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I'm struggling

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by krunchee, May 2, 2014.

  1. krunchee

    krunchee Scribe

    Hi guys, it has been a long time between threads for me. Writing has taken a bit of a back seat in my life lately.

    Recently I have been waking up in the middle of the night with ideas flooding my brain. Like there is this build up of creativity that just needs to be released.

    I found however, that by the time I get to a piece of paper or a computer to put it down I work out that it's too similar to something I've read.

    At what point in this modern world can you just stop and write what you want without being flamed as a copy cat? I feel like nothing I come up with is original and always by the time I have fleshed an idea out I have found reference to something similar.

    First world problems ey?

  2. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    yeah... I wrote several books, one of which was a guy descended from dragons who has to help a goddess find all the remaining dragons... and then Skyrim came out. I don't think there are any unique ideas, just an infinite number of ways to re-tell and change old concepts. Or maybe you heard of my WiP? yeah, they made it into a TV series called "Borgias" haha. Wish I'd seen that before I wrote it. Maybe I could have done without the religious leader antag and the assassinations and renaissance Italy. Oh well.

    I think if you have a good idea, you run with it and make it your own. If beta readers have concerns, they'll tell you and you'll know it's too much like something out there.
    krunchee likes this.
  3. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    I usually find when my ideas seem too close to another writer's it's because I haven't developed them fully. Once I actually sit down and start doing the work, that changes. Characters take shape, form their own lives and back-stories, plots morph into something unrecognizable from the original seed (to anyone but me at least).

    Thing is, it's normal to feel what you're feeling. Any artist worth their salt steals ideas all the time. I've heard it said that originality is only undetectable plagiarism. There's truth in there. We steal things, mash them together with others, mince them up into something fresh. That's my process at least.

    So, my advice...don't sweat it. Sit down and start actually working the ideas. Let them change and combine under the influence of your vision. That's what creates originality.
    Scribble and krunchee like this.
  4. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    I would strongly suggest participating in one or another of the Challenges in the 'Challenge' subforum, where you are given prompts and have to write the story to include them.

    'Iron Pen XIII' just ended, but Phil the Drills 'Chaotic Shiny' challenge has a couple weeks to go yet.

    That said, what I do after reading or watching something of interest is to start looking for loopholes or explanations: 'why did they do X instead of Y?', and 'what would it be like to be a bit player in Z?'

    Then I start looking for ways to twist my solutions - if any - to fit my own writing - how can I fit this event or scenario into my world?

    But at the end of the day, what it comes down to:

    Ideas are cheap. Execution is difficult.

    Even were you to given a dozen different authors identical outlines for the same story and turn them loose, you would not end up with a dozen slightly different versions of the same story, but rather a dozen different stories.
    krunchee likes this.
  5. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    When you take the basics of any story, it's always going to sound a little or a lot like something else. As mentioned above, the magic is in what you do with that idea. In fact a lot of times that's how we describe a story, how it's like another story but a little different. It's Star Wars with dragons--Eragon. It's Jaws, but in space--Alien.

    Speaking of Alien if you take the basic foundation of Alien, Jaws, Friday the 13th, it's pretty much the same basic story. Each has a monster stalking innocent people. Each takes place in a confined or area. Each deals with sin. Etc.

    And finally, take Quentin Tarantino. The guy has made a career of stealing from those who came before. Only the term he uses is paying homage.

    Just write the story. Worry about originality later.
  6. Krunchee,

    Pretty much everything has been done. Being origonal is just comming up with a fresh way to tell your story, or mixing things up in a unique way. Try telling your story from a different point of view. Throw in some supporting characters that seem different. Try a different setting for your story. There are lots of things your can do to freshen it up a bit.

    Good luck!
  7. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    krunchee: If you're finding your writing is becoming too similar to other things you've read in fantasy, I recommend delving into your real life or even history. Your own life is unique from other people's. Have you met anyone weird or who has always stuck with you? He or she could be your main character? Ever had an exciting or interesting experience. Why not make that part of your plot?

