Every piece of fiction starts with an idea. Whether that idea is an entire plot, a crazy setting, or just one character, there has to be some germ of creativity that makes you start writing. I have lots of ideas. Some are epic and well-thought out, others are simply a neat world, and still others are simply a cool title. One of the biggest doubts I have about my ideas is whether they are unique or not. No one wants to write something that someone else has already written. So how do you know if you have a truly unique idea or not?
The answer is probably that you don’t. I think the majority of ideas these days have been explored in some form or another. Jasper Fforde mentions in his Thursday Next series that the last original idea was Flatland. While this is probably not true, it’s likely correct to say that if you think of something, someone has probably thought of something similar. There’s just way too many people out there and way too many books being written.
The good news, though, is that it doesn’t really matter if an idea is original or not. No matter how similar an idea is to someone else’s, you’re development of it will be wildly different. So when I come up with a neat premise for a book, and see some new book that sounds a lot like mine, I have to take a deep breath. Because my first instinct is always to despair and give up on my idea. But that is a silly reaction, so I breathe and remember that no other person in the will take the idea in the same direction as me. I’m unique, and so too is my writing, my thoughts and my work. Which is awesome!