Thursday, September 8, 2011

Aspiring Advice: Collective Unconscious


 

Have you ever read a newly released book or watched a new movie and thought, "that's A LOT like the story I'm working on!" It happens more often than you think, and comes from sources that you'd least expect. This just happened to me last week after viewing our awaited rental of Rio (a surprisingly fun movie--well worth the watch). Though it is vastly different from my finished Woven novel, the way they executed the relationship building of the lead birds is almost/nearly the same.

(Lead guy character traits - not the same - phew!)

I doubt readers would notice, but I could be wrong. Even the song at the end of the film, by Taio Cruz, matched an underlying theme of the story, as viewed by the lead guy. Creepy! In other words, the end song would go well with the end credits, if Woven ever amounted to that.



The lyrics say it all. And that's enough hints for now. ;)

This phenomenon is incidentally called The Collective Unconscious. In short, it's similar/original thoughts that occur in different people around a close time frame. Did we really need three asteroid movies in 1998? Or three volcano movies in 1997? Maybe not, but three different production groups once thought it was a good idea!

What do you do if you find your story meshing with another? Is your totally awesome, must-read story compromised? NO! There is a preventative step and a few tricks to help settle your conscience.

Research Your Idea - Google your idea and see what else is out there that might be similar to your story. You might even find inspiration along the way.

Alter Your Idea - Scan through your manuscript again, for good measure, and tweak your concept just enough so it feels the same and presented in a fresh way.

Read/Watch Your Genre - That way, you get a good view/feel of what's out there, right now. Surely you can take a similar concept in a very different direction!

 "Don't call me Shirley..."

Wait It Out - Ideas and concepts recycle all the time. Someone may have beat you to the punch this time, but it shouldn't take long for a new audience to surface.

This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. Catching similarities to your stories in other mediums keeps us writers on our toes. Don't be bummed if your ultra original story is the same plot as Avatar (I was actually worried about that for a while...). Ideas are cheap, but your execution has limitless possibilities.

Has this ever happened to you? From what book, movie, song, play, etc? How do you battle The Collective Unconscious when you find it beyond your manuscript?

I'm David, and "I have a reason for life." 

35 comments:

  1. This happens from time to time with me. Sometimes it is my subconscious putting these things into my story, other times I will come up with a great idea and then someone I've never even heard of before does something similar. Who was it that said There are NO new stories, just new ways of telling them?

    I'm sure there are other similar stories, but putting them in a new context and having these similar plot lines will make them both believable, relatable and thought provoking. Or at least so I hope =).

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  2. One of my biggest fears is finding a story similar to the one I slaves over the last year. I constantly ask my writing partner, "my stories not like that, right?" self doubt sets in. Still, it's in my head and needs to be written. I'd just like my future reviews not comparing my story to others.

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  3. Yes this has just recently happened to me! I've recently been looking into the book called MATCHED by Ally Condie and I've realized how some of the concepts are similar to the ones in my story! It's a little disappointing...

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  4. Great advice. I totally agree. And yes, that's happened to me too.

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  5. I was watching the news and a local author came on and gave a summary of her book coming out (I don't remember the name.) But I'd say at least half of the summary was exactly the same as how I would describe my third WIP (which isn't very far yet.) It. Was. Creepy.

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  6. I ran with the idea of a bigger ipod touch in my manuscript (naming it something not Apple related of course). Four years later ipads are everywhere and my book isn't on shelves so I can't say I thought of it first. It's not the only thing in the manuscript that's become commonplace either.

    Who would have thought I'd have to be a futurist to write scifi.

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  7. I've been working on WIP #1 for nearly 2 years. Last summer my daughter said that Hawaii 5-0 had an episode with something that happened in my story. Ugh! I had it first!

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  8. Most, if not all, of us will experience this. It isn't that there's nothing original out there (is there, really?), but we are oft influenced by similar things. Because the world is the ultimate great outdoors, it's harder NOT to run across something that isn't similar, alike, sorta kinda, to what we're working on. I had to realize this when I was watching an anime flick - sorry, the name escapes me - and so many things were similar to what I was working on at that time. Hadn't ever seen the movie before but there it was a third of my story slapping me in the face. I had to realize that the advice you mentioned here was the best way to go. Research, enjoy my novel and tweak it more with my own voice and be patient.

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  9. I think if you write long enough you will run into this issue, especially in writing about the future. But I like your tips for making our work stand out from the pack.

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  10. I had an idea last year (that I fortunately didn't develop too far) that I won't be able to write because it's just too similar to a film about to be released. The wip I'm working on at the moment does have a concept that's been done before, many times it now seems, but I'm confident enough that my execution is an original one, so I'm happy to carry on.

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  11. I have this happen all the time - especially when I'm plotting, I stop and think "No, that is becoming too cliche!" but that is when the fun begins and I try and figure out how I can make it different. It can be frustrating though when you're finished with a novel or completely finished and then something pops up that is so similar and you're like "CRAP!" I like your advice though. That is very helpful because I think we all find ourselves in that situation at one point.

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  12. Just so you know, as a member of The Rule of Three Writers Challenge, I've mentioned your blog and passed on (if you want it) the Versatile Bloggers Award. You can find the information here: http://wp.me/p1mecg-ek

    Thanks for joining, and Welcome to Renaissance!

