Let's talk about stealing. Stealing ideas. It’s what I do. If you write or code or make art or create anything, you probably steal too.
I have written here several times about stealing game ideas from past games I have played. Writing is no different.
When I write, I steal.
I have probably read several hundred comic books, honestly, it could be thousands. Comic books, movies, and TV shows. More than anything else, these are the ideas I mine to fill my stories. Usually not the good stories either. I’m not going to write my version of that one amazing Twilight Zone episode. I excavate the mine of the ones that could have been. The attempts that were partially successful. The seeds of ideas that never were.
Almost every story I have written starts out with me trying to finish a story that never was. Some bit of a comic that I thought was interesting, but never explored. Some part of an anime that would have gone in a totally different direction had the creators tried to adhere to some sort of realism. I mean, I’m glad they didn’t. I watched whatever anime it happened to be so that I could see giant robots or punch wizards battle, but what a story it would be if they had just followed that other interesting thread.
This is what I like to steal. Those ideas barely motioned toward and abandoned. What would happen if those stories were told fully.
By the time I finish a story, that original seed of an idea is barely recognizable. Sometimes it has been excised completely. Maybe there would be a few other people who know where the original idea came from, but most of them are so thoroughly modified by the end that it would be pretty difficult to puzzle it out.
I have a suspicion that this is how a lot of writers work. There have been a solid handful of excellent stories I have read recently that I could pretty easily point to what inspired them. That I could identify what they stole from didn’t make the stories worse. In fact, sometimes it made them better. More relatable. More grounded.
Everyone does the armchair quarterback routine when they see or read something that doesn’t quite live up to the seed idea. Something that could have been a little better if the creator had only done that one thing that you thought of.
While that probably isn’t entirely true, I think this is the place that a lot of writers come from. What would I do if this was my story. The difference between writers and non-writers is only that the first group actually try it out. They write their version. They tell the story they way they would, even if the core idea is stolen from something else.
So this is my direct endorsement for anyone reading this to go out and steal. Was there a bit of an old Star Trek or Columbo episode that you wish they had fleshed out? Write that story. Is there a bit of a comic or game or radio play that you can’t shake, but no one else ever seems to care about it? Write that story. Run down that thread.
If you don’t make the thing that you want to see, it’s unlikely anyone else will. They are too busy stealing from some little bit of story they can’t let go. Go out and steal something for yourself.