Can You Steal Your Own Ideas?

Simpsons stealingIn my last post, I wrote briefly about keeping ideas original despite being influenced by (or taking them directly from) somewhere else.
The other morning I was thinking about the next short story I want to write.  I want to write a story to submit to the Lightspeed summer issue, Women Destroy Science Fiction.

I recently collated all of my ideas onto my new, spanky iPad.  It’s amazing to see all of my ideas in one go on Notes and to be able to flick through them.  So I had a flick through and picked one that I had forgotten about.
And then I thought…that idea would really work with another idea I had for an Emily May story line (Emily May being my paranormal series that is written fully in my head but is only partially written in reality).  Could I use the idea in a short story and then again in a completely different novel?  One being science fiction and one being fantasy.

I guess what I was asking was, can I steal my own ideas?
(Apparently, this is called self-plagarism [who knew!].  This relates heavily to academia writing, and more to non-fiction than fiction, but still the concept exists.)

This can be interpreted in a number of ways.  Of course I can’t ‘steal’ my own ideas, that would be silly.  What I can do is develop my ideas.  If I were to write a fantasy story using one idea, then a fantasy novel using the same idea, this would be development.  An example of this is Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, which started as a number of short stories and developed into the novel.

Writers ‘steal’ ideas all the time.  Often they may not even realise they are using another person’s ideas, but as I mentioned before, there is a limited number of stories in the world.  The interpretation, the characters and the angles are what makes the story original.  Other people’s stories inspire us to create our own, and challenge us to look at something in a new way, leading to new stories (or original retellings).

If I were to write a science fiction short story and a fantasy novel using the same idea, would they be different enough, considering the difference in genres?
This is the real question I had to ask myself.

It’s not about whether it is ethical to steal from myself pre-publication (which still seems ridiculous even though it does have a name), it’s about duplication.  If one person reads my short story and then later reads my novel, will they get a disconcerting feeling of déjà vu?  Will they find me out?
That all depends on me, and how I develop the idea to suit each story.

It is an intriguing thought, to use the same idea in different genres and look at the results.  As to whether I will use the idea for the short story and the novel remains to be seen (the first draft of the novel is a couple of years off at least) but I think I just had a new idea for a project to add to my list…

You can pledge to the Lightspeed Women Destroy Science Fiction issue here.

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