Ever been beaten to an idea?

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

mschenk2016

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 5, 2021
Messages
65
Reaction score
47
When I was in eighth grade I had an idea for a story about a paranormal investigator or group of ghost hunters investigating a haunted house. The twist at the end was THEY were going to turn out to be ghosts, and the "ghosts" they were investigating were living people on the other side. Then the movie The Sixth Sense came out, and I abandoned it...

Have you ever been beaten to an idea? I have other stories too from when I was younger that I shelved because I didn't think they were that good, and then years later a movie or TV show came out with a similar idea.
 

Autumn Leaves

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jun 25, 2021
Messages
344
Reaction score
77
Age
24
Location
Russia
When I was little, I loved to play with my grandmother's three-part mirror (a large mirror in the middle with two shutters which are likewise mirrors). I often opened the shutters at a 90° angle so that it would create an endless row of mirrors, and I imagined these were parallel universes, with those nearby being similar to our world but getting more different with each further step.

I even wrote down a story with that premise, with the characters moving between worlds with the help of a magical substance, but somehow left it as it was and kind of forgot about it for the following years. I don’t know why. I mean, it’s only as good as one can expect a twelve-year-old’s draft, unedited by anyone else, to be, but I did like the premise.

And then, in 2021, I found out that The Long Earth series that debuted in 2012 have parallel worlds with basically the same structure…
 

williemeikle

The force is strong in this one.
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 17, 2005
Messages
3,595
Reaction score
541
Location
Canada
Website
www.williammeikle.com
Back in the '90s I had an idea for a sprawling fantasy novel set in an alternative Britain, with warring factions south of the wall fighting for the throne while supernatural forces intent on conquest gathered in the icy lands to the north with only the Watchers on the wall standing in their way... then George R R Martin came along...

I wrote it anyway but dumped the warring factions in the south bit, changed the setting to 1745, made the north of the wall vampire country and had a vampire Bonnie Prince Charlie bringing his army south.
 

llyralen

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 18, 2021
Messages
228
Reaction score
88
I studied to write a story following Ragnar Lothbrok’s wife Kraka (also named Aslaug) and nobody was into Vikings really then except archeologists, then the show Vikings came out. It’s a fantastic family to work with, but dang, why did they have to choose the same family out of all the families you can choose? I am still studying Vikings and will probably still write it as my plot is completely different than what Vikings showed, but there is something about being beaten to an idea that bothers me so much. Arguably, my story would be more well received because of the show and I know plenty of other Viking families I could also write about, but Kraka/Aslaug’s story was always the most interesting to the Vikings themselves and to me too. I’ve been studying for 13 years now. I plan to write a story about the Greenlandic Norse first, then go back to Kraka, probably.
 
Last edited:

Maze Runner

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Apr 11, 2012
Messages
5,413
Reaction score
484
I had the idea to write a novel on the Kennedy, Sinatra, Giancana situation. And, I don't know how close it is, but Jake Tapper's recently done something around that dynamic. Ha, he's been pushing it on his newscast so most likely we've all gotten the word by now.
 

MaeZe

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jun 6, 2016
Messages
9,543
Reaction score
1,529
Location
Ralph's side of the island.
When I was in eighth grade I had an idea for a story about a paranormal investigator or group of ghost hunters investigating a haunted house. The twist at the end was THEY were going to turn out to be ghosts, and the "ghosts" they were investigating were living people on the other side. Then the movie The Sixth Sense came out, and I abandoned it...

Have you ever been beaten to an idea? I have other stories too from when I was younger that I shelved because I didn't think they were that good, and then years later a movie or TV show came out with a similar idea.
Those two stories are different enough I think you could still use it. Pretty much most stories have been done before in some version. The Sixth Sense has older versions using that theme. I can think of one where the dead person keeps closing the drapes and doing other things in her house. In the end, that's the ghost and and the people in the house are the new owners.

[Edited to add, I think The Sixth Sense was the newer version, but it's a blur which story came first.]

