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Finding out your ideas are not as original as you first thought

#1 User is offline   Aptorian 

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Posted 27 May 2012 - 06:27 PM

Do you ever come up with what you think is an unique concept or maybe an entirely new take on something old, only to some time later find out that somebody else already thought of it and put it in writing or in a film?

I've been messing around with an idea for a children's book, but probably more likely a Young adult story, about a kid who goes on adventures in his dreams. It's basically a foil that allows me to use all those ideas that are too insane or abstract to work properly in a "serious" universe. I was discussing some ideas with a friend over a beer yesterday and after a while he remarked that this sounded some what like the Little Nemo. I'd heard about that character but I'd never read the comics or seen the cartoon. So I watched the 1992 movie on Youtube today. A hell of a lot of my ideas are in there. They're different, more basic and more innocent, but they are there.

The absurd and reality warping landscape in Nemo's opening dream, the nightmare cloud, the idea of guardians of dreams, a key that locks the border between nightmares and dreams, etc. Oh, these aren't exactly mindblowingly unique ideas and my use of them is also a lot more complex than what they did in this movie but still, it is strange to see somebody else putting your thoughts into form in a different story.

Have you ever experienced something similar?

While we are at it, anyone have any advice for books or movies about dreams that I should probably watch or read before I make a fool of myself?

I am already in the process of reading through the Sandmen comics by Neil Gaiman. I've got Peter Pan downloaded on my Kindle, I've watched most of the Nightmare on Elmstreet films. What other classics is there out there?

This post has been edited by Aptorius: 15 January 2013 - 08:14 PM

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#2 User is offline   LadyMTL 

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Posted 27 May 2012 - 07:55 PM

I can think of a few more that are related to dreaming, not the least of which is Inception. Also, Shutter Island has some pretty good lucid dreaming scenes, if I remember correctly (I only saw it once but I seem to recall being pretty impressed). And how can you not add Wizard of Oz to the list? It pretty much started the whole 'the entire thing was a dream' genre, lol. And lastly, I didn't see Vanilla Sky but from what I've heard it sort of deals with dreams vs reality. I can't think of anything novel-wise, at least not off the top of my head, but hopefully those movies can give you some inspiration. :)

As for finding out that my ideas aren't so original, it's happened more times than I care to count. I think that sort of comes with the territory, though; as the old saying goes "there's nothing new under the sun." That said, I think that the key is to be able to put your own spin on an existing idea or theme, without it being too similar as to be a copy. Believe it or not, I once wrote a short story about a girl who ends up in a bizarre alternate world and it ended featuring some of the creatures who were in Pan's Labyrinth...and I only found that out after I watched the movie. Whoops.
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#3 User is offline   Aptorian 

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Posted 27 May 2012 - 08:09 PM

I've watched Inception and Vanilla Sky. I don't think I wont to go for something as fucked up as the story in Vanilla Sky but I have been inspired by the "architect of your own dreams" business in Inception. Some dreamers in the story are able to shape and change things in their own and other peoples dreams, it makes for some pretty interesting situations when people get in trouble.

I hadn't thought about the Wizard in Oz. Haven't watched that film in ages. Alice in Wonderland and associated tales would probably be a good idea to reread/watch as well.
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#4 User is offline   LadyMTL 

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Posted 27 May 2012 - 08:13 PM

Ohh yeah, I forgot about Alice in Wonderland. Also, in the Wheel of Time series there's a whole other "world" called the World of Dreams, it'd be worth looking into as well.
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Posted 27 May 2012 - 08:51 PM

You will drive yourself crazy thinking about this too much. It has been said that there is nothing new under the sun, and in literature almost everything has been done or explored. A truly unique and original work is a rare thing indeed, imho, and trying to find it by researching every idea you have will kill you!

Whatever you write, someone, somewhere, will have done something either similar, familiar, or just like it. Don't worry about it though, just ignore all that and write the story in your head. Tell the tale you want to tell and write it in your style and your own way. That's how you create a good story, by putting your stamp on it.

