All the Good Ideas Have Been Taken…

December 2, 2011

A few days ago, the seemingly endless renovations on my house came to an end (temporary, of course) and I found myself in a quiet house, alone. Did I write? No. I curled on the couch underneath a blanket and watched a movie. Three-quarters of the way through I realized I was watching a scene from my WIP. The on-screen hero was similar to my on-page hero—down to their privilege and emptiness. The heroines were similar too—down to their red hair and spicy attitudes. The banter was familiar. The emotions echoed. And my heart broke. Someone beat me to it.

But then I remembered; all the good ideas have been taken. (How many times have you heard that?) I remembered that the idea didn’t have to be original, just the execution did. So knowing this scene couldn’t be word-for-word my scene, I settled down and enjoyed it. After all, this was probably as close as I’d ever get to seeing one of my ideas played out on screen.

Of course, the scene was different in many ways, but I came away from the experience with a renewed excitement for my characters and the direction for my story. Isn’t it funny how inspiration comes from the most unlikely places?

Have you ever read or watched one of your ideas come to life at the hands of another writer?

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5 Responses to “All the Good Ideas Have Been Taken…”

  1. Cliff Burns Says:

    Are all the good ideas taken?

    Well…maybe.

    And then I read a book like Colson Whitehead’s THE INTUITIONIST or Wilton Barnhardt’s GOSPEL or James Morrow’s TOWING JEHOVAH and realize that inventive writers can still concoct a scenario that isn’t (at least) twice told.

    The key is reading further afield, stretching your comfort zone. Authors like Steve Erickson (TOURS OF THE BLACK CLOCK and DAYS BETWEEN STATIONS) and Thomas Pynchon bend narrative convention and play with language but they also demand more of readers, an investment of time and intelligence. People these days are lazy, seeking simple, escapist fare when buying a book. That’s where you’ll find all the familiar formulas and tropes.

    Venture out on the margins more and THAT’S where you’ll find originality and innovation.

    Thanks for the post–it’s a sinking feeling to realize someone has been digging in the same mine shaft. Write on…

  2. taureanw Says:

    Anyone who watches romantic comedies knows these are the EXACT same story over & over again. The difference is HOW the story is told.

  3. rosellezubey Says:

    I was a big fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation. They had an open script policy which meant that you could submit scripts to them without a literary agent. I wrote a script but never submitted it to them. I just didn’t have the confidence to do it at the time. Later in the show’s run a character was created for the show that reminded me very much of the character that I created. It became a great regret for me that I never submitted that script. I still carry that regret with me to this day. It taught me a vetry important lesson that you have to try things no matter what the outcome may be. I think that is the closest that I came to what you’re talking about. Great post.

  4. nicolehelm Says:

    I don’t think it takes breaking convention to make a great, enjoyable novel. When I was an English major I read plenty of books that pushed boundaries and broke molds, and I enjoyed them, they made me think… but are they the books that I read over and over again? The books that stuck with me? Not usually.

    The books I read over and over again are stories about people that resonate with me. For me fiction of any kind isn’t about being “out there” or “inventive”, it’s about connecting to the reader. And whether I’ve heard the story before doesn’t matter, as long as the characters are different and believable.

    Think about how many people experience almost the exact same things in life. But because they’re different people with different backgrounds, the experience is different.

    I think every story comes from some other story before it.


  5. […] a way, today’s post kind of ties in to what Elley talked about on Friday regarding all the good ideas being taken. I think, especially for us romance writers, this is true at a pretty basic level. Romance is all […]

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