Pilfered Ideas, Stolen Dreams

Ok, so the title is a bit dramatic, but this post is about the fear of having one’s idea(s) stolen.

I’ve seen it posted many times, and I myself have wondered…should I share my work online? Should I share my ideas online? Won’t someone steal my work? What if they steal my idea?

After much contemplation, I have reached the following conclusions:

  1. If someone steals my exact words, word for word. That is plagiarizing. I can’t stop someone from stealing from me, and some might say “Well you make it pretty easy to steal by posting online.” But I would say, it might be easier to steal but harder to get away with since it’s online. There are many programs now that crawl through the internet and detect work that has been plagiarized. Or maybe I’m just being optimistic.
  2. If someone steals an idea, well…ideas are meant to be shared and once someone takes an idea they can make it their own. Look at how many times fairy tales such as Cinderella, Snow White, etc. have been retold. They all share the basic idea, but each retelling is so different from the one before because a different person took an idea and made it their own. We don’t all write the same. We don’t all think the same. So if someone gleans a bit of inspiration from an idea read here on my blog, I say go for it and good luck!

So what is this post about then?

Good Question…sometimes I don’t even know.

I wanted to post about the second point. The fear of ideas being stolen.

I am reading “The Writer’s Digest Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy”, by Orson Scott Card,  at the moment, and I came across an incredibly interesting passage. Well I found it incredibly interesting, you might find it as interesting as a box of rocks.

Unless you’re an archaeologist, then you might find both the passage and the box of rocks interesting.

Or just the box of rocks.

The passage from page 51 of “How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy” is discussing a brainstorming event Orson Scott Card hosted during a Science Fiction Convention. During this session, the group imagined a species of aliens that couldn’t communicate by speaking. Instead they send chemical signals in the water and memories are passed directly from one alien to another. The memories become so integrated into the alien that the alien receiving the memories remembers every incident as if it had happened to him.

And now the passage which I felt was of particular interest:

Someone in the group objected that they would eventually overload, remembering everything that had ever happened to everybody who had ever lived. So we decided there had to be a mechanism for forgetting –but not irretrievably. We imagined that they would have developed a way of encoding memories in solid form, building them into structures, perhaps even large edifices composed entirely of memory; and there would be many aliens whose sole job was to remember where memories were stored –librarians, in other words.

Does this passage make you think of any particular aliens?

Maybe you aren’t thinking of the same ones I am, but a certain movie instantly popped into my head when I read this passage so imagine my surprise when I then read this passage on the next page:

It was a terrific base for an alien society, with a lot of story possibilities. Then, only a week later, I found myself in Gaffney, South Carolina, talking with Jim Cameron about the novel version of his movie The Abyss.

Could Jim Cameron be the more famous James Cameron?

When I read the first passage, I immediately thought of the aliens in Avatar. Remember how they had the trees which stored their memories and they could “log on” with their tails to access all the memories? Then imagine my astonishment when on the very next page I read that Orson Scott Card discussed his memory storing aliens with none other than Jim -better known as James- Cameron!

Two brilliant minds of science fiction discussing and sharing ideas.

There is no mention of one being nervous that the other might steal an idea or take it and make it his own. Instead, the meeting was seen as an opportunity to share inspiration and draw upon one another’s experiences and ideas to create something even better.

Orson Scott Card drew upon both the brainstorming session from the convention and his talk with James Cameron, to further develop his own version of his aliens, while we see where James Cameron’s takeaway from that discussion took him.

I’m making a lot of connections from only one passage, and I’m sure both men had other sources of inspiration for their work, but I find this anecdote so fascinating in that it is a perfect example of sharing ideas. Drawing from someone else’s idea and making it completely, and wholly your own.

Orson Scott Card’s story will always be different from James Cameron’s story and your story will always be different from my story.

This is why I have decided to share some of my writing on the blog more freely now, when I was more hesitant before, and also why I share writing prompts in the hopes that you all will participate. I think prompts are a great way to spark ideas, start discussions, and give us a chance to work together.

I’m excited to share my thoughts, writing, and ideas with all of you, and I’m so excited you stopped by.

Happy writing!