|No shoes, no shirt, no problem!|
An friend asked if I’d had any bad experiences with sharing ideas on Facebook or other social media. In short, she was asking if my “work” had been stolen.
Bad news, writers—Copyright law doesn’t protect an idea.
It never has.
Fortunately, ideas don't sell books.
For example, here’s all the ideas behind Hell Becomes Her:
Del, a half-angel, who didn’t think there was anything worse than angels, or their fallen kin, demons. She and her partner Marrin helped to keep the world safe from the horrors of escaped demons for generations. But when Del’s daughter is kidnapped by a shadowy group, Del will find that the world is even more dangerous than she suspected.
Please, feel free to “steal” this idea and write my book. Hell, steal my name too, put it on the book, and make the checks out to me. It would save me a lot of time!
I used to be incredibly covetous of my “ideas” until I realized that there is literally (and literature-arily) nothing new under the sun. What is original is the way in which you take ideas—inspired by others across a wide range of genres and mediums—and use them like a jazz riff. You pick up the theme, play off it like the boss you are, change some aspects, and come out with an original piece of work.
This is why a themed-anthology, with twelve different writers— even if they're writing in the same universe and about the same character(s)—will have at least twelve different stories!
Now, plagiarism, the taking of someone else's work, whole body, and passing it off as your own—that remains a problem. In some ways, it's more of a problem now than ever, due to digital downloads and the explosion of indie authors. But if you keep your work safe and restrict the number of people who get to see large portions of it until it's published, then you shouldn't have much to worry about.
But simply sharing an idea, no big deal. A candle, lighting another candle, loses nothing.
In short, as Brenda Clough told me, “Ideas are easy and cheap. Writing is hard. Don't worry about people stealing your ideas -- it's not worth the energy.”