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Is it good to let people read your plot idea?

pmmg

Vala
what if she was actually referencing Harry Dresden of the Dresden files?

What if a million things? What if, she told her idea, and someone took it, and put out a story with a similar boy, in a similar story, with similar ideas, and it caught on? I bet Mrs. Rowling she would care.

There are many ideas that were the first of their kind. And if you think you got one, you wont share. And many circumstances lead to an idea that can only hit once, and then it is spent. It would not be wise to let it out too early. But I wont stop you from sharing if you like.

The issues I have with the thinking above is the same as ever saying something is all or nothing. That should be a red flag in any position. Maybe it is true for 999 out of a 1000, or 999,999 out of 1 Million, but for that 1, I cannot subscribe to the above. I can only mostly subscribe to it.

When the Idea is mine, and I am not seeing it anywhere else, and I intend to use it, I am not sharing.
 
What if a million things? What if, she told her idea, and someone took it, and put out a story with a similar boy, in a similar story, with similar ideas, and it caught on? I bet Mrs. Rowling she would care.
I think you missed my point. I meant that the for the idea descibed your thoughts immediately went to Harry Potter. However, the exact same idea description could also be used to describe the Dresden Files. Same idea, very different executions. It's not the idea that matters, it's the execution of that idea. The best idea in the world won't make a great story if the execution is bad. But a terrible idea can make a great story if it has great execution.

Magical boarding schools were nothing new when Harry Potter came out, but that didn't stop it from becoming what it is. Same with pretty much any other idea out there.
 

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
Leadership
I think you missed my point. I meant that the for the idea descibed your thoughts immediately went to Harry Potter. However, the exact same idea description could also be used to describe the Dresden Files. Same idea, very different executions. It's not the idea that matters, it's the execution of that idea. The best idea in the world won't make a great story if the execution is bad. But a terrible idea can make a great story if it has great execution.

Magical boarding schools were nothing new when Harry Potter came out, but that didn't stop it from becoming what it is. Same with pretty much any other idea out there.
Prince is absolutely correct, pmmg, and not only is there no such thing as an original idea, I think at the core here it sounds like we're having a miscommunication as to what makes an idea and what makes a story. An idea is just that, a passing thought. Watching an older lady cross the street and imagining her as a sorcerous on a quest. Bam, you have an idea. Now, sifting through your horde of ideas to find the one that speaks to both you and your Muse, and then launching into world building and character development and then plot... that's idea that's graduated to project. Now we're cooking.

So, to recap, an idea is a bottle of glitter, a mess waiting to happen, and a project is when you've gotten the glue out and now the kraft room will never be the same. You've taken the glitter and made it yours.

Does that make things a bit clearer?
 

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
Leadership
That is one school of thought, and for many ideas, this may be true, but for some it isn't. Some Idea's are in fact different, and have one best chance to resonate. After which, they are spent, to use again is to reuse, and the impact wanes.

I can come up with 100 ideas in an hour if I like, but occasionally 1 out of a 100 is worth keeping to myself.

If Mrs. Rowling would have shared that idea with me, and I popped out a story about a wizard named harry who talks to snakes while she was writing hers...I bet she would not have liked that.
Funny thing is something along those lines is exactly what happened. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone came out roughly 5 years before Harry Dresden graced the scene, different subgenres but related under the Fantasy banner, nonetheless. Did anyone accuse Butcher of stealing his story idea? Of course not, because no idea (or battle plan) survives first contact, and so even if I sat down to write a story based on an idea I saw here, it wouldn't be the same because one, crucial, aspect has changed.

Me.

Stories are born of us. They are shards of our souls that we send out into the dark to find new homes, rarely knowing how they were received. I can't steal an idea any more than anyone else can, because the spark that gives the idea life is within you, and that can never be taken away.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
I don't know how to steal an idea. You have an idea. I can listen to you describe it, but that's sort of like someone describing a dream: I can hear it, but it isn't going to resonate the same for me, and I can't capture the nuances that made it memorable to you.

What I could do is take the idea as you described it and go off and write my own story. As A. E. Lowen says, the process of writing the story makes it irretrievably mine and not yours.

Now, it could very well be that you read my story and think hey, that's how I would have written it too, and now I cant write it because it would be about the same. I can see being discouraged. I can even see worrying that a reader might read your book and my book and asserting that the one stole the story from the other. Of course, you'd have had to have written yours, too, for that to happen.

