Discovering a book that is suspiciously like the story you are trying to write, down to the protagonist having the same name as your character, is almost enough to put you off writing.
Or at least, to make you question whether you are just a book-reading regurgitation machine rather than a legitimate words person.
This is the second time (this year) the universe has delivered me this lesson. In January, I was all set to scribble away at my amazing, ingenious, unique story idea and thought to do a bit of research to see if anyone else could have possibly written anything like it already.
Yes. Yes, they had.
The same genius idea, the same unique plot line, the same set of characters, all there for the world to read. I was put off, to say the least, at having to scrap all the exciting material I’d been working on because someone else had beaten me to the publishers.
When I wised up and caught sight of Austin Kleon’s ‘Steal Like and Artist’ on my bookshelf, I was humbly reminded that there really are no new ideas in the world. Sure, I thought I’d come up with something unique and worthy, but so have millions (nay, billions) of other literary lovers around the globe.
This is the lesson the universe has delivered. Did it have to happen to me twice in a matter of months?
Yes. Yes, it did.
Just now, I browsed for ‘urban fantasy for adults (not YA)’ to get a better idea of existing stories, and I came across a few interesting titles I’d never heard of. And there it was again, the universe slapping me in the face with a story idea that is somewhat similar to my new story, and a character with a name somewhat similar to my own protagonist. Somewhat. That’s better than exactly. I may be getting somewhere.
It is going to take more time and practise for my ‘unique’ and ‘genius’ work to not simply be a regurgitation of everything I’ve absorbed over my forty year life span. How easy it is to forget that lesson. Instead of throwing my stack of papers into the shredder like I may have done last time (writers are also known to have tantrums apparently) I am going to rename my protagonist and look closely at how to add a fresh take on a story idea that may have been done before, and will no doubt be done again and again.