For some reason, whenever I count up how many complete novels I've written, I always seem to forget that, buried deep in the "Old Stories" folder in my Projects folder on my computer is a complete draft of the original version of the story that eventually become Chosen of Azara. I was reading back over it yesterday (very gingerly, in the same manner that you might remove that big chunk of prickly pear that's gotten itself stuck in the sole of your sneaker, because too much contact would be painful) and was surprised at how many elements of the original story made it into Chosen of Azara (along with some that, thankfully, didn't).
The seed of the idea that eventually turned into that first novel and finally matured into Chosen of Azara was an image that came into my mind
one day, of a highborn young woman alone in the woods, seeing a vision
of an unknown man, and then some time later, the man appears, in the
flesh, at the door of her home, looking for her.
The earlier story starts with that scene and goes on with the adventure from there. I also discovered that the first story
also has a magical talisman that the young woman wears as a necklace,
two brothers, a dubious fiance, a lost kingdom, and a king who under
normal circumstances should be waaaaay past his "for best quality, use
by" date. And, like Chosen of Azara, it's also set in the world of Estelend which I had begun developing probably about the same time or a little earlier.
lot of writers, especially newer ones, worry that just because one
story has the same starting premise and even some more specific plot
elements in common with another story, that that makes the two stories
the same. You see this on the NaNoWriMo boards a lot - "Am I
plagiarizing [movie or book] by having [incredibly broad and common
story element] in my story?" (Someone wanted to know if they were
plagiarizing George R.R. Martin by including sex in their fantasy
novel.) Or, "This movie stole my plot!" Young wizards going to wizard
school (A Wizard of Earthsea, anyone?) or characters who are half-human, half-god (a substantial chunk of Greek mythology) seem to cause particular concern.
answer is, No, you're not plagiarizing, No one stole your idea, There
are no ideas that have absolutely never been done before. Two writers
can start out with remarkably similar premises, and even some specific
plot elements, and end up with very different stories.
And, in fact, the SAME author can write two very different stories from the same starting point and with the same plot elements.
The original "girl sees strange man in a vision
in the forest" story is pretty straightforward. Girl sees vision, dude
shows up, girl (accompanied by brothers and dubious fiance) goes off on
adventure with mystery dude, lost kingdom, yada yada, (eventual) happy
I wasn't real happy with how that story came out,
and in fact the girl got a name and personality change halfway through.
She started out as kind of this pathetic spinster would-be-hermit, and
eventually eveolved into someone more like the character of Lucie turned
out to be. Aside from the main character, the story as a whole didn't
do what I wanted it to do, and it certainly didn't do justice to my
original idea of the man in the vision.
So I turned
my mind (aka the Idea-o-Tron (TM)) to learning more about the guy in the
visions. Ancient king, lost kingdom... How in the world is he showing
up in visions in the woods right here, right now, to this particular
young lady? I started digging more into that, and that was where Sevry
and his story (and the very cool time travel technique) came from. But
there was more to it than that; how did the war begin, that destroyed
Sevry's kingdom? Kingdom-annihilating wars don't just come out of
nowhere. So that led deeper into Savaru's history, and to the story of Juzeva.
the time I'd worked out all this backstory, I realized it wasn't just
backstory; the stories of Juzeva and Sevry were too closely connected
to Lucie's story, and had too much important information, and were too
compelling to me to just be relegated to backstory, to be worked in
small chunks into the story of Lucie's adventure. So the new version of
the novel started with Juzeva and became an inter-generational tale of
the fall and restoration of the kingdom of Savaru. And it turned into a
novel that I decided I loved, and was proud to publish (as opposed to
the original version, which will remain in the privacy of my hard drive;
though I'll never delete it because you never know when something from
an old story can be recycled into a new one.)