What would a writer do if he or she found out a scene in their completed, yet unpublished story closely paralleled a scene in a recently released, immensely popular work of fiction? Should the unknown, untried writer run right to the keyboard and change it? Or wait and see what the professionals have to say about it all?
Part of me would want this writer to stick to his or her guns, to insist that sometimes coincidences happen in writing and that no fault can be laid with them. Shit happens. The other part (the larger, louder part) thinks that this writer is backed against a wall with no hopes of coming out looking good. After all, we’re talking about a novel by an author who’s fairly well off and reasonably well-loved. When it comes down to accusation time by critics and readers (and it will, of that I have no doubt), no one will believe that this unknown writer had the idea first (or, at the very least the same time). No, the literary masses will think the unknown writer read this novel and snatched up a touching scene (involving a character they’re already sensitive about) and bastardized it for profit, hoping to get away with a rip-off.
And why shouldn’t they?
They don’t know the unknown writer. No one does. And no one’s read the story except a veteran author, a pair of novice writers and one civilian. It’s newbie’s word against a drove of hardcore fans. It’s not going to look so good.
So, what for this writer? Defeat? Wave the white flag while running pell-mell in the opposite direction, screaming, “Sorry! Sorry!” all the way?
I suppose my sparse, untried advice is for the unknown to suck it up for now, see which way the wind blows, and then take it from there. After all, while the entire theme is eerily correlative, the resoundingly similar parts can be (if the unknown writer stops huffing, swallows a big throatful of pride and reads this with equanimity) changed with little effort. And maybe the Big Guns won’t see it as such a big deal, anyway. Maybe.
I suppose this is a first step for the unknown writer; a freshman dip into the skin-toughening baptismal font. That the unwelcome initiation came from nowhere, sneaking up in the guise of a long-anticipated read, well, I suppose that, too, can be a lesson of sorts for the unknown writer.