Wednesday, July 21, 2010

On Inception and similar ideas

So I saw Inception last night, and thought it was great. But I have to admit I was struck by several connections between this movie and one of the story lines in my book, The Secret to Lying.

In some ways, this was a relief, because when I wrote The Secret to Lying, I didn't know if people would get the level dreaming, and the dreams within dreams. I thought I might have been one of the only people to dream that way. But after seeing Inception, it seems pretty clear to me that other people lucid dream and level dream like this as well (even using some of the same tropes, such as the elevator to go down into deeper levels, falling to wake up, not being able to differentiate dreams from reality, etc...). There are other similarities between my book and the movie that I don't want to mention right now, because I don't want to give anything away. Still, it's interesting to see the connections. If you liked Inception, you'll probably really get into this story line in my book. And if you didn't like Inception, no worries —the dreams form only a small part of the book, and The Secret to Lying goes in a very different direction from Inception.

As a side note, I'm often worried when I have a new or interesting idea that someone else will publish something similar first, and people will think I ripped them off (in this case, my book came out before the movie, so I'm in the clear). But I've noticed that this happens a great deal —that new ideas, or thoughts even, seem to come in waves. So as soon as one person has a break-through idea, other people seem to have it as well. I think this says something interesting about our collective unconscious. Whether it's because people are reacting to similar social forces and events, and thinking up similar reactions, or because thought itself spreads, like strings on a guitar showing sympathetic vibrations when you hit the same note (so the E string vibrates when you hit the same E note on another string) is unclear. But what does seem clear is that our shared humanity runs deeper than we often realize.

I think it's an astounding and wonderful experience to read something in a book, or see something in a movie, that you've thought before but never imagined putting into words. It's how we recognize ourselves through others. And by that same token, if you know yourself (as Socrates suggested) —if you peer deeply into yourself— then you probably also see deeply into others.

For writers, this means that if you write the story you want to read, and let your self be your guide —seeking out the things that resonate with your self on a deep subconscious level— then your story will probably also resonate with others. At least, that's my hope.

Best wishes,



  1. Funny, I just posted on this subject on someone else's blog--seems to be a major concern! My post went something like this. A student of mine sent me a DVD from the 90s anime series Ghost in a Shell, and I was struck with how similar some of the dream concepts are between that and Inception. In fact, it made me think that Inception writers ripped from Ghost Shell. Ideas are, literally in the air. But it doesn't mean that your idea would be written in the same way. So, go for it!

  2. Weird, I posted a comment and it disappeared! I saw the movie too, and I loved the layered reality. I agree that sometimes ideas seem to be in the air. I just read Evermore by Alyson Noel, and in her book she has a psychic who tries to drown out the thoughts of others with the music on her iPod, just like my character Kristi in Vibes. I think Vibes came out before Evermore, but I'm sure Alyson didn't "copy." I think earbuds are simply the obvious solution to the everyday headaches of a psychic. But it's strange how these things happen. Anyway, Todd, you could do worse than have the same ideas as someone like Christopher Nolan!