Stealing, Sharing, and Giving Away Story Ideas

Monday, January 14, 2013
Today, I'm curious about everyone else's thoughts on the community use of story ideas.

I read this post a few months ago about about a woman who had shared her unique, one-of-a-kind idea for a story with a twitter/blogger/facebook/okay-I-can't-remember-which friend. And when that "friend" turned around, totally back-stabbed her, and stole her story idea, using it to write her own book, word-for-word with the same idea, she was completely devastated.

I kind of freaked out when I read this blog, listening to the poor woman go on and on about how heartbroken she was and how she'd never be able to write her dream story now because someone had stolen the idea.

And I wasn't freaked because I feared someone else would steal my ideas, I was freaked because I worried I might've stolen someone else's idea!

I know the idea for my story, Delinquent Daddy, came after reading the first chapter of Sandra Brown's book, Long Time Coming. It's about a dad showing up to cuss out a woman for a letter he received saying he's the father to a kid he doesn't know about...only to realize he really is the father to that kid.  Other than that, the two stories have really no similiaries, but I TOTALLY took the idea from that book because I really, really, really liked it.

Then, I also stole the story idea of my ebook How to Resist Prince Charming from the movie In Good Company. That's the one where the new, young boss falls in love with his employee's daughter.  I just LOVED that idea too, so yeah, I wrote a book about it...because, you know, it was calling to me. But my book has a happy ending, UNLIKE the movie's ending.

Granted, I didn't copy those stories word-for-word, but I did use their basic plot ideas. If I asked you guys, I have a feeling you'd reassure that I didn't steal anything. At least I hope you would (please).

It all got me to thinking though. Isn't the idea for EVERY story we write somehow taken from another story? And what about all those re-writes of Pride and Prejudice and Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast? And don't they say there are only so-many plots out there? How can you actually STEAL an idea? Or are we all just dirty-rotten theives?

I was getting really confused and worried with all my philosophical pondering when last week I saw some kind of blog party (or something or other) where writers were actually SHARING their story ideas with other people.Come share an idea, it invited.


So, now I have to know what you good people think? Is it possible to steal an idea? Even if you use the basic outline from one person's story, the two stories could never truly be the same. I mean, wouldn't they still have to have different writing styles, different characteristics, different author points of view, different scene chronology?

I totally don't think taking the blurb or idea or whatever someone has for a fresh, new story word-for-word and making it your own is okay, but I do think it's okay to use what you've seen out there on some level. What I don't know is where that line is drawn. When does it become okay?

Where would YOU draw the line of stealing and sharing??

I read a blurb for a book recently, and it was so compelling, I loved it so much, I began to write my own version of that story from that blurb in my head. I've completed the prologue and first chapter for it already because it's so loud up there in my noggin. When I broke down and bought the book that inspired me, I was actually disappointed it really wasn't anything like the story I had rolling around inside me.  So...would you consider it stealing it I continued with my story and finished it? Or should I set it aside because I'll be a big-fat thief it I stick with it?


  1. I wouldn't consider it stealing an idea. Not two people will write the same story, even with the same exact idea.
    I think the idea sharing is brilliant. Isn't that what writer's do when they get together at a restaurant, library or coffee house?
    Like you, I "steal" my ideas from TV shows, other books, movies and music. :)
    That's my .02

  2. I don't know...ideas are kind of everywhere. I really think it's the execution that makes it unique.

    PS. I totally got the idea for The Role of a Lifetime from watching the Michael J Fox movie The Hardway. LOL

  3. I don't think you stole at all. You took a premise and made your own story from it. Very different, and totally legit :)

  4. You are totally not a thief. We all get ideas or inspiration from all over the place-movies, songs, and other books. I agree with Amber, even if an idea is similar no two authors are going to write it the same way.

    I got the idea for Fated Mates while watching Stargate. A scene in Bound in Evil has been rattling around in my head ever since I watched a scene in the old series Roswell.

    I have a baseball player begging for his story to be told who is based on a real life player from the 2004 Red Sox team. He has to understand, I still have two Bound books to write.

    I'm also thinking of writing an erotic version of three friends going to Europe on a holiday and finding love that was inspired by Monte Carlo. I'm thinking of self-publishing them and maybe having a couple of co-writers.

    Inspiration comes from everywhere.

  5. I agree with the ladies above. You can be inspired without stealing. A line from a movie can turn into an entire plot line, but that doesn't mean you stole anything. If it was exactly the same, that would a different story.

    And we're so different in regards to our endings and what we want. I liked the ending of In Good Company and never thought of it as unhappy. :)