The vast majority of my ideas are consciously developed from things that interest me, be it something somebody says, a strange news story, another book or film, an interesting looking person or setting or whatever. I am sure there is a lot of stuff in my stories that are not original but the trick is to put my own spin on them and make them mine, free of the worry of whether or not they've been done before.
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#6 User is offline   Sinisdar Toste 

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Posted 28 May 2012 - 12:30 AM

^^^^^^

this. originality means taking what you've got, what you see around you, and molding it into your own vision.
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Posted 28 May 2012 - 03:34 PM

LSD is the answer.
THIS IS YOUR REMINDER THAT THERE IS A
'VIEW NEW CONTENT' BUTTON THAT
ALLOWS YOU TO VIEW NEW CONTENT
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#8 User is offline   Gnaw 

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Posted 22 December 2012 - 09:31 PM

 Aptorius, on 27 May 2012 - 06:27 PM, said:

Do you ever come up with what you think is an unique concept or maybe an entirely new take on something old, only to some time later find out that somebody else already thought of it and put it in writing or in a film?


*sigh* Ah yeah. Going through some old hard drives.
From a "story ideas" file dated Aug 2008.

"a change up on Campbell's "youth who needs training to come into his own": a middle aged hero with amnesia, who is guided by an [immortal, godlike] youth. further change up - the guide is actually the bad guy."




The first time I ever heard of Erikson or Malazan was reading a review of tCG.
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Posted 15 January 2013 - 11:27 AM

This happened me very brutally just before Christmas.
I gad been working on something for nano and finally got time to push a bit on it after nano ended.
Then I read the straight razor cure by Daniel Polanski, overall plot was different but getting there was pajnfully like what I had mapped out. Depressing.
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#10 User is offline   High House Dark 

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Posted 15 January 2013 - 07:18 PM

Oh gosh yes, it can be so irritating and deflating when you read something that you thought was just your idea. BUT, I've always found it helps to remember that all ideas are sort of the same, they just intermingle and evolve slowly over time. So "nothing is original"-ish? And it's not a bad thing.

In relation to dreams, I don't know if you've ever watched any Kurosawa films, but he did some really trippy, weird, and interesting short films as a collection called "Dreams," based on some of his actual dreams throughout his life. I personally think they're worth a watch, even if they're not the most coherent thing ever. http://en.wikipedia....eams_(1990_film)

Also Gaiman's Sandman rocks!
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#11 User is offline   D'iversify 

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 02:40 PM

All literature is written according to certain frameworks, whether these be the frameworks of genre, story-telling, social norms and expectations, extant concerns, narrative coherence, etc. I'm not saying that you're completely restricted to sets of ideas by such frameworks, but given a certain setting or scenario ideas are always going to converge to some degree. That's not a problem - it's whether you can take your inchoate ideas and their setting and produce something interesting. The same ideas, even the same story, can be legitimately told many different ways and told well in many different ways. Obviously, having ideas and settings which are not completely mundane by the standards of the framework is often an advantage if the story's going to be interesting, but such transmundanity can only go so far to making something interesting, and if the setting is too disconnected from the reader's expectations and experiences, it can be straighforwardly alienating. Any audience for a story will need a hook a way into the story, and this way in is usually through fairly generic devices, not so much of narrative as of creating the setting and the characters within it. This is not to say that audiences should not be challenged - some prefer to be - but rather that originality alone cannot drive a story.
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#12 User is offline   stone monkey 

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 10:04 PM

To a certain extent, unless you're a genius or incredibly lucky (or both), all your ideas will have been thought of by someone else. There are literally thousands of people who write for a living and millions more who do it for fun, and a substantial number of them are thinking furiously about trying to come up with new ideas. The trick, if there is one, is doing your ideas well. Sheer novelty can be overrated sometimes, I think. Especially in sf and fantasy.
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#13 User is offline   Obi-John Kenobi 

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Posted 29 April 2014 - 06:51 AM

I had his idea about an intergalactic union of planets sending out their flag ship on a 4 year mission to explore n' stuff, but that hack GR screwed me.
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#14 User is offline   Aptorian 

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Posted 29 April 2014 - 07:18 AM

 Gnaw, on 22 December 2012 - 09:31 PM, said:

 Aptorius, on 27 May 2012 - 06:27 PM, said:

Do you ever come up with what you think is an unique concept or maybe an entirely new take on something old, only to some time later find out that somebody else already thought of it and put it in writing or in a film?