But honestly, I can't get myself too worked up over such an unlikely outcome. Someone writes a book about goblins invading the Roman Empire, that's fine. More power to them. If we get three of us together, we're a sub-genre. Or maybe it's a conspiracy. <g>

Where I do see it being something of an issue is with magazines and short stories. If the thief swipes my idea, writes the story, and gets it published at a magazine, that might very well slam the door for me, because editors know what's up elsewhere and would not want to publish a copy story (which is how they would regard mine). That would be cause for distress. But for novels, I don't see it as an issue. Nobody notices my books anyway! <g>
 

pmmg

Vala
Well, I can see I will get no traction is with, but the statement 'there are no such things as original ideas' is false, many ideas are original, and the last original idea has not been dreamed yet, and along with this the field also changes. If you want to strike when the iron is hot, and think you have to one that might land, you would do well not to share it. And when you have an idea lifted, even though the story is different, you will know.

I will leave it to you to decide what you share and what you don't.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
Fair enough, pmmg. The very notion of originality depends on how we humans recognize pattern, but certainly every idea was original once upon a time. And every idea can be seen as derivative, if we abstract our view sufficiently. What constitutes originality and how it is to be recognized and defined, I leave as an exercise for the student. <g>
 
I've come across a presentation which explains this whole discussion, and why it even is a discussion:

There are different types of writers (more than in that presentation actually, but this just focusses on one aspect of writing). For some writers original ideas and forging new ground is one of the most important aspects of creating fiction. They probably don't want to share their ideas, since the thought of somebody using that idea turns them off writing the idea.

For others it doesn't matter. They could be actively looking for existing ideas, or don't care if someone has done it before, or any of another dozen option. Those types of writers probably freely share their ideas, since the idea is a lot less precious to them.
 

pmmg

Vala
The audio quality is a little low. I let it play in my loooong drive home today. It was hard to understand at places.

So, the gist of it is we all fit into these categories of writer types, and each can be successful. The gifts of one, dont have to be your gifts, you can make it with the gifts you have. Welllllll.... that is pretty much life. Everyone is different. And it should not be surprising that some value their ideas more than others, or maybe more so, some value the value of ideas more than others. As you travel around writer circles (or really any circles), you will hear many things that seem to just pass for the 'great wisdom', and we should just accept them as a given. One of these is the statement: There is no such thing as an original idea. It may feel that way, but someone was the first to do everything. Somewhere along the way, someone was first to think of every idea we think cant be expanded upon today. And equally true in stories and fiction. They were not thinking about light sabers when they were writing Last of the Mohegans. Someone after thought of it first.

Personally, while neat to, I never found it useful to see if I match a category because no one ever exactly does. In listening to these, I find I can identify with parts of all of them. It might be, I fit most closely to Trail Blazer (which is the one that would hold most prominent their ideas), but all of them had aspects I find I could fit myself into. Trail Blazer would be good, but I also watch the market, does that mean I am Drafter instead? But I am not really trying to do someone else better...so not quite. The same is true for Evergreen and Island. I often feel like an island. But I've said a number of times, I dont likely share your values. And I dont expect to find many who would agree with me, least not from an site catering to artistic types.

I do however, always find such things interesting, and try to steal from them stuff to sift through and see what seems real and what seems like fluff. I am sure that these categories identified are likely true for many people, enough that the observation could be made. I also liked that she used dials and sliders. I would improve on that. I think people are made up and many tiny thermostat like traits. They have a preferred setting, and can drift high or low of it, even quite far, but over time they will start to drift back. It would be rare that the thermostat gets a new setting. I also like that she put to bed all the 'must outline' types. I have never outlined. It will never be the way I do it.

Now if only I could find that secret they are all looking for ;)
 
Much depends on the definition of original. If you look at a story idea at its core, it's not going to be original. For instance, trapped on Mars alone, as in The Martian, is original in its Details, but at its Core Story, it is not original at all, a stranded survival story that's been done a thousand times.

Sharing your plot idea is fine, but that also depends on the definition. A tagline? Sure. A general concept? Yes. If I was a hard-core outliner I might not hand it out willy-nilly, heh heh.

The bigger threat, oddly enough, is just having your book ripped off, retitled, re-covered, and re-marketed AFTER you publish it.
 

pmmg

Vala
I see that the topic of Plot and Ideas got mixed up.

For a plot, I might give a top level sample, but it would not give anything away. 'New hero get tossed into an epic conflict and has to kill a baddie.' That's not the same as the ideas that make it different from everyone elses. So might be more forthcoming with plot, but...my plots dont tend to fit well into a one sentence sum up.

