While at work today, I was listening to an older Writing Excuses podcast while I did some mundane tasks. On one of the episodes, they had a special guest with them (E.J. Patten I think is his name). He mentioned a story he wrote/wanted to write, and then talked about how it changed and then was nothing like the idea in the first place.
His story idea was about kids dressing up for Halloween and their costumes would give them superpowers based on what they were wearing. As he explained his idea, I began to panic.
I just wrote that story a month ago! How could he have thought of it a couple years ago? And then I began thinking about ideas.
I thought my idea was pretty unique. Patten obviously thought his idea was unique. But once I got thinking about it, I’m pretty sure his story idea wasn’t unique, either.
If you’ve ever dressed up as anything ever, you probably found yourself thinking and acting like that character, monster, or whatever/whoever it was you dressed up as. Kids do it all the time. They don a cape and suddenly they’re Superman. I do it, too, when I wear my Link costume at Halloween (or not Halloween), I start rolling everywhere I go, shouting , “Heeya haa hyet!” I also become deathly afraid of chickens.
So you see, Patten’s idea wasn’t really unique, either. People have been thinking about this all the time, they just didn’t know it. But his idea and my idea, had we both written them and published them, would still have been wildly different. That’s because we as people are different (surprise!).
His story was about saving Halloween. Mine was about a teenager saving his sister. Completely different stories with one similar magic system. The same stories have been told over and over again. Pocahontas has been told by Disney as well as in James Cameron’s movie Avatar. Same story, executed much differently.
And so ideas. Where do they come from? And is anything we think ever unique? Who knows. But what I do know is, if you have a good idea, don’t stop just because somebody has already done something similar. You’re different, and therefore you can make your execution of the idea different, too. And, knowing you, you’ll end up doing it a whole lot better.
(if you haven’t read my Halloween story yet, it’s called Becoming the Monster and you can find it under the Short Stories tab)