Don’t Worry About Idea Theft!

Have you ever thought to yourself:

This is it! The perfect story! My new plot has it all:

A polar bear

A snowstorm

A palm tree

A romantic fireplace

Hot cocoa

A lovesick couple

A poodle

Triplet toddlers in need of a stable home

Then another writer breezily posts on a loop:

Hey, you guys, I just added a polar bear and a palm tree to my snowstorm story about Bixby, Alexa, Snappy the Hound Dog, and the Bibble infant twins! Nestle Chocolates and Pampers are going to endorse it! And so will Fireplaces Unlimited! My editor is sure to buy it now!

That sinking feeling …

“I could have sworn I talked about my book on this loop just last month!” You mentally kick yourself. Could she have stolen your idea? Dare you mention your concerns to anyone?


On a similar note, have you ever been to a conference ready to pitch your incredible time-slip novel only to discover five other writers are pitching time-slip novels? Or ten others are pitching devotional collections on grieving? Are all these authors copying each other?

Ummm, no

I admit, when I was writing books for publication, I had that sinking feeling myself from time to time. Not that an author had copied me, but that maybe my idea was too close to someone else’s book that had been released the previous month. It’s a terrible feeling to have, but let it pass. And then know …

You Can Write Your Book and Be a Success!

Why? Most writers agree that only a few basic plots exist (some say nine, others say seven).  Click here for a second article with a great list and other helps for writers.

So what?

So that means you can take one of the plots and create your masterpiece, using your words.

Otherwise, writers could sue each other for using the same plot. Because we all do that!

What we cannot do legally is cut and paste someone else’s words and insert them into our books as if we wrote those words ourselves.

But apparently some creatives do, and did. As a point of interest, people accused of plagiarism cut a wide swath, as you can see in this linked article.

What We Can Do

We can read great authors, absorbing technique and storytelling craft. Then we can run away with our ideas, as long as we use our own words to express those ideas. Because they will be like no one else’s in the world.

Your turn

See if you can write a sales hook or plot blurb using one or all of the elements in the first list. Or even the popular author’s list she posted to the loop. Have fun!




16 Responses to Don’t Worry About Idea Theft!

  1. Avatar
    tuviapollack October 24, 2019 at 4:28 am #

    When the lovesick polar bear couple decide to have their honeymoon in a small rented apartment in Hawaii, disaster hits. A combined volcano eruption and snow storm emerges. Apparently everything we thought about science was wrong. Polar bears are not white because they live among snow. The snow is attracted by polar bears, wherever they are.
    Their hot cocoa goes cold, and the palm tree outside of their window snaps in two. When a neighbor couple dies in the combined snow-lava avalanche coming down from the volcano, the polar bears feel a responsibility to care for the triplet toddlers and the poddle that the couple left behind. But will the triplets and the poddle be willing to follow their new polar bear parents to the North Pole?

    • Avatar
      tuviapollack October 24, 2019 at 4:30 am #

      I have no idea how the poodle became a poddle…

      • Avatar
        Andrew Budek-Schmeisser October 24, 2019 at 9:19 am #

        Tuvia, here’s how…

        This tale I tell must be concise,
        ’bout pup teething at full throttle.
        He ate a digital device
        and now the Poodle is a Poddle.
        He’s musical were’er he goes,
        and this might one day be quite trendy,
        great music with a cold wet nose
        and Snoop Dogg going puce in envy.
        Notes and vocals are hypnotic,
        strong and vital, bright and clear,
        for the poddle’s stereophonic,
        speakers at both front and rear.
        Yes, a question? Make it short!
        “Where is the recharging port?”

  2. Avatar
    J.D. Wininger (@JD_Wininger) October 24, 2019 at 5:24 am #

    Amen! Love this post Ms. Tamela. I’ve had that exact feeling; and even had an idea or two shot down before I could even present/set the hook at a writer’s conference because, and I quote “… name is too close to another book” or “… that’s been done to death; the devotional market is saturated and has gone cold.” I was appreciative of the person’s time, but to not even take the thirty seconds to learn what it’s about (what makes it different) seemed a bit abrupt. I think my worst case of it was when Dr. David Jeremiah announced the release of a book and a huge tour just as I was putting the finishing touches on a book proposal for a manuscript that shared many of the same lessons. Thanks for the encouragement ma’am.

  3. Avatar
    damonjgray October 24, 2019 at 6:15 am #

    A few years back, I heard Michael Hyatt relate an event similar to what you described. A great idea had been “stolen” from him. Amid his grief, his wife consoled him, saying something that completely changed his perspective. She said, “There’s more where that came from.”

    Now, Michael encourages writers to “give your best stuff away,” because there is always more where that came from.

    I love that!

    • Avatar
      Andrew Budek-Schmeisser October 24, 2019 at 10:38 am #

      Damon, for you:

      You’ve got to give it all away,
      all you hold in store,
      for making room’s the only way
      that God can give you more.
      You’ve got to pass it all along
      with no thought of recompense,
      because your words and thoughts belong
      to “I AM”, the present tense.
      You’ve got to hand on all the love
      the over-brims your heart,
      and take replenish from above,
      for then does real Love start.
      You’ve got to channel received grace
      for in its flow, you see His face.

