Friday, October 19, 2007

Parallel Thinking

This weeks release of the film Gone Baby Gone will introduce many non-readers to Dennis Lehane's private detective, Patrick Kenzie. It will also introduce them to Kenzie's killer redneck pal, Bubba. I always liked the Kenzie novels so I'm glad to see one of them on the big screen. I might even have to head over to the theater and watch it. But seeing the trailer for the movie reminded me of one of those odd bits of coincidence that pop up in a writer's life at times.
Back in the mid 1990s, when I was reading private eye novels hand over fist, I decided to try my hand at writing one. I only got through five chapters which tended to be the make or break point for novel attempts for me. If it wasn't working by chapter five, it wasn't likely to work at all. The plot involved a cold case being investigated by my PI hero, Frank Smith. When Smith ran afoul of some local organized crime figures he needed help and for that he called upon his childhood friend, a killer redneck named Bubba. Five chapters was all that ever got written, though I considered trying again with the same characters.
Anyway, I recall that about a year later when I encountered Dennis Lehane's Bubba in his first novel, A Drink Before the War, I was a little put out. I knew that MY Bubba could never appear now because people would always assume that I had stolen the idea from Lehane. The characters weren't even that similar beyond the basic description, but still, my Bubba would have to have a name change if I ever used him. That isn't the only time that I came up with an idea only to have someone else beat me to publication. I've talked to other writers who have had similar experiences. It's just a case of parallel thinking. You and another writer, living in the same world, seeing the same things and often reading the same books, just come up with similar ideas at the same time. Coincidence. So I hope Lehane's Bubba does well on the big screen. Somebody's might as well.

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