If I was to take anything to its broadest explanation, I am sure it is true it will seem like many others. Fiction has pretty much defined at its base there are only a limited number of conflicts and story types, A sentence like 'New hero gets tossed into an epic conflict and has to kill a baddie' is so broad as to fit to most fantasy stories out there. But if its was 'Hobbit gets a ring that belongs to a baddie, and he has to risk much to destroy it.' already I am giving away details that others may not be writing. If I start to go more specific, I will eventually cross into territory I would not share until I have used it in public. And if you are the first one to have light sabers, and you want to hit the reading public, its best to keep that to yourself. I would need a useful reason not to.
 
Personally, while neat to, I never found it useful to see if I match a category because no one ever exactly does. In listening to these, I find I can identify with parts of all of them
I agree. These kind of categories are only a rough aproximation, and no one will fit into them exactly. It's a continuum, and not a fixed box. What I do think is useful is the realization that everyones process for getting to a story, and what they value about writing is different. Just like with plotters and pantsers. A pure pantser can't plot because they'd feel they then have already writen the story, while if I don't plot I get stuck at some point and have no clue what to write.

The same here. I don't value ideas all that much. For me it's all in the execution of the idea, and I believe that a terrible idea with great execution is always better that the best idea in the world with terrible execution. That drives my writing and how I look at storytelling.

However, that says something about me. Notice the "I believe" and "my writing" in that paragraph. For others that conclusion may be very different. And that is down to how we are wired. And if you need an original idea you haven't come across to be able to write it, then you'll reach a very different conclusion about sharing ideas.
 
The bigger threat, oddly enough, is just having your book ripped off, retitled, re-covered, and re-marketed AFTER you publish it.

Hollywood does this with movies, eh? One movie hits box office gold, and three other studios attempt to replicate it. By replicating it. My first experience of this happened when I was about 12 or 13 years old and so many knockoffs of E.T. began appearing. Every one was subpar, at least in the comparison, even if I still enjoyed some of them for quick entertainment.

I also remember a review of the Ender's Game movie trailer, paraphrased: "So it's basically Hunger Games?" Cringeworthy. I'm still cringing. But this does highlight the fact that a newer creation can sometimes appear to be the original presentation of an idea—for someone. Which came first doesn't always matter. We could dig through the archives and find a hundred examples of popular movies or novels that had antecedents few know about.

I am somewhat sympathetic with pmmg's perspective here. Under some circumstances, a stolen idea brought to market first can capture the zeitgeist (or shape it), preventing or limiting the success of anything that comes after it. If the person who steals your idea happens to be a much better writer, a much quicker writer, and can get the finished product to market faster, you might be in trouble, heh. At least, there's only so much space at the top of the bestseller charts. (Or in a particular writing competition.)

I think Hollywood and the movie and streaming industries are a narrower funnel than the publishing world, with wider reach, so this kind of scenario is more likely there than in publishing.
 
A sentence like 'New hero gets tossed into an epic conflict and has to kill a baddie' is so broad as to fit to most fantasy stories out there. But if its was 'Hobbit gets a ring that belongs to a baddie, and he has to risk much to destroy it.' already I am giving away details that others may not be writing.

I agree.

I also agree with those who say ideas are a dime a dozen and execution is more important.

I think the problem will only rear its head when there is a true competition for some top spots on bestseller lists or in writing competitions. As a novel rises, not only is it compared to other novels but other novels coming after are compared to it. How many knockoffs of Tolkien's novels exist—and haven't we actually seen that criticism many times over, Such and Such is basically a ripoff of Tolkien? I think maybe a whole decade—the 80's?—is described as one big Tolkien heist. This tendency to compare comes naturally. Yes, some productions will lose in the comparison. Some might actually benefit, at least to the degree that readers actively seek out certain tropes, plots, etc., they grew to love in some other novel.

Below the top spots, especially far below, it's not going to matter much. If I stole one of your ideas, wrote the thing, and brought it to market first—well, I'm a nobody and probably by the time you bring yours out none of your potential buyers are going to know that I was first, heh.

Edit: Ah, I was going to add, but forgot, that I'm very guarded about my work in at least two areas. I won't share my maps, and I won't share character or place names. At least, I won't post these willy-nilly across the internet. Mostly this is because I've spent a lot of time creating names that are unusual, and I don't want to see them popping up anywhere else before I'm ready to hand deliver these tremendous gifts to the world. :sneaky:
;)
 
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pmmg

Vala
Below the top spots, especially far below, it's not going to matter much. If I stole one of your ideas, wrote the thing, and brought it to market first—well, I'm a nobody and probably by the time you bring yours out none of your potential buyers are going to know that I was first, heh.