    I also think if you make your ideas smaller, you may find they're more different than you think. My story about a farm boy fighting a dragon could be different than your story about a farm boy fighting a dragon. Take it one step further. What if it's a farm girl? What if the girl is dying and needs to drink dragon's blood to cure herself? What if dragons are harmless, yet the humans use their blood to cure their ailments? What if the farm girl is actually a robot girl and she needs dragon blood to power her reactor core? This is all stuff I just came up with by riffing. Some of it can be good, some of it bad. Depends on how you approach it.

    You can always spin an idea that sounds too familiar with your own experiences or things you've seen in the news. For me, I think inspiration comes best from these (in no particular order):

    1. Life
    2. Fiction (reading)
    3. News
    4. History

    Sometimes just sitting down and thinking, "What interesting people have I met in my life?" and writing down what you come up with can be better than world-building a whole world or coming up with an epic fantasy plot. Try one brick at a time rather than just plopping a whole house down.

    Hope any of that helps.
    Last edited: May 3, 2014
    Jabrosky likes this.
  8. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    It can't possibly be too similar to something you've already read until you have actually written it. Until then, the similarity is just an idea in your head.

    You should try, just once, to go ahead and write it anyway. Maybe the end product will be derivative, even plodding. But you'll still learn something about your own art along the way.

    Think about it this way. What if a songwriter came up with this great idea for a song, but then though oh, that's a 12-bar blues progression, that's been done. Or, what if a painter thought, oh landscapes have been done, I couldn't possibly do one of those.

    Don't let imagined similarities keep you from real, completed work.
  9. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    I second everyone who said don't worry about originality so much.

    That said, I personally am concerned less with originality than predictability. It's one thing to write a story that bears a vague resemblance to another already written, but it may be a problem if your storyline progresses like so many others that it sounds trite.
  10. Bansidhe

    Bansidhe Minstrel

    Take heart, Krunchee--there are no new ideas! Which is why, if you give a hundred writers the same idea or prompt, you end up with a hundred different stories. Uniqueness comes with the execution and the writer's voice.

    Case in point: in the novel I've been working on for years and (finally) recently finished a rough draft on, I introduced a geographical landmark called "The Wall". Then I get around to reading Game of Thrones. Yeah.

    Are people going to think I cribbed the Wall from Martin? Probably. Am I going to take it out? Most likely not. It's my wall, and no one else's.

    That being said, I'm getting ideas all the time--from books, from movies and TV and video games. From friends and family. Usually this is a result of something about someone else's story driving me crazy and then sending me off on a epic-level tangent. Other times it's something else entirely, but I always try to write the kind of I story I would like to read, but don't see being told yet. That's what keeps it fresh and exciting for me throughout an entire project.
  11. Terry Greer

    Terry Greer Sage

    I find it quite common to think I have an original idea only to find out that its already been done somewhere else.

    The advice given so far is excellent - try to stop worrying about it and just write.

    It's inevitable that someone well read may find a vague similarity somewhere - but the devil's in the details.


    I once told Douglas Adams (though I didn't know it was him at the time) that his Infinite Improbability drive was basically the same as the drive in Gordon R Dickenson's Mission to Universe.

    He didn't crib it from that - it was just coincidence and that's common.

    In 1979, space elevators were found simultaneously in Arthur C. Clarke's 'The Fountains of Paradise' and Charles Sheffield's first novel, 'The Web Between the Worlds'. Both featured a very similar protagonist - purely by coincidence (which was noted in the forward of the paperback version of Fountains of Paradise).

    I'm sure that much that I write (and think original) has unintentional and unidentified (by me) similarities to other works. If its too similar you can always go back and change it - but not straight away - it may turn out not to be that similar after all when you finally finish.
  12. Nobby

    Nobby Sage

    You could consider that all the writers of all the fiction ever written drink from the same well.

    If you're human so do you.

    No doubt there's a Tony Stark/Beowulf crossover somewhere (and if there isn't, why not? I'd love that!)

    Then again, you have to draw the line somewhere. (star wars but in fantasy-ey times with dragons being my personal limit)

    I think how you go about writing a piece, how much you personally invest in the work counts much more than the bullet points of plot.

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