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Monday, December 7, 2009

The Idea Contagion

Ideas are funny little things. Like germs they're invisible until they take shape in the form of a book, business, or bad cough. And like germs they kind of float around and land randomly.

Take, for example, the plagiarism lawsuit against Stephanie Meyer. It was brought by Jordan Scott, the author of a 2006 book called "Nocturne," which, needless to say, has not had the mega success of "Twilight." Scott accused Meyer of lifting plot lines and other elements to use in "Breaking Dawn," the 4th book in the Twilight series. The suit was dismissed last week, but I bring it up here only as an example of how ideas spread.

On a personal level, I, myself have been accused of idea theft. My 4th book, BLIND CURVE, is about a homicide detective who has a stroke that renders him blind. My book came out almost at the same time as the now-defunct TV Series, "Blind Justice." A reviewer on Amazon accused me of stealing my idea from the show. Never mind that my book had been conceived and written nearly a year prior to the show airing. But as I said, ideas are like that. They flutter around, and who knows where they'll settle next?

In my case, they've settled in General Hospital, where James Franco has taken up the role of "Franco," a weird photographer/artist who captures and creates gory crime scenes of homicides.

Anyone who's familiar with my book, DEAD SHOT, will see the similarities. So...should I sue ABC?
It's been interesting to watch how the soap has tweaked the idea for their own uses. Several of their lead characters are mob-related, so Franco has plenty of crimes to home in on. Does he, like my Dead Shot heroine, Gillian, have a death wish? Or is he just a voyeur who wants to get closer to the object of his affection? Is there a particular crime--one that's very personal--he wants to solve or avenge? It will be interesting to see how many more (or less) similarities to my book pop up.

In fact, GH created a piece for the art show opening I wished I had thought of for the book: an actual bedroom set up to look like someone had been murdered there, complete with blood and a chalk outline (which, of course, the police no longer use , but what's realism when it comes to TV?). In Dead Shot, all the scenes were photographed. It would have been cool to have Gillian, create a scene using actual furniture, like a set.

But hey--that idea didn't land on me.

So if ideas are out there, thick as bacteria, what makes something iconic? Do you have to be there first? Well, we know Meyer wasn't the first with the vampire trend. Why aren't they making movies out of Sherrie Kenyon's books? Yes, she made the top of the Times list, but I guarantee she's not a household name like Meyer.

Were there others writing Pride and Prejudice or David Copperfield? Maybe if we'd had the blogosphere and the media, Jane and Charles would have ended up in court, too.

Heard about other idea contagions? I'd be interested in hearing about them, too.

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