I wrote this blog post in September 2016, inspired by a Facebook thread that discussed the subject. It’s an important thing for writers to be aware of, particularly aspiring ones.
Aspiring writers are often fearful that someone will steal their ideas. What they don’t understand is that the idea isn’t a commodity worth stealing. What matters is the execution. Both Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Holinshed’s Macbeth start from the same idea, but the former has been a world-renowned play for centuries while the latter is an academic curiosity at best because of the execution of the concept.
Here’s a thought exercise: a space opera TV show about a unique ship that flies around space constantly encountering enemies and foes and problems on all sides. The ship has a charismatic white male captain, a tough female second in command, and a blunt-speaking male subordinate who makes snotty comments a lot and believes he could run the ship better than the captain.
Am I describing Blakes 7? Or Firefly? Or Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda? Or Lost in Space? The answer, of course, is all four, yet no one would ever mix those shows up, nor say that any of the later ones were ripping off the earlier ones.