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Old 03-25-2015, 11:49 PM   #1
slyc_willie
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Cool When You Know You're Copying an Idea and You Just Can't Help It . . . .

I'm not talking about plagiarism; I am not actively stealing another writer's characters, exact setting, or concept. In fact, the direction I'm thinking of going in is quite a bit different. But there are parts of my idea that definitely smack of copying at least a few grains here and there from the idea that inspired me.

I should clarify: I am a fan of the novels and TV show, The Strain. I cannot stand "sparkly" vampire stories, of which 95% of them seem to be, and The Strain is definitely not sparkly. It portrays vampires as disgusting parasites (which, for me, they always have been, even when they're pretty, eternally young, and rich). The key to their spread is the fact that they are a viral organism that invades a human host and changes it into a travel vehicle, basically.

I like that. A lot.

And now an idea that has been mulling over in my brain for several months has started to seriously germinate. I have an idea for a story about viral lycanthropes. I have some of the characters in mind (no, one of them is not a hundred-year-old Van Helsing type with a cane sword), a good idea of the plot and direction, but it bugs me that my idea is blatantly inspired by a similar, successful one.

I've long attested that I never claim to write original stories, just original takes. I've never minded in the past when I discovered after the fact that a story of mine was "kind'a sort'a" like so-and-so's story. I don't delude myself into thinking I am the absolute originator of any of my ideas.

But when I am conscious of the fact that a story idea I have is similar in some respects to something that's already out there, that that particular story was the impetus of my idea, it nags me a little.

This is why I don't read fiction . . . .
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Old 03-26-2015, 12:04 AM   #2
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If it's just the basic idea--and you've indicated a lot of aspects that will be different--I don't think there's a problem of any sort. Ideas can't be copyrighted for a reason. It's common for the same idea to be generated by several different people simultaneously (for instance, millions watching something at the same time on TV will guarantee a lot of ideas being generated, with some of them being a shared idea) and it's just the exercise of creativity for the same idea to be treated in many different ways by different people, e.g., the Romeo and Juliet story.

That's one reason I don't read much in the areas in which I'm writing, though. I prefer that if I'm dealing with the same idea someone else has, it wasn't because I picked it up directly from them.
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Old 03-26-2015, 12:12 AM   #3
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You could write a story based on the "Twilight" series, but instead of calling your characters Edward and Bella, you could call them Christian and Anastasia.


Wait. What?


Seriously, there's so many vampire stories out there, how can any writer not be influenced by the writers who have come before them? Everybody's ripping off Bram Stoker anyway, so go ahead and write your vampire story the way you want to write it.
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Old 03-26-2015, 12:19 AM   #4
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The phrase "I never borrow, I steal," attributed apocryphally to either Picasso or Eliot (probably said by neither) has plenty of truth in it. I don't think one should ever feel guilty about "stealing" from other stories so long as what you're stealing are elements, ideas, fundamental concepts or basic building blocks. Some of the best creators from the Bard on down to Quentin Tarantino basically built whole careers on "stealing" and remixing existing material and bringing their own voice to it. Perfectly honourable tradition.
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Old 03-26-2015, 02:49 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sr71plt View Post
If it's just the basic idea--and you've indicated a lot of aspects that will be different--I don't think there's a problem of any sort. Ideas can't be copyrighted for a reason. It's common for the same idea to be generated by several different people simultaneously (for instance, millions watching something at the same time on TV will guarantee a lot of ideas being generated, with some of them being a shared idea) and it's just the exercise of creativity for the same idea to be treated in many different ways by different people, e.g., the Romeo and Juliet story.

That's one reason I don't read much in the areas in which I'm writing, though. I prefer that if I'm dealing with the same idea someone else has, it wasn't because I picked it up directly from them.
I've consciously stayed away from the majority of fiction since I was in my mid-twenties precisely because I didn't want to be influenced by someone else's writing. I like that the vast majority of my story ideas have "sprung up out of nowhere" and I've run with them.

I'm not really worried that anyone will cry foul and accuse me of plagiarism once I finish the story (stories?), though there will probably be some element of that from the less than educated flock. I anticipate some level of "this is just like x" but even those comments won't really bother me. Not so long as what I write ends up being markedly different than anything in a similar vein.

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Originally Posted by AZMotherLover View Post
You could write a story based on the "Twilight" series, but instead of calling your characters Edward and Bella, you could call them Christian and Anastasia.


Wait. What?


Seriously, there's so many vampire stories out there, how can any writer not be influenced by the writers who have come before them? Everybody's ripping off Bram Stoker anyway, so go ahead and write your vampire story the way you want to write it.
Um . . . it wouldn't be a vampire story. It's not even a lycanthrope story. Just something that touches on the shared conventions of those stories, but has some base qualities in common with the setup for The Strain.

