what set each apart from the other — how each of these characters handles the changes, what each of these characters does with his life going forward, the impact that each has on the world around him and the world itself are each told differently.
Many novice writers have actually tossed out their work when faced with the reality that their idea isn’t original. They get upset or depressed and either give up on the story or their dream altogether.
I’ve actually had this happen to me. And I truly regret it now. At one time, I had a story about a woman whose sister was murdered. The heroine, then partners with her ex-husband detective to solve the murder. Of course, the heroine and her ex-husband end up back together. At the time that I was almost finished with this book, I read a book by Sandra Brown that was similar. Needless to say, I didn’t continue on with that book.
However, if I’d known then what I know now, I would have not only finished it, but tried my best to get it published.
So what do I know now? First off, like I’ve already said, there are no original ideas. I let go of the unrealistic thought that I would be a prolific Author with amazingly original ideas.
Second, I began to realize that while my ideas aren’t original, the story lines usually are. I base my stories on “what if…” I watch the news and think, “What if this particular conflict births a World War with apocalyptic results. What would the world be like then? How would people live? Would our base instincts take over? What would the people with all the power do? Then I come up with the story. None of these questions are original ideas. If you think about it, all of these questions have been asked before (many, many times) and the results have been stories such as Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four, or Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
Third, when I see that there is a story already out that seems similar to my story, I don’t get upset. Instead, I look first at the differences and capitalize on that. Then I will look at the similarities and determine what I can tweak to make my voice more distinctive.
While it can be a bit discouraging to see similar ideas already out there, try to remember, that your voice is distinctive. No one can write from your point of view, or come up with the exact characters, plot and conflicts that you can. Push forward and find your own story amidst the ideas.
The story is what people remember more so than the idea. Don’t give up!