This summer I learned that idea theft is tricky to define because every story that anyone writes could fall under its umbrella. The picture to the left, which can be found all around the internet, is a prime example of this abyss of gray. Depending on who you speak with there are 7-20 original plotlines.
- [wo]man vs. nature
- [wo]man vs. man
- [wo]man vs. the environment
- [wo]man vs. machines/technology
- [wo]man vs. the supernatural
- [wo]man vs. self
- [wo]man vs. god/religion
The 20 can be found here: http://www.tennscreen.com/plots.htm
The exercise the teacher asked us perform went something like this: She wrote down a premise for a scene on the front board and asked us to each write an original scene from that premise. What ended up happening is that, with a couple small empirical similarities, we all ended up writing different scenes with respect to tone, POA, questions asked, information revealed, characters and their relationship to each other, et cetera.
What is original is you or me…the writer. The writer brings themselves, their experiences, talent (or lack their of), POV and other intangibles that we all as human beings possess. Or you can just rename the characters and change the setting from space to an olde English castle like J.K. did…but whatever.
So…if you think your idea is so mind-blowingly original that you will be too paranoid to show your first draft to anyone for fear they’ll steal it and you will end up living a life of booze and gutter sleeping, you are probably wrong but, meh.