For me I've been writing a book that is heavy on the theme people believe lies. I started it ten years ago. I'm glad I didn't finish it four years ago but I think now enough time has passed and the story is different enough that it won't look like I just copied the idea.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: kinokonoronin

mschenk2016

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 5, 2021
Messages
65
Reaction score
47
Those two stories are different enough I think you could still use it. Pretty much most stories have been done before in some version. The Sixth Sense has older versions using that theme. I can think of one where the dead person keeps closing the drapes and doing other things in her house. In the end, that's the ghost and and the people in the house are the new owners.

[Edited to add, I think The Sixth Sense was the newer version, but it's a blur which story came first.]

For me I've been writing a book that is heavy on the theme people believe lies. I started it ten years ago. I'm glad I didn't finish it four years ago but I think now enough time has passed and the story is different enough that it won't look like I just copied the idea.
The book/movie you're thinking of is The Others, and you're right, my idea was different enough that I still could have written it maybe. But then The Others came out, which I think is even MORE like the story I had, that I shelved it.

The movie The Others came out after Sixth Sense, but I heard the reason it got made anyway is because it was based on a book that came out before.
 

Kat M

Ooh, look! String!
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jan 4, 2019
Messages
851
Reaction score
220
Location
Puget Sound
I wrote it anyway but dumped the warring factions in the south bit, changed the setting to 1745, made the north of the wall vampire country and had a vampire Bonnie Prince Charlie bringing his army south.
Makes all those Jacobite nostalgia songs hit a bit differently . . . I LOVE THIS.
 

Pterofan

Trust me, I'm a writer
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 23, 2009
Messages
1,739
Reaction score
136
Location
Pennsylvania Dutch Country
Website
www.pterosnest.blogspot.com
Years ago, maybe 20 at least, I had an idea for a Stephen Kingish fantasy novel involving an intersection of two parallel dimensions. The bad guy was male in one dimension and female in the other. The two met...and hooked up. I thought that would be a daring and original twist. Had I written it, it probably would never have gotten published. I still think it's a great concept. Sadly, so did the producers/writers of the recent Loki TV show...
 
  • Haha
Reactions: kinokonoronin

MaeZe

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jun 6, 2016
Messages
9,543
Reaction score
1,529
Location
Ralph's side of the island.
The book/movie you're thinking of is The Others, and you're right, my idea was different enough that I still could have written it maybe. But then The Others came out, which I think is even MORE like the story I had, that I shelved it.

The movie The Others came out after Sixth Sense, but I heard the reason it got made anyway is because it was based on a book that came out before.
That's the one I was thinking of. Don't be so sure your story Idea would match either of those stories. I think they are both quite different. In The Others a child who couldn't be in the sun (if I recall correctly) had an obsessive mother. In The Sixth Sense the psychologist was the dead guy who didn't know he was dead. They are like night and day. Your story idea couldn't be like them both just because it involves dead people who don't know they are dead. I can see your story idea branching off into a number of different directions.

In Beetlejuice the married couple knew they were dead but they were tied to their house and it was occupied by new tenants.

The point is a story idea is an empty frame that can be filled in any number of ways. You have to write it to see how the story turns out.

Now maybe you are no longer interested in your story idea. I can see that happening when you come across other stories using a similar idea. But do keep in mind that you can write that idea of yours so it doesn't really resemble the other two stories. Think about The Others and Sixth Sense. The stories revolve around their characters and that's what makes them unique.
 
  • Like
Reactions: mschenk2016

Enlightened

Always Learning
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jan 5, 2018
Messages
4,850
Reaction score
161
Location
Colorado
When I was in eighth grade I had an idea for a story about a paranormal investigator or group of ghost hunters investigating a haunted house. The twist at the end was THEY were going to turn out to be ghosts, and the "ghosts" they were investigating were living people on the other side. Then the movie The Sixth Sense came out, and I abandoned it...

Have you ever been beaten to an idea? I have other stories too from when I was younger that I shelved because I didn't think they were that good, and then years later a movie or TV show came out with a similar idea.
Your story sounds similar to The Others with Nicole Kidman.
 

Vincent

Cheers
Poetry Book Collaborator
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 12, 2005
Messages
1,932
Reaction score
461
All the time. Sometimes by a year or two, sometimes by several decades.
 

neandermagnon

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 25, 2014
Messages
4,577
Reaction score
1,159
Location
Dorset, UK
Website
cavepeopleandstuff.wordpress.com
That's the one I was thinking of. Don't be so sure your story Idea would match either of those stories.

