Wednesday, March 22, 2006


There’s probably not an author around who hasn’t been asked the question “Where do you get your ideas?” I know I’ve asked it of many authors I’ve met in person or chatted with online. The idea is what sparks a book, short story or article. From one tiny kernel, a writer begins to develop something larger.

Under current law ideas (and titles) are not copyrightable. I could write a book and call it Gone with the Wind and could not be prosecuted. I highly doubt anyone would buy it. Or maybe they would just to see what idiot tried to write a book using the title of one of the 20th century’s most popular novels.

I recently sold a short story based on an idea I saw in a news article on the Internet. I’m currently working on a short story based on an idea I saw on an email loop. My stalled novel came from an news article about women shopping for sperm online.

What would happen if ideas suddenly became subject to copyright laws? That may happen next month when a London judge rules on a lawsuit brought about by two authors who claim that Dan Brown stole the idea for The DaVinci Code from their 1982 book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. Brown readily acknowledges that he read Holy Blood but says he's shocked by the accusations, given that a number of other authors have used the same bloodline of Jesus idea in their books. Brown even used the authors' names in an anagram to name one of the characters in TDC as one way of acknowledging their work.

Where did the authors of Holy Blood get their ideas? And why aren’t they being sued for stealing those ideas? For that matter, shouldn't they all be sued by some "Keeper of the Bible" for appropriating ideas from the teachings of Christ?

The movie version of The DaVinci Code is set for release in less than two months. The verdict is expected a month before the release date. Should be interesting.

Back to my original idea. Well it’s not original because I read about this on an online message board. Will that person sue me? Can you see this is a never-ending spiral?

If this judge rules against Dan Brown and his publisher, what does that do to the world of fiction writing? Will our pool of ideas dry up?

Don’t worry. I’m not going to ask your opinion about this case.

But I will ask you this: where do you get your ideas?

I need all the help I can get. ;)

P.S. According to our stat counter, we're very close to our 5000th hit on this blog. I predict we'll hit it today or tomorrow. Squeeeeeeeeeeeee!


Kathy said...

Anything has the potential to spark ideas, be it an ant on the ground to the stars sparkling overhead. An idea can hit you like a ton of bricks or sneak upon you without notice.

I get my ideas from history. Real events trigger the most glorious questions. What if this had been different? What if they had done this instead? I think that's what Dan Brown has done with TDC. He's taken an idea known world wide and spun it into something, which to some may seem unbelievable. But let's ask ourselves one question. What if?

It seems strange to me that these writers are coming out of the woodwork NOW, right before the movie's release. TDC has been on the NYTimes bestseller list for a year or two now. What has caused the writers of The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail to suddenly come! Greed! The need to bring notice to their own work! Egotism!

Let's face it. Those are the facts. And history will record them as such. Hmmmm. Perhaps a writer who's watching a documentary or biography quite a few years from now, will get a spark of inspiration from this case and write something fabulous.

Again I say...history reveals all. How will the writers of THBATHG be perceived years from now?


Kathy said...

Shout out to PM! Thanks for the goodies.


Instigator said...

I agree with Kathy. It would be interesting to know what the sales of their book looked like after they received so much media attention from the suit. In the end if selling more copies of their book (free publicity) was the target I think they've probably gotten what they wanted no matter what the ruling is. The fact that Million Little Pieces is still flying off the shelves almost proves the thought that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

And I'm really looking forward to seeing the movie. I love Tom Hanks. He's an excellent actor. And I LOVED the book. I'm going to be seriously disappointed if the movie is delayed. My husband and I already have a date planned for the weekend it's released. It'll be the first time we've seen a movie at the theatre by ourselves since National Treasure came out (which is already on video and pay-per-view if that gives you an indication how long it's been since we've managed a date).

As for my ideas? Quite often I get them from music. Lyrics, the singer (can you say Tim McGraw?), the beat, all of these things spark my imagination.


Angel said...

