Thursday, July 23, 2009

Blog Chain - Is your idea really your idea?

Current Obsession: Finding the perfect pair of black Mary Janes

Let me just say that I'm super happy to be back on the chain! This week's topic was started by Annie. She asked:

Do you ever get inspired by a real-life event or news story and fear you're ripping off the story too much? Do you ever get inspired by a song or poem or line from a book and worry you're stealing that original person's idea?

Please check out Michelle's fabulous answer from the day before and Terri who will answer this question tomorrow.

What a tough call. We all know that this has been done in the past:

Les Miserables inspired The Fugitive
Emma inspired Clueless
The Taming of the Shrew inspired The Ten Things I Hate About You
ect, ect, ect. The list is a mile long.

How can people do this?

The secret is in the weaving. Have you ever watched a textile worker at a loom? It's beautiful and fascinating work.

Strung through the loom are the base threads, usually a bland off-white that no one will ever notice due to the colorful thread woven through them. Those colorful threads are your characters, subplots, and setting. They must be distinctive enough to display a story never told before even if the base threads are the same as another rug. Now, if the base threads are showing through or your design resembles another rug, well, then you have a problem.

I find the easiest solution is to put a bit of myself into my characters. I mean, there's no one quite like me just as I imagine there's no one quite like you. How many characters have you read that like to pet bumble bees (they're surprisingly soft and don't mind) and will fight to the death for the little triangle corners of a thin crust pizza?

So weave away, my artistic friends, and let the designs flow!

Incidentally, song writers have the same challenge. (I found this video extra hilarious because I played cello grade school through high school.)


  1. Nice analogy to weaving. Well-played, grasshopper. Now when do we get to meet the characters who like to pet bumblebees and fight for pizza triangles, hmm?

  2. I like seeing how different authors treat the same basic storyline - Edgar Sawtelle vs. Hamlet, Broken vs. To Kill a Mockingbird. It's kind of fun to pick out the parallels.

    Love that video :)

  3. that video! The weaving analogy is perfect. Nice to have you back on the chain.

  4. Okay, ROTFLMAO at that video!!! And awesome first post! :D You are very right...we weave a little of ourselves into everything we write, and if we are all unique, then what we write will be unique also, even if it is inspired from something else. :) Glad to have you back on the chain!!

  5. OMG thank you so much for that YouTube clip that was seriously some of the funniest stand-up I've heard in a while!

    Love the weaving analogy too! Great to have you back on the chain!

  6. Welcome back to the chain! I also liked the weaving analogy and the part about everyone being unique. Does that make me unique?

  7. That video is hilarious! So if I post a video, am I plagiarizing you...NO! It's an idea, and I may have to steal it! LOL

    Welcome back, but I think you've actually been gone a bit longer than me even.

    :) Terri

  8. That video is great. So, so true for musicians. Probably even moreso for musicians than writers. And it's not just Pachelbel's canon.

    Listen closely to Kenny Loggins' "Footloose" and you will quickly hear how it's very close to ripping off the James Gang's "Funk 49."

    Crazy stuff.

    Great post. Welcome back to the chain!

  9. Awesome post. Like the others said, the weaving analogy and video were both great examples.