The point is a story idea is an empty frame that can be filled in any number of ways. You have to write it to see how the story turns out.

I agree with MaeZe. There's no copyright on ideas and two writers can take the same idea in completely different directions.

Harry Potter isn't the first book to come up with the idea of children going to a magical school. The Worst Witch series by Jill Murphy is based on the same concept and predates Harry Potter by at least a couple of decades. And there were others that are less memorable. Harry Potter and The Worst Witch are completely different in tone, style, plot and pretty much everything apart from both being set in a magical school and some other superficial things (I think they both have potions lessons). They are two completely different series.

By the time you have written your story it will be completely different to other writers' takes on the same idea. And plus, who said the world can only have one book for every idea?

I'm learning Latin for fun (yes I've reached a whole new level of nerd) and on a Latin forum the subject of Martian settlements where people speak Latin came up and several people said they were writing stories about that. I also am working on a story set on Mars and had recently decided to make one of the settlements (the scientific one) Latin speaking. So it was kind of surreal to learn that several others had had the same idea Given the current thing with various billionaires going into space and NASA discussing the possibility of sending humans to mars, there's going to be countless writers writing about humans on Mars. (Plus loads who've already written about humans on Mars.) Among people who speak Latin who also do creative fiction then you can probably expect Latin to feature in their fiction and why not Mars? Mars was the Roman god of war so I think it's quite fitting.

The main character in my Mars story is a sentient robot. Other writers have written about sentient robots. I'm writing a story set 40,000 years ago in which Neandertals and Homo sapiens people interact and interbreed - Clan of the Cave Bear already did that. Probably every single idea has been done before by someone. It can come as more of a shock if you think you've come up with something more unique and distinctive (like, you know, Latin speaking people on Mars), but even so your work isn't going to end up the same as the other writers'.

Take your ideas that someone else has had and make a story that's uniquely yours.
 

MaeZe

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jun 6, 2016
Messages
9,543
Reaction score
1,529
Location
Ralph's side of the island.
The billionaires in my story funded the trip to settle on a new planet. A lot of the story includes false beliefs and the fake news theme. The thing is, I started the story ten years ago and those elements were in it then.

Fake news has been going on for more than a century at least. False beliefs have been an affliction of humanity from the beginning. Upton Sinclair's The Brass Check, A study in American Journalism, is an autobiographical book about fake news. His work was boycotted by the powers that be at the time. His lifestyle, in particular his open relationship with women, his living in a house with multiple unrelated people, and his socialist political views which went against big business caused him a lot of trouble.

The result was he couldn't get his work published. Big business had tremendous power over publishers and news media owners. The result was he was trashed in the press, often with fake stories, and no doubt the scandals were believed.

Before his book, The Jungle, was published, it came out as a serial in one publication that allowed it. It's popularity is what resulted in the published book.

Here's what Goodreads blurb says about The Brass Check:
States that American journalism is a class institution serving the rich and spurning the poor. This title likens journalists to prostitutes and the title of the book refers to a chit that was issued to patrons of urban brothels of the era. It presents a critique of the structural basis of US media.

And here's the blurb on The Jungle:

For nearly a century, the original version of Upton Sinclair's classic novel has remained almost entirely unknown.

When it was published in serial form in 1905, it was a full third longer than the censored, commercial edition published in book form the following year. That expurgated commercial edition edited out much of the ethnic flavor of the original, as well as some of the goriest descriptions of the meat-packing industry and much of Sinclair's most pointed social and political commentary.

The text of this new edition is as it appeared in the original uncensored edition of 1905.
It contains the full 36 chapters as originally published, rather than the 31 of the expurgated edition.

A new foreword describes the discovery in the 1980s of the original edition and its subsequent suppression, and a new introduction places the novel in historical context by explaining the pattern of censorship in the shorter commercial edition.

