Tuesday, February 01, 2005

That Idea Is Mine, All Mine

All civilian marriages are all alike, but each writer-writer marriage is messed up in its own way.

To wit: at dinner last night, I uttered a bon mot of some great effect, like "I eat, therefore I am fat," or "This pad Thai isn't as good as the last time."

Wife looked at me with larcenous intent and said, "That's funny. That would be a great title." As in, a title to a short story. Though it had never occurred to me to use "Brown Rice Is for Hippies" or whatever I said for my fiction, Wife's interest made me want to keep it, like an eight-year old who doesn't give a crap about his toys until his little brother wants to play with them.

"No, you can't use that. It came out of my mouth."

"You didn't even realize that you said it," Wife replied. "I'm going to use it."

The unwritten rule among writers is One Shall Not Steal Ideas Though You May Covet Them. Wife and friends have, to some extent, codified these rules so they still remain pals. I imagine Super Friends Writers around the globe who write have similar treaties.

Don’t steal ideas

But people of low character break this rule all the time. I know of at least one victim whose purloined ideas ended up in book form. My ideas have yet to be stolen and published because my ideas generally suck. Therefore, if my accidental brilliance was coveted by Wife, I knew I must have it.

"Damnit, Wife, it's mine," I said, trying to reestablish my household hegemony. "Mine, mine, mine!"

Wife shook her head, disappointed in my juvenile behavior once again. (A husband's main purpose is to be a perpetual disappointment to his wife.)

"You're not going to use it," she said. "Five minutes from now, you won't even remember what you said." She was right, of course, and now the idea is hers. Though she now can't remember it, either. Whatever it was, it had to be brilliant.

Though few, this was not the first such clash. My brother, a smart and witty storyteller himself, was relating to us the tale of a friend whose marriage ended in spectacular, operatic fashion, emblemized by some creative vandalism to his wife's property. As soon as my brother finished his tale, Wife and I looked at each other and said, "Are you going to use that?"

"You people are vultures!" my brother said.

Wife took the idea, but she was not able to use it. As part of our agreement, once an undetermined statute of limitations passes, the other person can use said idea, and so now, in proper hands, I shall take my brother's tale and work my magic, in a story that will be completed right before the next time I vote Republican.

Actually, since Wife is of superior talent, if she couldn't make hay out of my brother’s story there's no helping it.

What do other couples fight about? Money? Who cleans the bathroom this week? Project Runway vs. South Park? Wait, we argue about all those, I lose, and just forget I brought up the topic.

Simply, we also fight over weird things. Do married visual artists argue about who gets to paint the fruit basket still life? Do married filmmakers rumble over who gets to film the "Leave Brooklyn – Fuggetaboutit? " sign in deep focus? Do married musicians fight about who gets to write the opera about Tonya Harding?

Next, the story you've been waiting for: Bookfraud's top 100 Moments in Chicago Cubs history, if he can find that many.