Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Why You Don't Need to Worry About Protecting Your Idea

Last week I posted this Tweet:

#MSWL a book based on this crazy story: http://www.nj.com/union/index.ssf/2015/06/lawsuit_bring_me_young_blood_stalker_told_westfiel.html#incart_2box_nj-homepage-featured
6/19/15, 12:16 PM

If you haven't read the article you absolutely must. It's the creepiest thing I've heard in a long time. Since reading it I've thought and thought about what kind of book I'd like to see and then I thought about all of the different types of books that someone could create from this crazy story.

Which is why I think writers sometimes worry a little too much about protecting an idea. The idea in this case is a book based on this particular true story, but what any one writer does with that idea will likely be completely different from what another writer will create.

A YA author might create a story about a young girl who moves with her family into the house and is either possessed by a demon or lives in terror of what is in the walls. Maybe she has supernatural powers, maybe she doesn't.

A suspense or mystery author might create the story of a killer who used live in the house and buried bodies in the walls, or a killer who killed as a child and is now trying to get back in the house because he needs to be there to start killing again.

A romance writer might write the story of a woman who inherits the house and moves in only to be terrorized by these letters, stalked even, when the hero comes to investigate and saves the day, and they fall in love.

A SFF writer could write the story of an alien abduction that happened in or around the house...

Or, even if all of the writers who take my idea and run with it write in the same genre, the possibilities are endless. What's really going to be important isn't the idea (although that's a terrific first step), but the execution. How the idea or the story plays out, who the characters are and the author's voice.



AJ Blythe said...

Oh my gosh, that is so creepy. In fact, it is so creepy it is hard to believe it is real. It should be from the pages of a book. That poor family!

My mind immediately went down the crime/stalker/murder path while I was reading it.

Caitlin Lane said...

Yeah, I wouldn't have moved in either!

But I agree with you. I think guarding ideas that closely actually builds a barrier between writers, preventing any type of collaborative thinking that they could actually benefit from.

E.L. Wagner said...

Great example. I can think of ways this could be developed in a SF or fantasy world too.

I've seen this conceit on writing sites fairly often. A brand new member posts a message asking for help with their story, but they refuse to share any bit of their work (even on password protected subforums) or even describe the plot or character element that is giving them trouble. Because, of course, all the people on writing sites are lurking there, waiting to steal ideas from other aspiring writers.

Because ideas are rare and precious gems and once someone has an idea, the book will practically write itself.


Elissa M said...

I've never understood some writers' concerns about their "ideas" being stolen.

In life drawing class, we students all drew the same models. None of our drawings looked the same. Skill levels, angles, centers of interest, even drawing media all differed.

Ideas are writers' models. Even when writers are given a prompt (write a story about a dog finding its way home) the results will all be different.

Note: The events in that article are indeed creepy as heck. I come up with different stories just imagining how different people I know would handle such a thing. For instance, my brother would not be the least bit intimidated. He spent 20 years in Navy EOD (explosive ordnance disposal). Think "bomb squad". I can definitely see him stalking the stalker.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Stealing ideas? Not sure.
I read years ago that All SF plots and situations have been written about. From aliens to parallel worlds to whatever, nothing new, nothing original left out there to discover.
That's sort of like the guy who said in 1900 that all inventions had been invented. Bunk.
I wonder though. Real world or fiction, is there a SF list and is it complete?

LynnRodz said...

Another example is flash fiction. At one agent's blog, 5 words are given to make up a story in 100 words or less. The results are always 60, 70, up to 100 different stories. Each story is unique in style and covers a variety of different genres.

Emily Keeler said...

I don't know what it says about me, but what I would really love is reading a memoir written by The Watcher. And by love, I mean probably wouldn't finish and would never sleep in the dark again.

John West said...

The house where this situation is occurring is in Westfield, NJ. Interestingly, it is near the property of John List who massacred his entire family in the house. He went on the run and was not captured for almost 25 years and only after being featured on America's Most Wanted. Later he was sentenced to serve 5 life sentences in Trenton State Prison. While incarcerated he exhibited An extremely bizarre thought process and unnerved both inmates and CO's.
A goof fictional story would be mixing List with this current situation that is on going. John West