When you're writing, sometimes certain ideas cling to you. It's possible that you even recycle these ideas into a different work of writing. It's not (necessarily) that you're being lazy; it's just that sometimes you have a hankering to explore these things in more detail, revisiting them and seeing what else they can do.
Obviously you do this if you're writing a series, but some writers do it with entirely unrelated novels. I've done it. Hey, even if no one notices, at least I'm amusing myself with this form of self-plagiarism.
After all, it's totally acceptable to borrow ideas from yourself. I'm pretty sure you won't squawk about copyright infringement!
THINGS YOU CAN BORROW
1. Taking a minor character and making him/her the star of an entirely new novel
2. Taking a concept or idea, such as a unique creature or setting, and fleshing it out in more detail in another novel
3. Revisiting an ongoing theme, joke, or thread in other novels
4. Including an ongoing minor character, such as always writing in one named Joe or Lila, or always having a character who loves to play tennis or who collects pig figurines.
5. Recycling a favorite metaphor or simile from a novel that has been shelved…or not shelved
Borrowing a concept
SAVVY by Ingrid Law, deals with the main character Mibs reaching her 13th birthday, whereupon she acquires her "savvy"--the special ability that everyone in her family has. The subsequent book, SCUMBLE, is about another character who has to deal with his savvy, which has nothing to do with Mibs and her conflict/story. The savvy is the concept Ingrid Law has transferred to her new novel.
Borrowing a character…or two
In Susan Fletcher's DRAGON'S MILK, Kaeldra must fetch milk from a dragon's den in order to save her ailing sister, Lyf. In Susan's next novel, FLIGHT OF THE DRAGON KYN, the timeframe rewinds into a prequel that explores the back story of Kaeldra's grandmother, Kara. Then, the third novel in this trilogy ends up a sequel to DRAGON'S MILK that carries on Lyf's story; it is called SIGN OF THE DOVE. Great trilogy, by the way, if you haven't read the books.
In one of my contemporary novels, the boyfriend of my main character liked to play a computer game called Battle Ring Seven. I borrowed that game idea, which became the seed-idea for another novel entitled BATTLE RING SEVEN. I imagined what that game world would include, and used those things to provide details for the second novel. This included winged blue witches and nargoyles, enchantresses and ogres.
I've also invented slang in one novel and carried it over into a second novel, e.g., "shrieking catguts." Laziness? Perhaps. But it seemed to fit both places. In some novels, however, such as my post-apocalyptic WIP, this expression doesn't seem natural. In my WIP cats don't even exist in my main character's home town (I know, pretty sad, huh?).
This is something to keep in mind when borrowing bits and pieces of your own work: the pieces MUST mesh with the time-period, atmosphere, and style of the transferred novel.
How About You?
Have you ever borrowed characters from one novel and developed them in another one?
Can you think of other published novels where an author has recycled ideas, characters, or tidbits of info? (apart from obvious series)
Have you ever used a detail or concept from a past novel to jumpstart an entirely new novel?
HAPPY NEW YEAR--see ya on the first Wednesday in 2011!!