I bet some of you thought all this was a modern day affliction. ;) :p

Back to the topic of this thread: It might look like I've written about current events. I did lament not getting it finished before the Trump era because it would have looked prophetic. But I'm not worried. There's a story in the novel, the rest is the background. And if someone else writes a book about fake news and false beliefs I won't worry about that either. It won't be like my book, I'm sure of it.
 

A.P.M.

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 20, 2010
Messages
860
Reaction score
95
The 100 had a very similar idea to one of mine, and I'm tweaking my idea to avoid evoking so much of it. Of course, I felt less bad when I realized that the "People who fled earth then return to it" plot had also been done before The 100, in the 1970's manga Toward the Terra. No idea is truly unique, and it eventually comes down to how the author approaches it.
 
  • Like
Reactions: MaeZe

mschenk2016

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 5, 2021
Messages
65
Reaction score
47
The 100 had a very similar idea to one of mine, and I'm tweaking my idea to avoid evoking so much of it. Of course, I felt less bad when I realized that the "People who fled earth then return to it" plot had also been done before The 100, in the 1970's manga Toward the Terra. No idea is truly unique, and it eventually comes down to how the author approaches it.
There have been others too besides the manga. There was a sci fi book (I think Orson Scott Card?) where humans leave earth and return thousands of years later to find it's now occupied. It was also the plot of a Godzilla anime movie from a few years back.
 

gothicangel

Toughen up.
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 29, 2008
Messages
7,866
Reaction score
660
Location
North of the Wall
The book/movie you're thinking of is The Others, and you're right, my idea was different enough that I still could have written it maybe. But then The Others came out, which I think is even MORE like the story I had, that I shelved it.

The movie The Others came out after Sixth Sense, but I heard the reason it got made anyway is because it was based on a book that came out before.
You could also include the Michael Keaton movie Beetlejuice, which works on a similar premise.
 

Que-puedo_contigo?

Registered
Joined
Jul 25, 2021
Messages
18
Reaction score
9
Happens a bit with me for ideas/innovations (not so much whole stories) --- just today on one of my friend's Instagram stories he and his girlfriend were in Amazon Fresh in California and the shopping cart automatically scanned the items and totaled the bill --- I'd thought of this idea many years ago.

Granted, that's not a story idea, but I enjoy reading/writing science fiction so I'm always trying to imagine what future tech (and conveniences) will look like.

I was heavily into Amazon reviewing back in the day and I can up with the idea of Yelp before Yelp existed. Not that that is a big leap, but most of what we think of as invention isn't -- it's innovation.

Some 30 years ago I wrote a short story in which the MC went to a future ATM machine and could withdrawal/transfer/exchange money in any existing currency. We're not there yet --- and crypto is changing the landscape, but I still think this might have some future use, perhaps the ATM will spit out a paper with a QR code that represents some form of money you've decided to convert into (depending on the situation) and then can use that to anonymously spend -- like you know, when you're wanting to go see a hooker or drug dealer without a record but at the same time without a wad of cash in your pocket.
 

ZachJPayne

Beware: #amQuerying
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 15, 2013
Messages
1,265
Reaction score
163
Age
30
Location
Warren, PA
Website
zachjpayne.com
In the middle of 2019, I was about a year and a half into writing a book (taking the time to get the character voices, to find their story, to really explore their stories--what can I say?) and all of a sudden, I saw a link Goodreads giveaway on Twitter.

I click through and read the synopsis for the book, and it's pretty much THE EXACT STORY I'm writing. The set up/and scenario were exactly the same. It involved band kids where mine involved choir kids. The two main characters had my first name and our dog's name.

Somebody else had written my book, and it was coming out.

Man, I was crying. I was angry. I was so frustrated and pissed off and peeved at the whole world. It felt like a body blow.

I was able to salvage some elements of that story and work them into a new one, but damn. A year and a half, somewhere around 200,000 words of drafts and preliminary material, all flushed down the toilet.

The intelligent part of me knows that it wasn't exactly an original, earth-shattering idea, and that's how the world of writing works. And it's not like I get particularly upset about ideas that are similar to my stories--but there was something about that one that was so close to home that it hurt.

I try not to be too petty about it, but I'm still nursing that wound a bit.
 

