This has been a very frustrating topic for me for a very long time. It’s the moment when you realize your awesome idea has already been done. Yes it’s true there are very few original ideas and a lot of the world’s stories are just versions of classic tales in one way or another but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about seeing your exact idea stripped from your brain and shown before you in a movie trailer or a back of the book blurb.
A few years ago a friend of mine and I were challenging each other with writing assignments to try to get the sparks flying again. We had an idea for an assignment that we were going to hold on to for a while; write a modern spin of a classic fairy tale or Disney tale. We hadn’t officially given each other the assignment but one day I had a firecracker of an idea and I started plotting in my head.
|I just love this fox.|
A prep school kid named Rob is a social outcast and realizes he’s not the only one. In effort to help his friends whose parents are scraping to pay for school he hacks into the school’s financial database to lower their tuition fees and raises the rich/popular kids’ costs.
It’s Robin Hood with a modern twist right?! I was so excited when this idea came to me and I couldn’t wait to start writing it. I wasn’t in a rush. I started figuring out my names and characters. Who would be my Maid Marion, Friar Tuck, etc. I had a little notebook going with some of my kernels and then one day I turned on the TV.
I believe it was on the Hallmark Channel that day, a movie called Robin of Locksley. Here’s the synopsis :
After his parents win the lottery Robin McAllister is sent to the prestigious Locksley Hall. There he experiences how the sons of the school's benefactors, John Prince and his associates Warner and Gibson, are treated like royalty. Robin can't join archery club, he gets in trouble when he stands up for himself, and his parents are completely preoccupied with their new horse ranch. But it isn't until one of the school's scholarship students, Tommy, is in a terrible accident that Rob begins to take action against Prince, Warner, Gibson, and their sons. With a little help from his two new friends, Will Scarlett and John Little, and the ranch hand's daughter Marion, he electronically takes money from their company accounts to put towards Tommy's medical bills. However, as the operations become more costly and as a bubbling agent named Nottingham begins to close in on him, Robin questions his own motives. (Written by Max Vaughn via IMDB).
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! How was this movie (made in 1996 starring Devon Sawa. It’s not even new!) even on TV at the exact time I’d been pondering writing this story? How is it so similar?! I racked my brain trying to think of whether or not I had somehow watched this movie during my childhood and then managed to block it out so it could be my own original thought. I hadn’t.
Suddenly I was faced with a question. Do I write my version or do I give it up? My version might’ve been a little edgier than this wholesome after-school special but really how different could it be? The other thing on my mind was how could I possible write the story now that my brain had absorbed the plot of this movie?
Sadly I gave it up. I never wrote my Robin Hood take and probably never will. I still get mad when I think about it but it’s a phenomenon that may never go away. Maybe the universe shares a collective unconscious and the ideas are floating out there for any one of us to grab and claim as our own.
Maybe the idea seemed great because I actually had heard it somewhere before. Either way it was a hard pill to swallow. A lesson learned about when to give up on an idea no matter how bad you want it.