What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun. Even the thing of which we say, “See, this is new!” has already existed in the ages that preceded us.
I had one of those “Damn! That’s MY idea!” moments tonight.
Six years ago, I came up with the initial spark of my Seven Deadly Sins idea. I started the book in August of 2003, but shortly thereafter, THE PREY (which was then titled THE COPYCAT KILLER) finaled in an RWA chapter contest. I hadn’t finished the book, so thinking I had a great shot at getting an editor to read me, I put aside the book I was then calling THE COVEN and finished THE PREY.
While the editor ranked me second in the contest, she said that the chapters she’d read (50 pages) were great, but not something she’d acquire. Emboldened, and sensing that this book was IT, I terminated the relationship with my then-agent, cleaned up the manuscript, and queried 12 top agents. I sold THE PREY, and in hindsight I’m glad I didn’t focus on the Seven Deadly Sins series , because I didn’t have the skill to pull it off the way I wanted.
But the book haunted me.
I sold the series in 2008, and the first book–now called ORIGINAL SIN–will be on sale 1.26.10. I finished the revisions Friday night and sent them off to my editor. The book goes into production on Monday. I am alternately excited about this book and scared to death: it’s a pure supernatural thriller and unlike anything I’ve written. It’s exactly the way I wanted to write it . . . and I am forever indebted to my editor for helping pull the meat of the story from the mess of my first draft, showing me the potential, and giving me the palette back to paint the story my own way.
But because I’ve been thinking about this story a long time–and even had 150 pages written (none of which made it to the final draft)–I began to get frustrated when I saw themes and ideas I had show up in other books and media.
Now, I’m not the first person on the planet to come up with the idea to write a series based on the seven deadly sins. Lawrence Sanders had a whole series on the theme; Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman starred in the fabulous and terrifying movie SEVEN; and stories about lust, greed, pride and the rest have been created from the dawn of storytelling.
I did think that my story was a different take on an old theme. The Seven Deadly Sins as demons on earth. I have always loved the supernatural, classic supernatural stories. New paranormal trends don’t interest me. I can’t wrap my head around the idea of a vampire who is good. TWILIGHT is a huge hit–yeah Stephanie Meyer–but really, where are the animal rights people when you need them? Seriously, if I ever wrote a vampire book, vampires would be portrayed as the evil bloodsuckers they are. Demons? They’re not heroes. They want your soul, as painfully as possible. So I was kind of out-of-step with what was selling. But honestly, my idea was not blazing any new paths–but rediscovering favorite roads
While the story was cooking in my head, a television show started called SUPERNATURAL. I love it.
But dammit, some of their ideas are MY ideas.
No, I don’t think Eric Kripke can read my mind, but for awhile I was worried. For example, long after I wrote my initial proposal, and three years after I wrote my first 150 pages, Season 3 began with the episode “The Magnificent Seven.” Yep, the Seven Deadly Sins as demons.
See. Me. Bang. Head. I almost abandoned my idea. Then I realized that it was one episode and they didn’t explore a fraction of the subject matter. It wasn’t a continuing theme.
But then last night, when we watched the recorded Season 5 premiere, we learn that the only way for an angel to enter your body (a “vessel”) is if you invite it.
See. Me. Bang. Head. Again.
There are no angels in my book–no easy solutions (though in SUPERNATURAL they are handling the demons and angels thing brilliantly, IMO.) If there’s around, it’s just to give signs, but not consciously written. It’s up to free will human beings to discern what the signs mean, and to stop the Seven from causing (more) problems on earth.
But I do have a “rule” in my world that to be a vessel (and yes, I used “vessel” as well!) you have to willingly agree. (The “vessels” are not for possession by angels–or demons–but essentially human sacrifices through which the demons are brought forth or contained.
I think I swore at the televisions. My book is DONE.
I have over 40 books about witchcraft, the occult, exorcisms, prayer, spiritual warfare, angels, and major religions. So much of what is in SUPERNATURAL comes from history or mythology–which is also where I’m basing my world “rules.” So it’s natural that we’re going to come up with similar ideas.
I’ve heard unpublished authors say that they dumped an idea because another popular author wrote a similar idea in THEIR book. Well, hello people. There’s nothing new under the sun. It’s all been done before. Get over it. Write the book.
I guarantee it’ll be different from anyone.
I’d bet if I gave the same story idea to the 13 other Murderati members, that they’d all write a completely different book. And each one would be damn good and stand on its own.
I’ve heard unpublished authors give up on ideas because television or the movies recently had something similar. Hello! Capitalize on the interest. BTW, it’ll take a couple years before your book hits the shelves and by that time the subject matter could be hot.
Recently, an unpublished writer asked on a writing loop if she should copyright her unpublished book before she submitted it to agents, because they might steal her idea and give it to one of their authors to write. Um, why would they do that? Agents are not looking to take ideas from unpublished authors. They have plenty of good submissions to sort through. They WANT to sell books, and they WANT more than one client. Amy Berkower doesn’t just represent Nora Roberts–she has other clients. And really, like I need someone else’s idea? Believe me, I have plenty of my own. Not all of them good, not all of them sellable, but plenty.
It’s not just this current series that had me knotted up. A movie called UNTOUCHABLE about a guy who kills people on-line that came out three months before my book FEAR NO EVIL that had a girl kidnapped and the bad guy was charging people to watch–and they could pay and vote on how she dies. My book was already in production before the movie was released. Episodes of both SUPERNATURAL and CRIMINAL MINDS had people hunting other people for sport. So did my book THE HUNT–which came out long before either show–it again highlighted that there are many common themes, even similar ideas. And what about that movie (the name escapes me) about the rape victim who turns around and kills the men who raped her? She hunt them down. Stories connect us because they come from our common foundation as human beings and that MOST of us have the same basic fears, the same basic desires, the same basic internal struggles as everyone else. So that many of us have stories that stem from the same core idea is not surprising; that we all write completely different stories is a testament to our individuality.
So have you ever had an idea and it seemed that you saw it everyplace after that? Have you noticed that there seem to be cycles of a bunch of similar movies/books/themes all coming out together? Am I the only one who has noticed that sometimes, blogs all cover the same general subject matter?