I figured I’d start doing more blog posts where I just muse about thoughts related to writing, as well as the industry itself. Mostly when a random thought comes to mind that I figure I should just lay out there.
It’s funny how people can often come to similar ideas when working completely independent of one another. Something I’ve noticed a lot when writing is I might come up with an idea that I think is novel or interesting, and then I see some TV show or pick up a book that has a similar idea to what I was thinking. Usually something I had no way of knowing about, because it’s a new episode, or the book was recently published; it’s just someone else had the same notion I did, and got it out there.
Just to be clear, this isn’t about “original ideas.” It’s well known there’s nothing new, and everything’s already been done before. This is about the coincidences, and what happens when two people have similar ideas or executions, but one person essentially “claims” the idea by either being first, or much more popular.
It’s interesting, and frustrating. We do live in an age of copyright and trademark, and it’s tricky to keep ideas unique enough that somebody else doesn’t hire a lawyer and drag you into court for copying their idea. And it is awful when somebody does intentionally steal ideas, which is why we have those laws in the first place. But it makes coincidences harder to deal with.
And even in cases where copyright isn’t an issue, where it’s something in the public consciousness that nobody owns the rights to, you still have to contend with fans. I’ve seen a number of instances where a word or concept that’s popular in a ‘geek culture’ sense somehow overwrites the history of that concept, and people (usually dumb, but very vocal ones) automatically assume their popular thing was the creator and arbiter of the idea. And anybody else who brings it up is somehow imitating or paying homage to it. Few examples: people who assume that alchemy and words like “homunculus” were created by Full Metal Alchemist (I’ve run into this one a lot, even in situations that have nothing to do with anime,) or people who believe mythological creatures didn’t exist until Harry Potter or Final Fantasy mentioned them.
As another example, I’ve been working on/off with a draft I wrote; It’s a fantasy story about fairies and parallel worlds, and I ended up naming the protagonist after the constellation Eridanus, or “the river.” I thought it would make a great name, so I cut the ‘us’ off the end and named the character Eridan. Got all attached to the idea of the character having that name. It wasn’t until I finished the draft that I found out by accident that there’s a character named Eridan in a webcomic called Homestuck. From the same origins, I believe: somebody took the constellation name and chopped off a few letters.
Now, I’ve never read Homestuck, but I’m aware it has a completely insane and rabid fanbase. I don’t really intend to change the character’s name, and it would be silly to do anyways. There is probably something to be said for looking up a character name or potential book title before using it, but there’s no reason to shy away from a name just because somebody else used it first. But I imagine people who hear the name Eridan will likely immediately think of the comic, and might not even have any idea that the name originates from a constellation.
Anyways, it was just something I started thinking off today, mostly because something I idly saw on TV lined up with something I’d already written and published. Not in any drastic way, but it made me wonder what I would do if some geeky, popular thing did something similar to something I’d already written. I’d probably end up getting overshadowed, even if I did it first. I find it funny that right now, googling Realm Wraith brings my book and website up on the first page because apparently nobody has ever thought to slam those two words together, but that could always change. Suppose I should enjoy the uniqueness while it lasts.