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Emulating the style of successful works

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Yora, Apr 22, 2018.

  1. Yora

    Yora Maester

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    This is a subject that I am feeling very uncertain about and that is quite rightfully somewhat controversial among writers and audiences. I know what I want and think I should do it, but I do feel somewhat uneasy about it none the less.

    So let's put myself up on the chopping block to give a concrete example. Every other time I sit down to think about what I want to create, I come back to remembering how huge an impact Star Wars had on me when it comes to what I consider the perfect execution of a style and atmosphere that resonates with me the most. So much that I simply have to admit that what I really want to create is a Star Wars without the space ships, droids, and blasters.

    On the one hand, I fully support the notion that if you are an artist and you feel the need to create something that most of the world considers a stupid idea, you should embrace it fully and have faith that you will find your audience that shares your passion. Yet at the same time, it also feels wrong. Do you really create something of your own that is meaningful and relevant when your focus is to copy an existing creation of someone else? Or are you just riding on someone elses coattails? I see it so many times that a mediocre work has clearly been trying to cash in on a fad started by a great work, both missing what made that work great in the first place and failing to add something else of value.

    Taking inspirations is fine and well, but when it becomes apparent that a work is to a large degree a copy, audiences tend to react negatively to it. And I am not saying they are bad for doing it, this is my own emotional response as well.

    I feel that this is not really a technical question that can be answered in a definitive way. It seems more like an emotional and cultural issue about how we perceive and feel about creativity and artists. So this is less a question looking for an answer and more an invitation to a discussion. I am very interested how others think about it, and feel about it.
     
  2. Orc Knight

    Orc Knight Auror

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    Aye, I certainly wanted to copy and emulate a lot of what I saw in t.v. and movies and what I was reading. My first tries at writing and stories were strange combinations of everything I like stirred together in a pot with no account for taste and seasoned liberally with 'well, that's cool, put it in'. And, going into my cooking metaphor love, sorry. There will be more to come.

    Anyways, the way I see it now is kind of a recipe. You can look at the original and after a few tries, you might get the taste and it might not look like the picture in the cook book, but it's close. Then, once you get it down you can start adding your own flair or customization to it. Sure, it's not the original, but you've created something out of what you originally wanted without making it exactly. I figure writings kind of the same, as cooking often leads to creative new ways of doing tried and true recipes for something different. Sure, once upon a time, wanted to create the exact thing, but now that you got the skills, you can put your own twist (or lemon zest) on it and make it your original recipe.

    Not sure if this makes sense, but was worth a shot.
     
  3. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    Do it.

    You describe it like you feel like you're copying something, but I have a pretty hard time imagining something like Star Wars without the space ships, droids, and blasters. What time period would it even be in?

    By taking something like that away you have to add something of your own and it'll make your creation different, even if perhaps it doesn't look liket it on the surface.

    Personal example: anfylk.
    The anfylk race I've created for my setting is very similar to Tolkien's hobbits - on the surface. Early on I even called them hobbits myself, but then I learned the word was trademarked and I had to change it. Beneath the surface though, they have an identity, a culture, and a history all their own. Someone who gets into the story will discover that, and once they're through with it, they'll no longer think of the anfylk as hobbit copies, but as a race of their own, but with some visual similarities.

    I'm sure you can do the same, it'll probably even happen without really trying.
     
  4. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Star Wars is just a Hero’s Journey... so, Lucas was copying to begin with in a manner of speaking. The issue is how much do you copy...

    Does a halfling slave escape an attack by Evil’s forces and flee to find help from an aging sorcerer, discovering a young farm boy along the way who JUST HAPPENS to be the son of Evil’s right hand? Yeah, you could have a problem there. But this same story has been told a thousand ways over the centuries, so no big deal unless it’s obvious.

    I plan on a novel that will pay homage to the Count of Monte Cristo, but this was unintentional at first, until I realized... hey, I could have fun with some Monte Cristo elements. In the end, Monte Cristo is just a revenge tale. Star Wars is a hero’s journey bildungsroman.
     
  5. Yora

    Yora Maester

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    I just rewatched Everything is a Remix to get some more input on the issue.



    And it just so happens to have a segment specifically about Star Wars. And quite interestingly, two of the huge influences that went into it, Akira Kurosawa and A Princess of Mars, are also among my favorites. Which leads to the interesting question if maybe I like them because they are like Star Wars and not the other way around.

