Today, as I was scanning all of the “Amazon Recommended” emails and adding the ones that looked interesting to my Wish List, I came across a novel that reminded me of a problem that’s plagued me for a while. Please tell me if you’ve encountered the same problem.
The description of this book describes a society of dragons, living in human form, who are working against an underground cult of dragon slayers. I kid you not, the first novel I ever wrote was about a dragon changeling in human form who rediscovers her dragon family and is fighting to return to them, all while being hounded by a dragon slayer society who has survived till modern times.
Okay, so the similarities end fairly early on. The dragons in the other story have survived till modern times by being in human form. My dragons escaped to another world are returning. The dragons in the other story are trying to take over the world. My dragons are trying to stop a particular set of human actions which is killing their world. The hero in the other story knows she’s a dragon and is working to be in a kind of dragon military. My hero has just discovered she’s a dragon and is just trying to find her feet (or wings, ha). The hero in the other story has a love interest who pops up in the dragon slayer sect. My hero’s love interest is actually a dragon, but her shocking conflict about someone in the dragon slayer sect is –
Wait. Nope. Spoilers.
Anyway, the point is, this isn’t the first time I’ve run across a story that is remarkably similar to mine. And it’s not like I’m stealing the idea, because I always find out about the story after I’ve written it (or it’s been festering in my head). The first time it ever happened was a story revolving around an island that almost had a consciousness, and the people living on that island were isolated from the rest of the world with special powers.
It was about a year later that I realized I was writing LOST meets Bionicles. The Bionicle stuff made sense, I grew up on those toys and had every one I could get my hands on, but LOST? I hadn’t even seen the TV show when I came up with the idea and started plugging away. After watching a bunch of episodes and being struck by threads of similarities here and there, I remember being filled with despair and frustration that the idea was taken and I’d just be thought of as a copycat.
This happened again a few years later with a different story. I was just as frustrated, and after throwing out the idea that I was actually plugged into a virtual reality where the world was feeding off of my creativity (cough), I started wondering about the idea of a social consciousness. If you’ve read my posts before (here!), you know that I’m rather a believer in the Jungian idea that society works out it’s issues through literature. My half-baked hypothesis is that the majority of literature is working out whatever social issue is of the day, while others lag behind and a select few are writing ahead of their time.
But what about a social creative consciousness? We all build on each other, whether it be by reading the classics or the latest NY Times Best Seller, and it all becomes tangled inside our brains until it evolves into something different. Different fads, trends, things that are hot to write about, start popping up. People hop on these ideas (see vampires, werewolves, main characters moving to new cities and discovering they have hidden powers, high-school romance all centered on the mysterious guy, etc). But what if not all of these are not necessarily following the trend? What if, as we read and write, our minds all come to similar conclusions of creativity, independently of each other? There are millions of us absorbing similar influences and creativity, and there’s bound to be parallels, right? Sure, we’re all going to be different in this or that way, whether it be writing skill, genetics, or learning environment. But I don’t think we’re all so different that we won’t reach similar conclusions when fed similar inputs.
This is where my thoughts have led me so far, anyway (I’m pretty sure the idea of me being hooked to a virtual reality is far-fetched).
What do you think? Is there a creative social consciousness that we all seem to be following as we work out our issues? Have you come across books/movies/TV shows that are strikingly similar to things you’ve done and have no idea how that happened?
And as a slight offside, what trends do you see in literature that are bugging the crap out of you?