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The phrase "I never borrow, I steal," attributed apocryphally to either Picasso or Eliot (probably said by neither) has plenty of truth in it. I don't think one should ever feel guilty about "stealing" from other stories so long as what you're stealing are elements, ideas, fundamental concepts or basic building blocks. Some of the best creators from the Bard on down to Quentin Tarantino basically built whole careers on "stealing" and remixing existing material and bringing their own voice to it. Perfectly honourable tradition.
True. "There's nothing new under the sun" and "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" and all that. I guess what's irking me is that I didn't have this story idea before I saw (and then read) The Strain. However, I did at one time post the beginnings of a series centered around vampires and lycanthropes that I ultimately abandoned and subsequently had pulled from Lit. Some of the characters and ideas from that unfinished series have crept into my plans for this new one.

Ultimately, what I'll write will be more or less "original." I guess I'll just have to accept that I received the inspiration from a fellow writer. Good thing I have a hefty amount of respect for Guillermo del Toro; I'd hate to want to adapt an idea from, say, a certain author named Stephanie.
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Old 03-26-2015, 05:46 AM   #6
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There really are only a few story ideas in general. How they are told is what provides the plethora of stories out there. Pretty much any "how to" book on writing will at some point tell you to read as much as you can of published authors in your genre to see how it's done. I don't recall who coined the phrase,"there are no new ideas", but I believe that to be true. Write your story, tell it in your voice and it will be yours not someone else's.
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Old 03-26-2015, 06:27 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slyc_willie View Post
I'm not talking about plagiarism; I am not actively stealing another writer's characters, exact setting, or concept.
I have an idea for a story about viral lycanthropes. I have some of the characters in mind

But when I am conscious of the fact that a story idea I have is similar in some respects to something that's already out there, that that particular story was the impetus of my idea, it nags me a little.
I think it's called "tribute" in what you propose.
As has been pointed out, ideas sprout and spread (we must not ignore HG Wells, for example). By the same token, TV companies do it all the time.

A thinks up one thing, B does the same thing with a bit of a twist (think of the Adams Family or the Munsters, for example).
Over here, all the channels are doing Homes, (not DIY, though) Auctions, Gardening and, of course, Cooking (call it what you will!).

Go to it, friend and "More power to your elbow."
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Old 03-26-2015, 06:36 AM   #8
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There are new ideas. I discovered it after I bought a rope saw. Its a whole nuther art with few tutorials to guide noobs.

I counted my collection of unread fiction, and there are 22 books in the pile with more on the way from Amazon. Almost all are noir, and almost all of them feature the same story. I harvest stories for their anomalies I then use in my wares.
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Old 03-26-2015, 12:27 PM   #9
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There really are only a few story ideas in general. How they are told is what provides the plethora of stories out there. Pretty much any "how to" book on writing will at some point tell you to read as much as you can of published authors in your genre to see how it's done. I don't recall who coined the phrase,"there are no new ideas", but I believe that to be true. Write your story, tell it in your voice and it will be yours not someone else's.
I've always taken issue with "how to" books in general. I read a couple of them some twenty-five years ago, even went to a few creative writing courses. Both the books and courses broke writing down into a formula. The author providing the lectures at one point said that following "these basic steps will turn anyone into a successful writer."

I've always considered the ability to write well a gift, a talent. Not a trained skill. Although there are some who see it that way.

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I think it's called "tribute" in what you propose.
As has been pointed out, ideas sprout and spread (we must not ignore HG Wells, for example). By the same token, TV companies do it all the time.

A thinks up one thing, B does the same thing with a bit of a twist (think of the Adams Family or the Munsters, for example).
Over here, all the channels are doing Homes, (not DIY, though) Auctions, Gardening and, of course, Cooking (call it what you will!).

Go to it, friend and "More power to your elbow."
Yeah, copycats are nothing new. Consider Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down. Same basic story, same basic characters. But I think they both suffered -- just my opinion -- by being compared to one another.

I suppose "tribute" could describe what I'm doing. Ultimately, aside from the similar origin point, my story will have practically nothing in common with del Toro's work.

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There are new ideas. I discovered it after I bought a rope saw. Its a whole nuther art with few tutorials to guide noobs.

I counted my collection of unread fiction, and there are 22 books in the pile with more on the way from Amazon. Almost all are noir, and almost all of them feature the same story. I harvest stories for their anomalies I then use in my wares.
That's actually not a bad idea for inspiration-hunting. Look for flaws in old stories and exploit them.
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Old 03-26-2015, 01:48 PM   #10
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There are new ideas. I discovered it after I bought a rope saw. Its a whole nuther art with few tutorials to guide noobs.
Rope saws are a "new" idea like viral lycanthrope stories are a "new" idea. I have a long rope saw my arborist grandfather used in the 30's. I have a short one about 18" long for cutting buried pipe. I bought it around 1966.

Maybe the term "rope saw" has some other meaning for you.

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Old 03-26-2015, 01:55 PM   #11
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Oh, to JBJ, the first time he encounters something is the first time it occurs. When he was just getting started writing stories here (after years of folks telling him to write his own if he was so sure their stories were crap), we'd get almost daily revelations from him on writing techniques he discovered that were standard fare for most of the rest of us.
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Old 03-26-2015, 02:18 PM   #12
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I'm not talking about plagiarism;
No, what you are talking about is called Fan Fiction if you use the characters and sets of a popular show or book. There are huge on line communities of people who write spin-offs of their favorite fiction.