Harlequin

Eat books, not brains!
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 21, 2010
Messages
4,441
Reaction score
1,129
Location
The land from whence the shadows fall
Website
www.sunyidean.com
My first ms, some of which I shared years ago on aw, had a fictional spacefsring people called the Calaani.

A few years ago, Arkady's book came out featuring the Texcalaani, a spacefaring empire. It's not quite the same but similar enough I'd feel uneasy using Calaani now.
 

Melicious

Still looking for the right words
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 18, 2021
Messages
66
Reaction score
10
Location
Germany
When I was 12 I had an idea for a series of short stories that leaned onto the concept of each day reflecting someone else's life and how each story, able to be a standalone, all lead to those things creating part of the reasons why a girl committed suicide in the end..... and then came out 13 Reasons Why later that year...
I only kept the last short story about her dying and edited it to use it for a poetry slam.
 

KingM

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jan 4, 2007
Messages
726
Reaction score
130
Location
San Francisco
Website
youtu.be
Sometimes I think there are ideas just floating in the air, or something out there that triggers a whole bunch of people to come up with a similar concept all at once. As a literary agent, it's crazy how many times I'll see five or six queries all for the same kind of unique spin on a historical incident or a speculative future world.

Having said that, the idea is just a small part of what makes a book commercially viable, and even with two authors of the same relative skill level, they're going to come up with completely different stories at the end of the day. I wouldn't worry too much that your idea has already been taken, assuming you can avoid the obvious stuff that has been done to death.
 

lizmonster

Possibly A Mermaid Queen
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 5, 2012
Messages
8,284
Reaction score
3,017
Location
Massachusetts
Website
elizabethbonesteel.com
A few years back, I was ruminating on my second book. It's a revenge story, at least to a certain extent: a starship captain whose ship has been destroyed, telling everyone around him he's seeking justice when really he just wants to annihilate those responsible, and...

Oh no.

I emailed my brother and said "I think I ripped off 'The Doomsday Machine.'"

He immediately wrote back and said "That's OK. 'The Doomsday Machine' ripped off Moby Dick."

I felt better. And the book got a starred review from PW, so apparently nobody else minded.

It's all in the execution.
 

Fuchsia Groan

Becoming a laptop-human hybrid
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 27, 2008
Messages
2,516
Reaction score
552
Location
The windswept northern wastes
I ripped off the title of my first book from a classic (which, like my book, is about a serial killer hiding in plain sight), and I also got a starred PW review! :) The books are different in every other way, but I wanted to pay homage to classic pulp fiction.

Last weekend I finished drafting a book about a drug that allows people to relive their memories—a concept I’ve been trying to write on and off since I was in college. This Friday, out comes a movie called Reminiscence with the very same basic concept. It’s also appeared in two books I know of (one small-press and literary, one by a major SF author). But I’m confident that what I did with the idea, while not necessarily sellable, is different enough for that not to be a problem.

Some concepts can be realized in hundreds of different ways and even cross genre lines. Think of The Matrix, Dark City, and The Truman Show.
 
  • Like
Reactions: lizmonster

Nether

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 23, 2021
Messages
161
Reaction score
64
Location
New England
Well, I mean, at the end of the day, everything has been done somewhere...

I know there were a few things close to what I was thinking about that wound up having a high-profile release.

Most of the time, it shouldn't make a huge difference so long as the work itself is different enough.

When I was in eighth grade I had an idea for a story about a paranormal investigator or group of ghost hunters investigating a haunted house. The twist at the end was THEY were going to turn out to be ghosts, and the "ghosts" they were investigating were living people on the other side. Then the movie The Sixth Sense came out, and I abandoned it...

I'm sure that was done many times before the Sixth Sense. Hell, Goosebumps did that twist *several* times before the Sixth Sense came out. (Mostly notably in The Ghost Next Door.)

And, honestly, that set-up and twist combo is different enough from the Sixth Sense anyway... although I'm sure at least two movies have done it, and another twenty novels have done it, and then countless other shorter books and stories. Not that there's anything wrong with using that concept again. I mean, how many times have we seen stories about "fake" hauntings that turn out to be really haunted? And yet more of those keep getting made.
 

Featured Book