    And I find it increasingly funny that I used Star Wars as an example. It's quite possibly the most remixed thing ever.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2018
    Demesnedenoir likes this.
  6. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    >what I really want to create is a Star Wars without the space ships, droids, and blasters.
    Well, since the original was basically cowboys and indians in space, you could just write a Western. ;-)

    More seriously, when an author simply copies, not matter how terrifically clever he may be about it, the readers know. They know the author ultimately doesn't care about the story, but is just doing a re-make for the mileage. So my first advice is: care. Don't think about how much you are copying, think about how much you care--about the setting, the characters, the story. If you care, if you cheer your own characters and agonize over your own plot twists, that will come through.

    My second advice is to ignore my first advice. You can also write a story purely as an exercise. Maybe you are expecting too much from your heroes. Maybe you write Star Wars without the lasers and find that the story is merely meh. But, and this but is quite large, you will learn a tremendous amount from the exercise. You won't be writing to publish, you'll be writing to learn. And that's as legit as writing to publish.

    Another way to go about it is to use something else entirely as a model. Write High Noon with lasers. Moby Dick with zombies. Game of Thrones as a historical epic set in 15th century England. *chortle* Maybe if you look to other models you'll be less intimidated, more willing to take risks.
     
  7. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    Western in Space.... Firefly/Serenity anyone?
     
  8. Yora

    Yora Maester

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    One of the things that is brought up repeatedly in Everything is a Remix is that creativity consists of Copy, Combine, and Transform. And this, at the very least, sounds pretty right. When you restrict yourself to draw from only a single source, the result will very likely look very similar. The interesting transformation happens when you also mix it up with elements from other sources and do it so thouroughly that they completely blend together into something new. You'd think that there couldn't possibly be an overlap between Samurai movies and British World War 2 air combat movies, but someone did combine them and it worked seamlessly.
     
  9. Have a read, if you have time, of Christopher Booker's mammoth book, The Seven Basic Plots. You'll see how similar loads of novel, movies and TV series really are. I use the book when I'm outlining to enhance my narrative structure and to use elements from it to improve on Character bits or whole sections of the plot.
     
    Malik likes this.
  10. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    In studying writing, you also study reading. You learn what many self-taught writers consider the "rules" of writing (a misnomer, as there are none; however, your daily koan is that you must learn them all in order to realize this).

    What you learn is not rules, but simply names for things. You must learn to create and use these things so that you can eventually analyze and deconstruct their use.

    When you study writing, you don't learn to write; you learn to rewrite. Because for a writer, reading is part of writing.

    It saves you literally years when you can read something and see exactly how the author did it, because if you want to re-create that kind of scene or that degree of emotional impact, you understand how it went together. Then, doing it yourself is a lot easier. Not that you're copying it verbatim, but you can recapture the vibe pretty easily when you can strip it down to the studs.

    It doesn't matter if you're examining a work at the meta level--Star Wars and Firefly being westerns in space, for example--or taking apart a line that made you close the book and stare into space for a minute because it was so well-crafted. Once you learn it, you can see it and then do it.

    It doesn't require a formal education in writing, but it does require years of study and reading with an eye for structure. You should have a shelf of books like Princess's recommendation above.
     
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  11. Yora

    Yora Maester

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    Very often the thing that motivates me the most is not encountering a really good story, but an almost good story. One that makes me think "I would have done that part better".:cool:
     
  12. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    I almost never make it through almost good books, but almost good movies... yikes, there are piles, LOL.

    I love pikcing on Elf because I cant stand Will Ferrell as an actor... he’s tolerable in bit parts, but as the lead he makes me groan. Elf... I’d go as far as to say it was good, but it was close to being great, and between Ferrell and some story-telling that fits him... it made me want to bang my head on the floor. Still, the only Ferrell movie I don’t regret watching, even if it frustrates me and I won’t watch it again. LOL

    There, got that tangent out of my system.
     
  13. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    And again: when you can tell right away what you would have fixed, it's that much easier to do. "I would have touched back on the subplot introduced in Chapter 2." "I would have split that infinitive differently." "That beat is awkward." "If that thing was red, it would be a metaphor for the other thing."

    It's much easier to do this knowing the parts and pieces than reading something and simply feeling that it's not good, which is what we tend to do until we start really drilling down and getting good at deconstruction.
     
  14. Yora

    Yora Maester

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