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  13. That's great advice! So far I've managed to put together stories that are different than the movies I'm watching and the books I'm reading, but that doesn't mean that there may be similar ideas out there. I've been lucky enough not to run across any of them :). Still, I've made changes to both of my books just to keep them unique (removing cliches, adding suspense in a few places, etc.).

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  14. Maybe the pool of ideas/possibilities is actually finite and we all draw from it? Sounds impossible, but some days I wonder...nice to meet you, BTW, and welcome to the RuleOfThreeBlogfest

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  15. See, you can do this with stories. What happens when it's a pieces of music? People don't forget. I'm actually waiting for the 2005 YA fairy craze to circle back around. =) That train is commin'...slowly.

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  16. I just panic, worrying people will think I plagiarised!

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  17. This is so true! Also it seems when I come up with a story idea somebody already used it:) I once read a book and there were like four things that happened in that book that happens in one of my mss. i.e. a choking scene....I can't remember what else but I was thinking OMG I can't beliveve that they were there. Grant it, it was a different scene per se but it was the same idea just twisted different.
    Us writers tend to think a lot alike!

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  18. I love that song! I've noticed this too. When starting reading divergent, I was like "Did she steal my story?" But it turned out to be totally different in the end :)

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  19. I haven't seen themes of my idea pop-up on the minute scale...but on the macro scale (it's a split universe story) there's all sorts out there. But I think when you go that big, i.e. "space story", "split universe", or "quest" then that's not being fair to the story because those are as prolific as blades of grass.

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  20. This has totally happened to me, at least twice. I'll have this unique (or so I thought) character trait, and then I'll read a book and be like, "...sonofabitch. She stole my idea and wrote it first!" Then you get paranoid that everyone will think you're copying such-and-such, when really, you never knew about such-and-such before you wrote your scenes. It's frustrating :)

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  21. This happens ALL THE TIME. The truth is there's always room for good stories, told well. So even if some of the ideas are the same, no one is going to tell it the way you do.

    I recently sent an email to my editor, all in a panic because I was creating a clone army. She didn't care at all. AT ALL. So yeah. Don't freak out (although I did...) :)

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  22. That's so ironic you mention Rio and "is your story similar" in the same blog post. Pixar was originally going to do a movie on the two blue Newts, a boy and a girl, the last of their existence. The Newts hated each other and would have to fall in love in the end in order for their race to continue.

    Yeah, but then Rio came out and they shelved the plans because it is too similar.

    Anyway, love the post. I have never written a book where it is similar to another story-line. Sure, there have been some scenes that have been similar to other movies/books but I tweaked them a bit to make them different.

    -Jackson

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  23. Yeah, it has happened to me. I keep writing anyway. Hopefully my voice and perceptions come across as different. They usually do. Great post!

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  24. Yeah, that's always been one of my biggest fears: working so hard on a story, only to find out someone else has done it first, and is too similar to mine to not be noticed. I read a lot in my genre, but I'm always afraid I'll miss something. I just have to keep on going, believe in the way I'm presenting my own unique view, and not give up on a project because there might be some similarities to someone else's.

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  25. I've been known to change things around all of the time because I worry it's too much like another popular story.
    Of course, there are only so many ways to go about a certain genre, so I suppose it's all in the execution of the idea that makes it really different.

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  26. This is excellent advice! Thank you so much for sharing, and I love the "Airplane!" reference :)

    Samantha
    Writing Through College

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  27. I live in constant fear of waking up one day and discovering that I've inadvertently copied my entire WIP from cobbled bits of memories from other peoples' work. Getting over this fear was the only thing that allowed me to finally start writing.

    By the way, I tagged you: http://gsstillwell.blogspot.com/2011/09/me-it-no-waittag-youre-it.html

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  28. So true, Keep keepin on Keep on writing! Yup that was a jingle. There are always going to be similar things out there... the key is what makes yours special.

    I have voted you as a versatile Blogger, come accept your award over at my blog.

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  29. I wrestled with this for several years. I finally came to the conclusion that it's about making it yours.

    I blogged about it and included a pretty funny video of somebody making it theirs.

    http://writingwithshelly.blogspot.com/2011/06/come-up-with-something-new-stat.html

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  30. Taio Cruz?! So that's who's voice that is? Hilarious. That was so bugging me;)

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  31. David, it's so hard to avoid this, especially in the scifi/fantasy genres. My ace in the hole, right now, is a very unique element in my story. So far, it's so unique that people argue over whether it works or not. Those who say it works love it, though, so I'm not giving up.

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  32. It's so hard when this happens! But I know that even if two people were given the exact same characters and basic plot, the end result would still be vastly different for each person...we all bring so much individuality to our stories.

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  33. Hey there fellow Fantasy writer. It's a pleasur to meet someone who is both passionate about Fantas and Sci-fi. I found you on the Campaign and am following you.

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  34. Yup, I think we all worry about this from time to time (though I think we, as the authors, notice the similarities far more easily than anyone else). And you're right that execution is everything!

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  35. Yeah, all the time! That is if I wrote anything. Nice post bro! Love ya!

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