I think, though I’m not always sure, that I don’t use time as efficiently as possible. No, I know that’s true. On the other hand, there’s something to be said for watching baseball all evening and not caring that you have other responsibilities. Forgetting those responsibilities, like say a doctor’s appointment in the morning, less acceptable. That said, life is like writing in those moments. Every action intersects with another. Even without really meaning to.
I argued before that all ideas are connected. I’m going to put forth that same argument, with a slightly different approach this time. Consider it, a repeating theme.
A Hint of Almost: Take these weekly ideas, all arrived at separately.
- A girl/boy you saw in college and always fancied lives in a small midwest town you happen through.
- A girl pulls a sword from a stone. Not King Arthur. What happens next?
- Day dreaming of alternate moments of one moment. A fixed point in time where you think of different ways, natural and supernatural, events could have changed.
- Going to a baseball game with friend
- Rebuilding a computer core from scratch with the ship failing.
Previously, I discussed this idea that no idea exists in a vacuum, that every idea a writer has, particularly me, can be connected with threads. Each builds off another until strands that appeared tangential and lose come together. Somehow, I feel I missed something. How could those all tie together? Here’s an idea I think could work.
On a trip out west, our main character stops for gas in a small town in South Dakota. There, in a diner, he sees a girl he had a crush on in college. He’d completely forgotten she lived out here. Hadn’t thought of her in years. He remembers her turning him down, thinking of the different scenarios: he wins her over, he yells at her, he protects her from a bully, she falls in love with his best friend, they’re trapped together during an accident and become friends. Thinking she doesn’t notice, he moves on with his trip. Does she see him?
Thinking nothing of it, he moves on. Later, he goes to a small minor league ball game with his friends he’s on a trip with. There, he runs into the girl, with her friends. It’s been almost 10 years. A supernatural accident occurs and the girl and boy are indeed trapped together in one of the many subterranean caves. There they find a sword in the stone. She is able to pull it out. He catches her as she stumbles, and, for an instant, they see what life could be like together. The good times. The bad.
She/He tells the computer to shut down. He’s just completed simulation 10013. Testing different scenarios to see if the computer was functioning again. WIth a smile, she shuts the door and ignores the rest of the simulation, calling to the bridge that the computers fixed.
Does it work? Who knows. Writing it will determine what shall be trimmed. But it’s an idea. Where do you take it?
Not every idea has to connect. Heck, just throwing the idea out and letting it dangle is part of the creative process. The net result is intent. That might seem strange but intent doesn’t have to exist. If I started discussing a peanut butter and pickle sandwich, there’s no intent. It’s a random outlier thought that no one really expects to go anywhere. But intent is what keeps ideas new and original. Why time travel in the Time Traveler’s Wife is so different than in Star Trek.
Woods Between the Worlds: Writing tends to be a bit trickier. A predominant feeling legally and socially, online at least from experience, seems to be that idea of trademarked ideas, where once an idea has been created it’s owned by the creator.
Officially, trademark is defined as the act “To label (a product) with proprietary identification.” That’s how the US Patent official writes it. So, trademarking is the legalized recognition of Intellectual Property. In tern, Intellectual Property breaks down into two main cores: Industrial Property (IP) and Copyright. IP usually refers to business and companies ideas. Copyright referring to things like novels and poems and art.
There’s a point to all that. This is where the legal aspects tie into creativity. Generally, in writing, Copyright refers to the words and ideas, in specific orders, on paper. And the ideas, even if they aren’t on paper.
Ideas are great, but they must be proven and defended. Otherwise, 2,000 people would be claiming credit for A Song of Ice and Fire and Happy Potter. Though, lesser known fiction might be easier to screw with.
There’s an old proverb, which may or not be ancient Chinese or a lawyer’s joke, depending on who I heard it from first. An author writes a book. The original author’s editor/publisher publishes it for themselves. The writers swears that the idea is theirs. A judge/emperor tells them to prove it. The author and infringer ask how. The judge/emperor tells them to write the next chapter.
Wait… if ideas are protected and so many people have the same ideas, why aren’t there more duplicate books? Good question. Have you looked at the romance section of Barnes and Nobles lately? The legal truth is a little trickier than that.
I can’t get this idea out of head; the combination of possible words in all the accepted English language. Theoretically, there’s a limited amount. After all, 26 letters, all forming different words, each unique, must at some point yield a finite combination. Except, I don’t know that for sure.
Plagiarism is defined as the act “to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own : use (another’s production) without crediting the source.” My alma mater, Alfred University, defines academic plagiarism as a “lack of proper citation” and, among other things, theft of an idea. My high school english teacher defined it as 3 or more words strung together.
I want to examine this concept. There are a couple of points, relating to finite words, tied together.
- Common phrases
- Repeated ideas
For all the words in the English language proper (according to the Oxford English Dictionary, there are over 750,000) it seems rare to me that plagiarism actually occurs. Note, please, that I am including IP and copyright’s with regards to plagiarism.
Common phrases are exempt from plagiarism. They need to be. Otherwise wise, I just used one in the last sentence and at least seven others I can count so far in this article. Something as complex as a sentence can be duplicated by accident, even by the author. See: Aaron Sorkin favorite phrases on youtube.
Repeated ideas. Ah, those are slightly more complicated. Within this seemingly benign concept are a couple of lurking problems. To name a few: tropes, themes, genre. Ideas and strands so common they overlap. Harry Potter, Narnia share otherwise ordinary school children heroes introduced to magic worlds. Star Trek and Star Wars: science fiction in space with futuristic technology. Those are the repeated idea.
However, as mentioned in this post, seemingly disparate ideas can be threaded together. It’s this attention to detail upon reviewing the material and ideas put to page that the copyright and unique voices shine through. Everything leads through revision. Having an idea, a spin on an idea, with almost always place a unique stamp on that creative process. Trust me, there isn’t anyone who writes Harry Potter fanfiction with the same voice as JK Rowling.
Importance of a Name:
- Foils of Memory
- Axiom of Intent
- Silence of Lady’s
I swear, and don’t come after me for Copyright issues, none of my names are original. At some point or another, they’re words in a combination someone’s already come up with. Or a family name I took a liking to. How I use them, that will be different. Probably. I can’t remember what inspired these names.
Afterward: Words are important. They are how we express ourselves. There isn’t a writer in this world, scientific or fictional, that wants to retell someone else’s story. That’s not how we’re built. What’s the point? Then my shot at telling an original story and immortality is gone. I promise you I’ll remember forever the Time Traveler’s Wife. That’s the immortality I’m striving for. Copying someone else is not a great plan and goes against the point of writing to begin with.
This is the world where fanfiction really does collide with professionalism. Taking those ideas attributed to someone else and placing a unique spin on them. That’s where I started. But it’s not where I ended up.
Friday, I’ll be discussing the idea of telling a complete story. Why people can’t, won’t, don’t know how. And why continuing plot lines can be both, mistaken for either and neither.