*sigh* Ah yeah. Going through some old hard drives.
From a "story ideas" file dated Aug 2008.

"a change up on Campbell's "youth who needs training to come into his own": a middle aged hero with amnesia, who is guided by an [immortal, godlike] youth. further change up - the guide is actually the bad guy."


The first time I ever heard of Erikson or Malazan was reading a review of tCG.


The Mistborn trilogy!
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#15 User is offline   Mason of High House Death 

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Posted 19 November 2014 - 12:39 PM

Brandon Sanderson said in a lecture that "ideas are overrated." Editors and lit agents see thousands of great ideas. The trick is to actually take the idea and then make a good story about it. Agreed though, it still sucks when you find out someone else has done it before.

- This is also why new authors who are worried about their stuff getting plagiarized really shouldn't be.
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#16 User is offline   Gorefest 

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Posted 19 November 2014 - 01:03 PM

 Obi-John Kenobi, on 29 April 2014 - 06:51 AM, said:

I had his idea about an intergalactic union of planets sending out their flag ship on a 4 year mission to explore n' stuff, but that hack GR screwed me.


Have you considered running with the basic concept, but completely changing over the crew and their interpersonal relationships, and dropping the 4-year caviat? Could be a winner. You might wanna stick an android in the mix as well for additional plot potential.

Or, better still, just drop the whole exploration idea and just write it as a stationary space station, maybe very close to a vital transport hub. I mean something like a worm hole or such. Surely it doesn't get more novel than that.

This post has been edited by Gorefest: 19 November 2014 - 01:06 PM

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#17 User is offline   Maark Abbott 

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Posted 20 November 2014 - 04:35 PM

Yup. Been there - my magic system turned out to be quite similar to the one used in Thief: Deadly Shadows. Nothing else to do but amend it slightly and then lampshade the similarity with some subtle Thief references that poke a little bit of fun at the series.
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#18 User is offline   Tru 

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Posted 22 November 2014 - 02:31 AM

As others have said, there is really no completely new ideas, just new ways of telling the ones already done. I'm currently writing a novel. Have been for the better part of 2 years, maybe more if you take into account from the time it was just a short story, before I thought of expanding it to novel length...anyway, in that time span I've run across several "they stole my idea!" moments. Everything from major plot ideas to minor things, main character names, etc. I began to just take on the attitude that for every single story I know about that has some of my ideas implemented, there are 1,000 more that I do not even know about. So what do we do about it? Just keep writing, maybe edit the sections that you know are too similar to other "known works" and finish the damn thing. :-)

I was gonna mention something regarding the original post before I realized it was old, but the movie "Sucker Punch" sorta came to mind when the question was raised about a story about dreams, etc. Not really dreams in the traditional sense, but very similar idea nonetheless.
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#19 User is offline   Nicodimas 

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Posted 27 November 2014 - 06:02 AM

Another thing to think about your story, idea or orginal thought:

At comic-con, Jim Butcher, explained sometimes the story you weave is amazing, creative and wonderful and would inspire. However, the publisher sees a different flaw..they can't sell it as it's not what is in at the moment, uses strange verbiage, or simply deemed non-profitable. People get shot down on this.
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#20 User is offline   Maark Abbott 

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Posted 17 February 2015 - 08:35 PM

Revisiting this thread, the main challenge I found with one of my races was this:

Original incarnation - created circa 2003 - blue skinned, tribal people, living in the forest, not dissimilar from cats.
- Saw Avatar. FUCK. *bin*

They've retained the blue skin and tribal nature, but have since become partially elemental (of which there is an in-book term that describes those of elemental heritage, which I'm not going to drop just yet), and the majority featured within the story have survived or been born after a pogrom that's seen them relegated to slums, drugs and prostitution (sort of like Dragon Age' city elves).
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