One time or another, I’m sure this has happened to everyone who writes. You come up with a great idea, a compelling idea; an idea you are absolutely certain is a fresh angle on the crime fiction genre. You start doing your research, you sketch out characters that are as original as your plot, and its just a matter of a hundred thousand or so words before you have a killer piece of writing on your hands……then it happens, you discover that a notable writer has already written your story.
This very incident happened to me earlier this week. In the process of reading Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress, it crushed me to discover that he beat me to the punch and wrote a terrific crime drama that involved much of the same plot and themes I had planned for my own story.
The similarities between Mr. Mosley’s story and mine are as follows: Walter Mosley’s story is set against the backdrop of a Los Angeles mayoral campaign in the late 40’s and explores racism as one of its central themes. My story is set against the backdrop of the Tom Bradley mayoral campaign in 1973 Los Angeles, and explores racism as one of the central themes.
This leaves me wondering if I should plow forward with my story anyway and risk having the story compared to Devil in a Blue Dress, or if I should just move on to a new idea.
I know every plot has been done a hundred times, but Devil in a Blue Dress is a notable piece of crime fiction that all publishers are certain to be familiar with as both a novel and a successful movie.
So I pose this conundrum to my fellow CrimeSpace members: When a similar situation like this happens to you, do you continue to write the story, or do you climb into bed, ball yourself into the fetal position and cry yourself to sleep?