I was having a discussion with a fellow author the other day and the question was posed: Are all the great ideas already taken and all we are seeing now are VERSIONS of those existing ideas? I had several things to say on the subject and it occurred the topic would make a good blog post. So here we are.
My friend made a good case. Then today I had occasion to watch the movie "The Social Network". Since I am going to be posting this blog on my facebook page, I'll make the obvious assumption that all readers of it are aware of the premise of the movie. The deal is the founder of facebook is accused of stealing the idea and, in essence, expounding on the idea and making it better. It made me think of the discussion I had with my author friend. He maintained most novels now, save maybe for memoirs, were ideas that already existed, which had been expounded upon and just made better. I was astounded by the idea. Until he started coming up with examples. I still don't entirely believe him, but I have to admit, the CONCEPT has some merit.
He suggested the Scott Westerfield novel, "The Uglies" as his example. The idea, he contended, could have come from a Twilight Zone episode. I googled it and found it was called "Number 12 Looks Just Like You" and comparisons HAVE been made. But, that was a half hour television drama in the sixties. No one has done a thing with it since and Westerfield developed a three book trilogy out of it. I hardly think that qualified.
My brother is a musician and he thinks all the music in the world has been invented, but it's what you DO with it and how you ARRANGE it that is the genius of the artist. I think writing is exactly the same way. Maybe all the ideas ARE out there, but it is the way the writer, the artist, ARRANGES it, that is the true genius of the writing mind.
So at the end of the conversation with my author friend, I told him I agreed with him fundamentally, but not emotionally. Yes, I said, all the ideas are already out there and what we are seeing is versions of those ideas, but those versions are limitless and the way they branch out exponential, so in a way, we will NEVER be out of ideas, since they practically procreate. And as an author/writer/creator/artist, all I can say is....thank God.