Ideas, I’ve had a few, but then again, too many to matter.
About… oh, dear lord, 15? years ago now, I was at a conference, with a bunch of my old friends (and a few enemies) and this kid on the front row of a panel, young as yesterday and green as a leek, wanted to ask us about an idea he had and its viability in the market.
But before he asked, he swore the panel of three writers and two editors to honesty. “Promise me you won’t steal my idea!” he said, because his idea — he said — was that original, that fresh, that amazing.
We rolled our eyes so far we saw the back of our craniums and we solemnly pinky swore.
And then he started with “Okay so there is this mysterious shop, that has all sorts of magical or perhaps alien artifacts.”
Friends, writers, countrymen…. The groan resulting from that could be heard from Jupiter. And probably from a little curious shop in Jupiter.
It didn’t matter of course. And none of us said the kid shouldn’t write the story.
What makes a story is not the idea — which is why ideas aren’t copyrightable — but the execution: characters, setting, actual words from a work that are stolen to another work. That is infringement.
But the more general the idea the less copyrightable. You can run out tomorrow and write a series of novels about an outfit that hunts monsters. I wouldn’t call it Monster Hunter International, and I wouldn’t give the characters the same personalities, because that would be sailing too close to the wind.
But you could write an outfit that hunts disguised aliens among us. Yes, I’m telling you about it, even though the Alien Hunter series is in my idea file. And I have characters and everything for it. (Imagine Dyce Dare’s twin recruited — accidentally, need I say it — to an outfit that hunts disguised aliens among us.) Why am I telling you that? Because you could write it tomorrow, and it would bear no relation to the idea in my head.
The problem is not coming up with ideas (or making them ultra special.) The problem — in my case — is stopping the ideas from surfacing.
And I’m special, as always, so I don’t get an idea for a story or a book. Oh, no. I get ideas for series.
I have more of these waiting than I can tell you.
I overheard someone at a party say “I think a story with a guy like Harry Dresden, in space, going around in a beat up spaceship, solving magical mysteries would be amazing.) And boom, I had a series. I just haven’t written it yet. But I have three books already in my head.
Someone invited me for a “strange heroes” anthology, and Rhodes was born (and yes, there are others started, but the last year has been interesting.)
Then there was the night my older son was helping me do dishes and said, out of nowhere “What if hell got taken over by a six year old girl, and festooned with everything pink, and–” And Deep Pink appeared.
It’s not easy living in my head, with all these ideas. sometimes I can’t sleep for all the characters arguing with each other.
I don’t want to steal your ideas. No working writer does. What we would like is a way to give Valium to some of ours, so they wait quietly.
There is an old joke about sending a SASE to some small town to get back a list of ideas.
I’m not doing that. I just with the idea central would love my address. Or at least have the decency not to beam them straight into my head.
Don’t give me your ideas. I’m on the run from mine.