Recent feedback from someone who has read “He Was Weird” stated that the climax of the story when Mark goes and shoots up the school pretty much followed the script of the two boys who carried out the Columbine shooting. If this was the case, then I can say with total certainty that it wasn’t intentional. While I knew some of the hard facts behind the Columbine shooting, I refused to look at the details in order not to plagiarize from the shooting.
Like some of the other books I’ve read about school shootings, there are some similarities with Columbine in “He Was Weird.” The Columbine shooters begin their spree outside the school and Mark also begins his shooting spree in the school playground. However, Mark never goes into the school building because he feels that the playground provides the perfect killing fields for his massacre, which it does. So it’s not completely the same. However, there is a bigger similarity between the two shootings. As Klebold and Harris approach the school to carry out their shooting, they see a friend of theirs and tell him not to go into school. Mark does a similar thing it “He Was Weird.” The day before his planned attack, he tells three classmates who have been friendly with him that he wants to meet them the next morning off school grounds so he can give them something. This way, they are out of the way when Mark carries out his true intentions. In both cases here, the shooters don’t want their friends to get caught in the crossfire.
I know for a fact that Columbine influenced other books on the subject of school shootings as well as mine. The most obvious one was in Jodi Picoult’s “19 Minutes.” In that story, Peter, like the Columbine shooters, sets off a series of pipe bombs in his car to cause a distraction except in Peter’s case, they have more of the desired effect. Mark uses no such things in his rampage in “He Was Weird.” In fact, the Columbine shooting is mentioned quite a bit in the story and we discover that Peter, watches “Bowling for Columbine” as an inspiration.
While Kevin doesn’t copy the Columbine shooters in “We Need to Talk About Kevin” by Lionel Shriver, they definitely are mentioned a fair number of time in the story. Kevin uses them as proof that his massacre was much better planned and executed. He scorns Harris and Klebold for killing themselves at the end.
In the other school shooting novel I read, Nancy Garden’s “Endgame,” there is little evidence of Columbine in the story. Gray simply steals his father’s pistol, goes into school, blows away the main bully and then starts shooting indiscriminately. That brings me to point out further differences with “He Was Weird” to the Columbine shooting. While writing the story, I did play with the idea of when Mark has carried out his shooting and the only ones left on the school playground are his casualties, that a teacher comes out and tries to persuade Mark to put his guns down. Mark responds by shooting the teacher dead but that sounded too much like Columbine and a teacher also gets killed in the Picoult novel. Therefore, I avoided it.
Quite obviously, the Columbine shooting has inspired a ton of media. There are films, books and television programmes all inspired by that fateful day. I can say that I was inspired by it as well when I wrote my book. However, I didn’t copy the shooting when I wrote about mine.