Anywho, today Adam Heine has the HWS podium. Don't mind if I sneak to the clubhouse offices. I, uh, have a lot of planning to do for my 1000th Post on Monday!
They say great artists steal. Here's how.
HIDE THE EVIDENCE
Inspired by Ocean's Eleven, you want to write a heist story.
Unfortunately, everything you know about heists you learned in that
movie, so your first draft has a team of 11 con artists robbing an
underground casino vault in Vegas. A little obvious, right?
When you steal a story you love, you have to obscure your source.
Figure out what you like about it. Use that, and change the
Say they're not robbing a casino, but a museum. Heck, THE VATICAN
(they did a museum in Ocean's Twelve anyway). Instead of the head
thief trying to get his girl back, maybe the Cardinal is an old friend
who betrayed him (heh, maybe the Cardinal used to be a thief, too).
Now you've got a heist story with the elements you loved from the
movie, combined with your own take on things.
But is it enough to hide your source?
DON'T ROB THE SAME PLACE TWICE
In writing terms, this means read books (and watch movies) of all
kinds and every genre. The Vatican heist is a good start, but it's
still open to accusations of being derivative. What if we added a
romance? A gov't conspiracy? An ancient cabal of vampires? Any (all!)
of these can be twisted into our semi-derivative story to make it less
a clone and more like an original piece of art.
Should they all be used? That's up to you (the risk of a
kitchen-sink story is another
post entirely). But if you can make it work, you will not only
have a unique story, but you will have hidden many of your sources as
LEAVE EMOTION AT THE DOOR
Wait, isn't this plagiarism? Shouldn't we be trying to come up with
our own original ideas instead of stealing from others?
To the first question, no, it's not plagiarism (unless you're stealing
actual text from your sources, in which case I don't know you).
To the second question, two things. First, there are no original
ideas (if you disagree, read
this first). This is a good thing. Presenting the familiar in a
new and interesting way is a lot easier than thinking of something
that has never occurred to the hundred billion people who came before
Second, the fact there are no original ideas means every idea you
think is original happened to you at some point. It might
have been a story you read or something that happened in real life
(which is more common than you think). Either way, you experienced it,
assimilated it, and it's now coming back as an idea. That's why it's
so important to live life and read widely, so you have as much
material to draw from as possible.
The point is don't worry about it. Don't feel bad about
stealing ideas. Don't be afraid that your ideas are "unoriginal." IT'S
OKAY. This is what artists do. Keep reading. Keep learning the
craft. And keep trying to find your own unique spin on your favorite
Because there is one thing that's original in this world: YOU.