I’m editing Romeo, Juliet & Jerome, my novel about a ADD-addled young man who dreams of becoming a movie star. He needs an acting credit and figures Romeo will be his ticket. When the dude who plays Mercutio overdoses and dies, the school shuts down the play and so, our hero’s dreams. He has to battle the school and stage the play himself, but now someone blames him for the drug death and wants to kill him with a hammer. Complications ensue. Also, Juliet’s a hottie so there’s young love. Will Romeo escape from New York to Hollywood‘s bright lights?
It’s a hip coming of age story with dark humor, a gay subplot and lots of drugs and indie rock that tops out at about 80,000 words. It’s written. I’m just tinkering with the edit.
Here’s the thing: Lots of books have incorporated Romeo and Juliet into their plots (and even more have used Shakespeare of all kinds. If you missed it, find Ten Things I Hate about You for a really funny modern take on Taming of the Shrew.) Today, while cruising Twitter I found that someone has written a book called Romeo and Juliet and Vampires. (There are similar videos, too. I had no idea.) Several books published in the last couple of years have joined classic tales and horror elements. I haven’t read them, but I think that horror subgenre has taken off; the cover art is hilarious. Abraham Lincoln with a bloody axe. Queen Anne, also with an axe. Lots of zombie-axing action.
The question is: will that book affect my book?
The answer is: No, but for marketing purposes, it could change my title. I’m sure the premises are totally different so in terms of story, it’s a non-issue. However, when I pitch it to publishers, Shakespeare is familiar enough. I will not want them to think I’m trying to capitalize on someone else’s idea (who isn’t the long dead father of the English theater, anyway.) I’m not trying to catch up with a trend that will probably be dead by the time of actual publication. Story titles can sound familiar, but not too similar to something that has been published in the last couple years (unless it’s part of a series by the same author, of course. The Dexter book titles run together in my mind now, so even that may not be desirable.)
I’ve said it before: Ideas are cheap. Your execution of an idea and mine will be very different. No matter how many people you stuff in a room, from a single idea, their plots will spin out in all directions. Don’t sweat that your idea sounds something like another idea. It’s all been done. There are no new stories, but there are infinite permutations and combinations. The trick is to make the familiar taste new and fresh again for jaded palates.