How to alter the story

by Professor Polymath
(Indianapolis, IN)

Question: I had a great idea for a story, got into mapping it out and developing the characters, etc... and then I noticed a book, same genre and similar concept, was just published by a well known author. Should I scrap it for later, alter it slightly, or push forward as is?

The similarities are probably close to 50%.

Answer: Ouch! That must really bite.

On the one hand, there's no way your book will be identical to any other, since the way you express the ideas will be uniquely yours and it's only the expression that can be copywritten, not the ideas.

Many great story concepts are used over and over, dressed up in different external character and story world trappings.

It's also true that stories come in waves. We just had a wave of urban fantasy, for example. There are many books that are steampunk, many books about vampires, etc.

On the other hand, you also want your book to be unique. Readers of your genre may very well be familiar with most other books in the genre.

If you don't want to start from scratch, I would suggest you ask yourself if you could change one thing about your story that would make it different from the other book, while keeping the element you feel most emotionally attached to. For instance can you change...

1. The genre
2. The main character
3. The setting
4. The story problem
5. The theme
6. The impact character
7. The inciting incident
8. The antagonist
9. The outcome

... while still retaining the essence of your story?

After you change one thing, you may find you need to change a few other things, just for consistency.

Then see if you have something original.

If not, repeat the process until you do.

The alternative is to start from scratch.

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Mar 18, 2013
by: Professor Polymath

Awesome. Thanks. In fact, I think I'll change who's telling the story, and who the main character is. But, keep the story relatively the same except in places that need to be altered. We'll see how the creative juices flow.

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