Monday, May 25, 2009

To Read or Not to Read - Part 4

This is my new bookcase. I love it! (I've been looking for an antique glass-fronted bookcase that didn't cost a fortune for years. But that's another post for another blog). I bought it because I've accumulated so many books that my old bookcase was filled and piles of books were amassing on the floor around the bookcase. Now look at all the empty shelf space begging to be filled! I love to read and lately, in the last year, I've been reading lots and lots of YA (see previous posts To Read or Not to Read - Parts 1-3). But now I find myself with a problem.

It is fear. Fear of Incorporation. Fear that I am never going to have an original idea again. Fear that I am taking bits from each of the books I've read and putting them in my new story. For example, if I have my main character see the school psychologist during school hours, is that stealing from Courtney Summer's CRACKED UP TO BE? If a character enjoys anagrams, is that too much like John Green's AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES? Or if the MC feels as if no one understands her, is that copying from David Klass's YOU DON'T KNOW ME? And what if I want to add viral infected zombies, is that too close to IN THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH? These are a few of the YA books I've read recently and I'm now calling into doubt every plot point I've imagine for my WIP. Did I think of that on my own, or was it something I read in someone else's story?

This, for me, is the dilemma of reading in my genre. I understand that the points I've picked out are small and insignificant. They can and do happen in real life (except for maybe the viral infected zombies) and given a believable and original set-up it makes perfect sense to fit these details into a story. And, given a believable and original set-up even the zombies could fit into a story. I just don't like second guessing myself. Maybe I should write a story that "steals" one component from every book I've read? A viral infected zombie who is misunderstood and has to visit the school counselor at lunchtime, but can only communicate through anagrams. Hummmm....maybe not.

I suppose I need to remember that there are no new stories to tell, only new ways to tell them. Now I'm off to the bookstore!


  1. I covet your book case!! It's gorgeous and we're sorry we didn't buy a similar one we saw years ago.

    As for reading books and stealing ideas, I'm more likely to want to steal stunning arrangements of words instead of plot ideas. Guess that's the picture book frame of mind.

  2. I looked at your bookcase, and then looked at the pile of books on the floor in front of my crowded shelves and sighed.

    As far as unintended word-snatchery, I wouldn't sweat it. Just soak up the good books and trust your own instincts.

  3. Ooooooo, lovely bookcase worthy of being filled with...books!

    I'm with Gale. I so love the writing of certain authors I have moments of concern I'll start "sounding" like them.

  4. I'm glad you all like my bookcase, or at least that you like that I have a bookcase...

    I don't worry about stealing specific words...though there are occasions when I read something truly beautiful that I sigh and wish I'd put those words together.

  5. From the amount of reading you do, it sounds like you're going to need another new bookcase soon.

    As for stealing ideas, I remember an editor say once that everybody does it and there's nothing wrong with long as you don't lift entire passages from best-selling YA books like that Harvard gal did.

    It's just a matter of time before a book about a boarding school for vampires-in-training comes out.

  6. J.L. Between buying a bookcase and buying books, I am on a one woman mission to stimulate the economy! I get about half my reading from the library. I'd need a whole wall full of bookshelves if I bought every book I read.

    LOL at the boarding school for vampires in training!

  7. Lovely bookcase BEGGING to be filled! I hear you about the worry of "lifting" but let's face it - everyone does it whether they realize it or not. It's how you make it your own that makes it stand out.

    Again, reading for pure enjoyment is so hard because my writer cap is always on and thinking "wow, what a great metahpor" or "nice way to tie up that part of the plot".

    Even when I'm truly enjoying a book, like for instance The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - I was reading, sobbing and thinking "wow, it must have been so hard for him to do this to this character"

    btw...I think there is a book about a boarding school with vampires in training!

  8. Your bookshelf is gorgeous! I love it.

    I know what you mean in not trying to infuse other stories in your own. Yet at the same time I think it does expand my creativity and see the world a little differently.