Q. I'm an aspiring author working on a novel, and have been doing so for some time. Recently a mass-market summer blockbuster was announced with several plot and thematic elements - and even one of the main character's names! - virtually identical to those in my drafts. What should I do? Should I scrap it immediately?
My immediate reaction is that if your story is so close to a recent blockbuster that you are thinking of scrapping it, you may not be leveraging the medium. A novel can have more going on than a movie. It can expand and contract time. It can get into the characters' heads. It can have a cast of thousands. It can talk about society.
Q. Alter it to be less like the movie? Wait for the film to come out and get a consensus of some kind? If so, is it better if it's a classic, a bomb, or decent and forgotten?
Well, a bomb, certainly, has less of a footprint. Our last game was known for its "shadow physics." There had actually been an unsuccessful game called, I think, Shadow Physics. But it didn't work well, I gather, so there was room for ours.
However, I'd consider writing something else that's fresher. If your novel is too similar to a summer blockbuster, that suggests to me that your plot is not spectacularly fresh, "a very ancient and fish-like smell, a kind of not-of-the-newest Poor John," as Shakespeare had it. Very few summer blockbusters have clever plots.
To get attention in a crowded market, you really need to do something that no one else has done well recently. For example, George R. R. Martin took the Tolkien tropes, took out most of the magic, and added outlandish sexual misbehavior.
As I keep stressing: your
movie or novel or game has to be clever and original. Just because there are hugely successful unoriginal movies/novels/games out there doesn't mean you'll get rich writing one. Those things are commissioned by people with lots of money, and they have marketing budgets.