It’s been said that professional writers don’t worry about other writers stealing their ideas. I’m sure it doesn’t happen often, but it’s gotta happen sometimes, right? Because, everything’s a remix, after all. That is, there are very few new ideas out there that don’t build on existing ideas. Is that stealing? I don’t think so. Thomas Jefferson didn’t think so. But not all authors feel the same way, and to many there’s a fine line between being influenced by a work and copying it (as last year’s ridiculous Robin Thicke/Marvin Gaye lawsuit showed).
But my concern has never been about others stealing my ideas, but the perception that I have stolen ideas from others. For example, my book has a time-travel aspect to it – although no one actually travels through time – instead, digital messages are sent into the past. I remember being upset the first time I saw the movie Frequency and its depiction of a radio that could transmit through time. I thought, well, great, everyone is going to think I stole that idea. Several years ago, I bought a book by an author I admire. Today it sits on my shelf and I still haven’t read it. Why? Because I’m afraid that his story and mine cover a lot of the same ground and I don’t want my story or my characters to be influenced by the ideas of this other author. I want my story to be pure.
Perhaps I am being irrational. But this is my first work of fiction and if it is any good at all it is important to me that it be good because the story came from me and my ideas. I don’t want anyone to be able to come along later and label it derivative (or worse, the p-word).