I also get a lot of ideas from music. The lyrics can spark ideas and scenarios in my mind.
I get ideas from other books (not copying them, but sometimes wishing the author had done something differently) and for some reason reading writing books will spark my imagination. If I'm stuck in my wip, a lot of times I'll read over Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. Don't ask me to explain. I can't.
Most of the time I just daydream. The best ideas come without forcing. Or brainstorming! There's nothing like a playground brainstorming session (whether on my book or someone else's) to get me going.


Linda Conrad said...

Ideas come in lots of forms. I have two huge files full of news clippings, dreams and notes taken while watching people in the airport.

The series I'm working on now was developed out of research I was doing for another book. And I woke up in the middle of the night with the first sentence of the first book in the series rattling around in my head. I've never dreamed in sentences before or since.

Many times I have a place and a vague idea for a situation in mind and then I develop the characters and the plot from that.

For the first book I published, I decided to include as many romance hooks as possible in one book. It was great fun coming up with an undercover FBI agent with amnesia who'd turned cowboy and had a hidden baby he'd left behind. :)

Ideas are the easy part. I have millions of them. It's actually writing the words down that drives me crazy! (can you tell I'm battling a looming deadline at the moment?)

We who are creative dreamers usually have more trouble keeping new ideas from interrupting the work in progress. I have to beat them off with a stick.

Rhonda said...

Most of my ideas come from magazine articles or a throw-away line of conversation between strangers. I don't think I've ever gotten an idea from a song, but certainly every book has its own soundtrack.

Happy writing today!

Kathy said...

There is an article in yesterday's paper on Dan Brown in the Life section describing how DB has been busted by prosecutors for not being able to remember key moments of inspiration for pieces of TDC. I say again, he is being lambasted for not being able to remember the exact moment in time he had a revelation for his book.

Some reasoning for this, according to prosecutors, is that his wife did most of the research but my question is this...can you remember where you were, what you were doing, the time, what was on T.V., what you had for dinner, where you're kids were...when you had divine inspiration? Or can you give exact times and places when you first realized that you wanted to kill a character off or send your characters on a different adventure? I'll bet most everyone will say no.

DB is being criticized for not knowing or being able to list off things like these in court. And for the fact that his wife isn't testifying. Is this fair? And where did the writers of THBATHG get their ideas? Will they not be held accountable to writers who previously researched material for their books? And when will this all end? Do we have to go back to the Gospel writers to get this all straightened out?

Can you tell I find this very irritating? TDC is an aweome book and the movie proves to be a blockbuster, especially with Tom Hanks in the lead role. Like Instigator, my DH and I are excited to see it.

Now I'll continue on my soap box with your permission. Why are people buying a NONFICTION book from a man who has been proven to have passed off a FICTION book in it's place. Would you submit a fiction work to a nonfiction publisher because you couldn't get published in the fiction market?

Sword held ready,

Playground Monitor said...

Oh wow! I've really ignited some great discussion. Keep it coming, folks.

How nice to see my friend (and terrific author) Linda Conrad here. I'm reading that book that she dreamed the first sentence of right now.

I'll admit that I haven't read TDC yet, but it's next in the TBR pile cause like the others, the DH and I have a date to see the movie and I want to read the book first.

Problem Child said...

I don't ask where my ideas come from...I'm afraid if I do, then they'll quit coming.

I think it's funny about the song lyrics, though. I've always had this habit of trying to fill in the blanks before or after a song to flesh out the story.


Smarty Pants said...

I can't really pinpoint where things come from for me. If something strikes me, I try to write it down in a word document I have. The thought usually grows and evolves. You don't even want to know how Forbidden Embrace started in my head (ok, she was a vampire Dr. Kevorkian - which is why she's a geriatric nurse in my current version) but gladly, I let that storyline go. I think inspiration can come from all sides...even a drug bust at a hotel can spark a lively story if you put the thought into it.

Angel said...

Hi, Linda! Glad to see you here!
Kathy, love the new icon!


Kathy said...

The credit goes to PM for the Icon. Thanks again, PM. You rock!

And thanks, Angel, for noticing.