Monday, July 19, 2010

Movies that One-up Me: Inception

I wrote a book in 2008 during Nanowrimo, right after I finished reading the Twilight Saga. It wasn't the first book I'd written (actually, the third), but it was my first attempt at a stand-alone science fiction novel. And it was my first attempt at 1st person storytelling, which is really a whole other animal.

I loved my premise! It was a fresh take on something that had been done: dream walking.

I loved my protagonist. He was an anti-social, comic book-obsessed, novel-writing savant with crippling anxieties and a brilliant imagination: the key to his unique position for saving the world.

But my plot was weak. At 27, I still consider myself a new novelist, one learning the craft. I think I've written some interesting books, but I'm not one of those writers who thinks everything she writes is perfect genius. I know it is not. So a book I wrote two years ago is bound to have plenty of story flaws, and this one definitely does.

I recently printed it out so I could read it straight through and figure out just what it needs. It's been sitting on my computer desk, a huge mound of literary fail, for a couple of weeks now as I work on other things: my latest YA paranormal romance, social networking, blogging, raising kids. I've been meaning to get to it, but there are too many good uses of my time competing against it.

A few nights ago, my husband called over to me from the couch: "When you have a minute, you should watch this trailer for Inception. It reminds me of your Neurosurfer book."

From that statement alone, I knew.

"Oh great," I said. "There goes another great idea." (great, great, great) The book I've been sitting on for years has just been one-up-ed by the movie world. After watching the trailer, I knew it even more:

My plot-weak, high-concept book has just been trumped. And that means that if I ever try to get it published, I'll have to compete--not just with other books about mental travel, but with a universally-loved, mind-titillating thriller.

Fan-freaking-tastic! :-)

I'm not bitter. Seriously, I'm not. It's just one of those facts of life I've come to accept. If I sit on a high-concept idea too long, it will be done...and better than I can presently do it. There are only so many ideas floating around in the universe. As a child, I thought it was insane that an animator could have thought up the exact same idea as me about the mud-crack world of ants and other bugs.

Now it makes perfect sense.

High concepts are meant to be twisted, redone, and shared with the world. Sitting on them is not an option. The universe's collective creativity is far greater than any one man or woman! Which is wonderful, really! But now I have a daunting decision to make. Do I ditch the 80,000 words I've slaved and anguished over for so long? Or do I read through it one more time to see if I can make it something wholly fresh? After all, my writing has grown by leaps and bounds since its first writing. It is possible to save this novel. But with Inception creating a new bar for mental thrillers, can my more literary science fiction offering really compete?

I give the conundrum to you, my faithful readers. I'm too close to it to decide. Please send your advice in the comments.


  1. I say give it a shot. Sure, Chris Nolan's movies are known to push the boundaries, but maybe your fresh perspective on writing will help more then hurt the story.

    Besides, I love a challenge. Tweak that baby!

  2. Thank you, Amparo! I really don't want to give up on it. It's one of my pets, I guess. I'll give it my best shot.

  3. HI Katrina,
    You can always save it for your second published novel. Sometimes publishers ask to see what other projects you've written. Never give up is my motto!

  4. I definitely wouldn't trash it. I've heard Inception has a lot in common with 1983's Brainstorm but that didn't stop them from making it, and it probably didn't stop them from coming up with some fresh angle. Your story is not your story because of your premise so much as because of your characters. You can tread similar ground and still be unique.

  5. Have you seen the movie yet? The trailer shows a lot of things without actually showing the plot, if that makes sense. So your book might actually be very different from Inception.

    I am terrified of other media "stealing" my high concept ideas too... but not much we can do about it except try to make our own books unique and amazing.

  6. Angie, good idea. I've certainly never considered throwing away an entire novel. Though a from-scratch rewrite isn't out of the question. :-) "Never give up! Never surrender!" -Tim Allen on Galaxy Quest

    Solid point, Joe! Characters make a story, not simply premise. Thanks for reminding me. *goes to make characters as compelling as all get-out*

    Elizabeth, I have NOT seen the movie yet. The trailer seemed pretty revealing to me, esp in light of comments from people who have seen the movie, but I'll take your word that it's twistier. If my book wasn't different enough before, I will certainly work to make it different now. This could be a good thing. :-)

    I love my blog friends. Thanks for your help and feedback!


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