That is true, but I would not want to be Tolkien and being called a Lewis clone by all and sundry. Unless I had reason to trust him, I would not have told Lewis anything about hobbits, or rings, or most of any of it. Not till I had put it out. He could be a beta reader ;)
 
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That is true, but I would not want to be Tolkien and being called a Lewis clone by all and sundry. Unless I had reason to trust him, I would not have told Lewis anything about hobbits, or rings, or most of any of it. Not till I had put it out. He could be a beta reader ;)

Being a Tolkien or Lewis. Truly, we have entered fantasy territory. :cool:
 
In a world of millions, even in the much smaller world of screenwriting, it's also extremely common to see concurrent development of the same basic idea. My favorite tale, being its one I had chatted with the writer, is when this poor bloke was flown to H'Wood, wined and dined, and verbally implied they'd be buying his script. He flew home, and like a week later, Variety announced the development of Drumline, which it turns out was extremely close to his script. He no longer existed to the studio heads looking to buy his script, LOL.

Another from personal contact was the screenwriter of K-9, who was starting up his own little production company and they'd had this comedy script based around RV's in the works for quite a while, then all of a sudden! Here comes a Robin Williams RV movie... the race was on, and he lost if I'm not mistaken. Far as I know, he never finished the film, in particular after Williams' flick kinda bombed.

In many cases, in pop culture, ideas don't come from a vacuum; there is some inspiration sitting out there that more than one person latches onto.

Hollywood does this with movies, eh? One movie hits box office gold, and three other studios attempt to replicate it. By replicating it. My first experience of this happened when I was about 12 or 13 years old and so many knockoffs of E.T. began appearing. Every one was subpar, at least in the comparison, even if I still enjoyed some of them for quick entertainment.

I also remember a review of the Ender's Game movie trailer, paraphrased: "So it's basically Hunger Games?" Cringeworthy. I'm still cringing. But this does highlight the fact that a newer creation can sometimes appear to be the original presentation of an idea—for someone. Which came first doesn't always matter. We could dig through the archives and find a hundred examples of popular movies or novels that had antecedents few know about.

I am somewhat sympathetic with pmmg's perspective here. Under some circumstances, a stolen idea brought to market first can capture the zeitgeist (or shape it), preventing or limiting the success of anything that comes after it. If the person who steals your idea happens to be a much better writer, a much quicker writer, and can get the finished product to market faster, you might be in trouble, heh. At least, there's only so much space at the top of the bestseller charts. (Or in a particular writing competition.)

I think Hollywood and the movie and streaming industries are a narrower funnel than the publishing world, with wider reach, so this kind of scenario is more likely there than in publishing.
 
With Game of Thrones, sometimes I swear any epic with frigid weather in it will get called a GoT clone. Seriously? Martin didn't invent a single trope that SoIaF is known for, LOL.
 
Book theft: There have been people out there who quite literally copy other people's book and market them as their own. Different cover, different title, they might change some names and other stuff to throw off automated protection that Amazon might have by checking metadata. A fake author can throw together a backlist of a hundred books goddamned fast by cheating! Throw it on KU, advertise the shit out of it, zoom-bam! Income. Back n the days of trad publishing only, you could hand your MS around fairly safely, these days, ha! One of these people could rip you off in a heartbeat.

The best defense against this I know of has been readers catching it.
 

pmmg

Vala
Same thing happened with Costner's Robin hood. Three production companies all decided to do Robin hood at once, but two of them pulled it cause Costner was a bigger draw. It was a pity, cause Costner's was not best of the three.

I figure that those companies watch each other. They all want to hit when the iron is hot. Which to me speaks to their lack of true creativity.

Ya know, it could be there are a hundred people writing a story similar to mine as I write, but I doubt it. If so, more power to them. But they are not going to get their ideas from me. Least not the ones I want to use.

And I did become concerned for Game of Thrones having a winter environment. It add that sentiment to my work, but I swear I did not read Game of thrones till way late. It was always a Finland/Norway type of setting. Winter is coming.... Hard to escape that comparison. But I don't have the black guards, or frost giants, so....


Book theft: There have been people out there who quite literally copy other people's book and market them as their own. Different cover, different title, they might change some names and other stuff to throw off automated protection that Amazon might have by checking metadata. A fake author can throw together a backlist of a hundred books goddamned fast by cheating! Throw it on KU, advertise the shit out of it, zoom-bam! Income. Back n the days of trad publishing only, you could hand your MS around fairly safely, these days, ha! One of these people could rip you off in a heartbeat.

The best defense against this I know of has been readers catching it.

I've heard of this. And since they change all the names, it would be hard to detect. Someone would have to find it and clue you in. All I can say is I would be disappointed if it happened to me, but I doubt there is any recourse.
 
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