Ideas. Execution.

by wjw on February 20, 2010

Majorly big Twilight fan Kayla Patterson has written an open letter to Universal Studios, accusing them of, like, totally, ripping off Stephanie Meyer when they made a movie about a werewolf.

I actually started to like werewolves after seeing Jacob Black and all his awesomeness on the big screen at the movies. That was until I saw your crappy remake of what you call to be a “were wolf”. I don’t see how you live with yourself for making it the way you did. If I made this movie, I would be ashamed to even admit that I owned it. How can a werewolf be killed with a silver bullet? Better yet, have you saw the transformation of the man that is “supposed” to be the wolf? He sits in some chair and his entire body turns in to some mutated freak. If you would watch the transformation of Jacob Black, (Taylor Lautner) he doesn’t come close to looking as fake, cheap and or mutated as the wolf man. You tell me, who looks to be the better werewolf.

Wow! That’s letting your foot have it with both barrels!

Meanwhile, the estate of the late Adrian Jacobs has filed suit against J.K. Rowling, claiming that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ripped off Jacobs’ 36-page self-published novel, The Adventures of Willie the Wizard.

Does the Silly Season really begin in February? I thought it was later.

Here’s what’s happens in these cases. People who have very few ideas tend to overvalue them. If you only get one idea per decade, you have a tendency to think it’s a pretty special idea. And furthermore, you’ll have a hard time believing that another person might have had the same idea, too.

That’s why writers are often approached by people with ideas for books. “I have this terrific idea, but I don’t have time to write it! You write it for me, and we’ll split the money!”

I always tell these people that I have plenty of ideas of my own, they should write their own damn book.

Folks who have lots of ideas know how cheap ideas really are. I have more ideas for novels and stories than I could possibly write in three lifetimes. Some of them, in fact, are pretty dang brilliant ideas, and another writer might do extremely well with them (just not someone with my career, track record, and audience).

I’ve written stories with ideas that turned out to be ahead of their time— someone else used a similar idea sometime later, with greater success, because it was just time for that idea to attract attention, or because they did something interesting with it that I didn’t. I’ve had ideas that I thought were quite brilliant and timely, only to see that other writers had got their ideas into print first. I was more than a little chagrined to discover that the central idea for my Nebula-winning novella “The Green Leopard Plague” was anticipated by a Fred Pohl story published in 1962.

(Note that Charles Stross and I both wrote books about online gaming at around the same time. Note that neither of us is suing the other.)

What matters, kids, is execution. An idea unexploited is an idea that is either (1) lost to the world, or (2) fair game for someone else.

In order to send your story idea into the world, you have to plant your butt in a chair, write the story, get an agent or publisher, get the book edited, copy-edited, and printed, then send it out into the world. Even then the odds are pretty good that someone— Fred Pohl, say— might have had the same idea forty-odd years ago. The odds are good that whole hosts of people might have had the idea, just no one that you met.

And, if you’re really unlucky, you’ll discover that Universal Studios made a movie of that idea back in 1941.

[both via tnh]

Ken Houghton February 21, 2010 at 12:14 am

No, if you're really unlucky, you'll discover Universal Studios made a movie called 1941.

(See Teresa on the Rowling suit.)

Rebecca S. February 21, 2010 at 3:12 am

When someone says to me, "I have a terrific idea for a book!" I tell them, "Ideas are easy. Pages are hard."

But man. That is one terrible letter.

Nathan February 21, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Obviously you hadn't saw the first draft of the letter. You couldn't of lived with your self if you'd saw it. The transformation of what was "supposed" to be an articulate letter into this better version made me actually start to like reading "letters" after reading it.

Bruce February 22, 2010 at 10:36 pm

In the same vein, I read a blog post the other day that pointed out the similarities between James Cameron's AVATAR and a 1963 episode of OUTER LIMITS titled "The Chameleon".

One of the commenters responded that the blog-author was a lying sack of crap, because "OUTER LIMITS was made in the 1990's!"

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