Dear Miss Snark,
I have an idea for a novel or screen play, and I'm so excited about it that I'm just about to begin putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).
I can visualize the story so vividly in my mind that I'm a bit concerned that maybe I've read or seen it somewhere before. I think it's my very own story, but perhaps I didn't think it up after all.
What's the best way for a writer to check that he or she isn't unwittingly stealing someone else's idea?
Thanks very much for your blog. It's a really excellent part of my daily reads. Oh wait, maybe someone else has already told you that. Damn, maybe I've stolen this idea as well! :)
You can steal every idea in the book and be ok.
What you can't steal are the words.
You can steal the idea of doing a blog about publishing.
You can't steal my actual posts to this blog.
You can steal the idea of star crossed lovers come to a bad end.
You can publish it as Romeo and Juliet, then West Side Story.
You can steal the idea of an aging patriarch confronting his mortality and his daughters.
You can publish it as King Lear and then A Thousand Acres, and then Belly.
Try to write as well as Jane Smiley or Lisa Selin Davis and you're good to go.