The Creative Wave
I think people, even creators, don’t realize just how connected creativity can be, with people you’ve never even met. So while ripping off and being inspired by does happen, so often two minds somehow tap into the same creative wave. I see it occur with my own works, where I’ll see a scene pop up in some movie or show, and it has a striking similarity to something I’ve written. Recently, I saw such a scene pop up in a show I was watching that mirrored very closely a scene I’d written, and I cursed silently to myself.
Do I redo the scene entirely to make it more different? The context surrounding the scene, especially the type of story it was, was different, but the interaction between the two characters hit many notes of commonality. It ended differently, though. The answer is no. You have to believe in your work, and you can’t keep changing every time you see that work show up somewhere in different ways. I’m sure it’d be much easier if I didn’t watch a lot of shows and movies, but stopping isn’t really a viable solution for me.
On the other hand, over a year ago, I renamed a robotic race in my book to synths, and now, there’s fallout 4 (and apparently some show based on a swedish show called Humans), and that I did change (in favor of something hopefully more unique), but the new name will stick as soon as book 2 is published. And speaking of fallout 4, I was reading through an old post apocalyptic script I wrote in late 2001, and there are some striking similarities there, as well. Granted, so much is different about them, but some noteworthy things include a Main hero who wakes up after 200 years from cryo sleep and has to discover why (and witnessed, at least in part, the destruction of the old world), and this quest takes him to a secretive underground location with highly advanced secrets/technology, and certain groups want his help in accessing this location for their own goals. Also, to enter the location required a key built into his hand/arm. In the case of my script, it was already there, but in Fallout 4, it was later installed in the pipboy on his/her arm.
Other similarities could be argued as well, but you get the point. Obviously, Bethesda didn’t steal my work, and it was written long before even fallout 3… And that’s the point, creative minds tap into the same creative energy, sometimes to startling degrees, sometimes only fragments. It happens.
And yet, a lot of people don’t seem to understand that, both past and present. These days it comes in the form of “Oh, that movie ripped off this other movie or book or whatever.” And, again, it does happen… but probably not as much as people think.
Then there are the writers and artists who thought certain studios stole their ideas and attempted to sue. This led to a much more closed system. Now, one can’t really talk to anyone with representation about ideas or stories, unless one is lucky, because they are advised by their reps to not view any material for the risk of being sued. Because of those few who did sue, most likely frivolously and with no real basis, the system has been ruined for the rest of us. More likely than not, no one stole their ideas. Creativity just works out that way.
I’m not saying that ideas never actually get ripped off, only that this is the exception, not the rule.