  4. Avatar
    Sarah Hamaker October 24, 2019 at 6:55 am #

    One mark of a newbie writer is the jealous guarding of their book’s “idea.” I’ve had beginning writers ask me to sign a confidentiality agreement that I wouldn’t “steal their idea” before I would have the privilege of critiquing their work (at which point, I simply said, “That’s okay, I’ll pass”).

    Ideas are just a starting point from which the author’s creativity flows. Thank goodness ideas can’t be copyrighted, or there would be no more books ever written!

  5. Avatar
    Bryan Mitchell October 24, 2019 at 7:24 am #

    A lovesick couple, separated by oceans and continents, longed for time to slip away. Alphonso sat alone on a beach staring across the waters. Tomorrow, his flight into Colorado will reunite him with his sweet Sherri. He imagined sitting by a romantic fireplace with her and her poodle, Baron von Scratchy. A snowstorm would provide the seclusion and privacy they’ve desperately needed. There would be wine, hot cocoa and an array of deserts. He laughed at the thought. Bang! A large baby carriage crashed into a palm tree. Cries burst from within it. He ran to the carriage and found three tiny triplets who settled as he shushed them and replaced their pacifiers. A note laid upon their light blue blanket. It read: “In need of a stable home”. With no sign of anyone else there, he took the carriage of children and trudged towards his hotel unsure of what to do.

  6. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser October 24, 2019 at 7:39 am #

    I’ll try the list a bit later, but some thoughts on idea-theft.

    It all comes from Langley.

    They teach men to stare at goats
    and put things in their heads.
    It’s not a stretch to suppose
    they can take thoughts out, instead.
    They have been doing this for years
    and are now very skilled
    to meet a writer’s nightmare-fears
    (do you know some goats were killed?).
    My ideas are my very own,
    not theirs, by any right,
    so a scientific seed’s been sown
    to let me win this fight.
    And thus, you have the reason that
    I now wear a tinfoil hat.

  7. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser October 24, 2019 at 8:35 am #

    Tamela, this was a hard one.

    If this sonnet makes it into my opus posthumous, may I have permission to quote your post (with appropriate credit)?

    A Prozac-addled polar bear
    had all the snowstorms she could stand;
    she left three cubs with the au pair
    and headed off to palm-tree land.
    Her husband rushed home, disbelieving;
    he’s planned hot cocoa, a roaring fire,
    an ultima thule romantic evening,
    but now the circumstance was dire.
    With his poodle he consulted,
    not knowing just which road to take,
    while mama bear’s trip south resulted
    in knowing she’d made a bad mistake.
    But for now there are just shared selfie-smiles;
    she’d used all the frequent-flier miles.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray October 25, 2019 at 11:06 am #

      I would always be honored to be cited, Andrew!

  8. Avatar
    Loretta Eidson October 24, 2019 at 1:26 pm #

    Thank you for this post. Now I can breathe easy. Not long ago I received a new novel release by an author who happens to be a friend. I became horrified when I discovered that the hero in her novel had some of the same charactistics and background as the hero in my unpublished manuscript. I was mortified because this author was critiquing a couple of my chapters. A knot formed in the pit of my stomach and I felt awful. I immediately emailed her and told her I had no idea about the details of her character. I apologized profusely. She stated it was no big deal, but that didn’t ease my horror. I’m sure this happens often, but that was a first for me.

  9. Avatar
    Tamela Hancock Murray October 25, 2019 at 11:07 am #

    All of you have done such a great job with this fun assignment! Thanks for making this blog a wonderful place to be!

  10. Avatar
    claire o'sullivan October 25, 2019 at 1:28 pm #

    A polar bear

    A snowstorm

    A palm tree

    A romantic fireplace

    Hot cocoa

    A lovesick couple

    A poodle

    Triplet toddlers in need of a stable home

    Her driving was erratic in the snowstorm. Weird how it was in Venezuela. She worried about the triplets in the street that she noted, shivering… should she go back? But no! She needed to be snogged (British for cuddled) by that big baby Polar Bear, the poodle who normally sat under the palm tree, inhaling the breeze. Yes, she could build a romantic fireplace, but the love of her life was in England. In prison. For life. Sharing their letters she knew he was as lovestruck as she, yet, because of her own crimes she could never go to him. Snogging now with Polar Bear, resting in front of the fireplace, wallowing in romantic thoughts, she sipped hot cocoa. But… would that palm tree survive?

  11. Avatar
    Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D October 26, 2019 at 1:17 pm #

    A snowstorm

    A palm tree

    A romantic fireplace

    Hot cocoa

    A lovesick couple

    A poodle

    Triplet toddlers in need of a stable home

    A lovesick couple was drinking hot cocoa one evening as they snuggled in front of a romantic fireplace. Sadly their triplet toddlers, who had been in need of a stable home for the past two years, kept interrupting the couple’s amorous plans by crawling up on their laps and forcing their way between the hapless duo. A knock came on the door. The very discouraged male dislodged two of the three recalcitrant toddlers, so that he could respond to the summons. He opened the door against the raging wind. As a snowstorm blew into his cozy retreat, who should be there but a …wait a second, I thought there was a polar bear in the mix somewhere….okay, back to the story at hand.. a poodle dashed into the house, dragging a palm tree behind him. “Drat the luck,” he said, “I thought your mother’s dog was vacationing in Aruba.” “No,” his wife replied, “northern Florida.”

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