If you are not doing that, it is just another Vampire story. Read Dracula, it is the handbook of Vampire stories, and well worth reading. It's all in there. Most since then just churn Stoker's ideas into a new story.
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Old 03-26-2015, 02:20 PM   #13
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He wasn't talking about fan fiction, since he excluded in the OP that he was talking about the other author's characters, setting, and concept.
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Old 03-26-2015, 02:37 PM   #14
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No, what you are talking about is called Fan Fiction if you use the characters and sets of a popular show or book. There are huge on line communities of people who write spin-offs of their favorite fiction.
That's not what I'm doing, as sr71 pointed out.

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If you are not doing that, it is just another Vampire story. Read Dracula, it is the handbook of Vampire stories, and well worth reading. It's all in there. Most since then just churn Stoker's ideas into a new story.
I think I may have heard of this "Dracula" story. Written by someone named "Stoker?" You have the full title and author's name, by any chance?
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Old 03-26-2015, 02:54 PM   #15
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I've written vampire erotica. Beyond using the concept that they suck blood out of their victims, though, I don't feel compelled to stick to anyone's "rules" of the boundaries of working with a myth. And I don't read a lot of vampire works looking for rules to follow. It's a myth to start with.
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Old 03-26-2015, 03:08 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by slyc_willie View Post
I've always taken issue with "how to" books in general. I read a couple of them some twenty-five years ago, even went to a few creative writing courses. Both the books and courses broke writing down into a formula. The author providing the lectures at one point said that following "these basic steps will turn anyone into a successful writer."

I've always considered the ability to write well a gift, a talent. Not a trained skill. Although there are some who see it that way.



Yeah, copycats are nothing new. Consider Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down. Same basic story, same basic characters. But I think they both suffered -- just my opinion -- by being compared to one another.

I suppose "tribute" could describe what I'm doing. Ultimately, aside from the similar origin point, my story will have practically nothing in common with del Toro's work.



That's actually not a bad idea for inspiration-hunting. Look for flaws in old stories and exploit them.
There are, indeed, naturals born with the right stuff and no assembly or batteries required. Mozart and PILOT come to mind.

Many of us fit the profile of the natural tho our aptitudes fall below the natural. I'm a master gardener but not gifted like the best. 95% of the time I know what to do, the rest stumps me. I require education occasionally.

The rest tote barges, lift bales, get a little drunk, and go to jail.

I don't know why larval writers don't fix master writer errors. I came across an error in a Robert Crais novel, he shoulda used THAT not WHICH, because he referred to something particular and singular. But WHICH sounded better, and may be the reason he used the wrong word.
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Old 03-26-2015, 03:10 PM   #17
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Oh, to JBJ, the first time he encounters something is the first time it occurs. When he was just getting started writing stories here (after years of folks telling him to write his own if he was so sure their stories were crap), we'd get almost daily revelations from him on writing techniques he discovered that were standard fare for most of the rest of us.
Hmmm, then I s'pose all those fuckups of yours were intentional?
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Old 03-26-2015, 03:12 PM   #18
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For quite a while there, thanks to writers like Laurel K. Hamilton and Anne Rice, it seemed there was only one way to write vampires. I had friends who argued -- and I mean serious arguments that nearly came to blows -- over what "real" vampires were and how they should be depicted in fiction. If it wasn't in the vein of Lost Boys or Interview With The Vampire, it wasn't considered official. And if I ever pointed out that they were talking about creatures that only existed in fiction, they just rolled their eyes and told me I "didn't get it."

I'm glad for writers like del Toro who shove the "young, hip and rich" vampires back in the box and go in a different direction. I wonder what those old friends think of The Strain?
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Old 03-26-2015, 03:13 PM   #19
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Old 03-26-2015, 03:17 PM   #20
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I don't know why larval writers don't fix master writer errors. I came across an error in a Robert Crais novel, he shoulda used THAT not WHICH, because he referred to something particular and singular. But WHICH sounded better, and may be the reason he used the wrong word.
I think you answered your own question, as it were, Jimbo.

Sometimes, it's what the word evokes that makes it a better fit, not the strict use or definition of the word. If I write "upon" instead of "on," to me that changes the idea or feeling evoked by the sentence.
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Old 03-26-2015, 03:40 PM   #21
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I think I may have heard of this "Dracula" story. Written by someone named "Stoker?" You have the full title and author's name, by any chance?
OK, you're making fun of the new guy. Right?

Dracula, by Bram Stoker. You may have heard of it?

Here are half a dozen formats including read on line, free.

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/345

It is a lesson in building a story slowly and heavy atmospherics. Slow start, wild ending.

~ ~ ~

I wouldn't worry too much about taking an existing idea and rewriting it. As was said above, there are only about twenty possible primary plots and a few dozen genres and between them you cover 99% of all fiction. Even Harry Potter just combined existing magic and English boarding school genres into a new twist.

Write your story. Don't worry about it. All writers start out with things they read or saw as the foundation of their work. How many truly original stories get posted here or to any erotic fiction site? A is bad, B punishes them with C, or A lusts after B, captures/seduces/blackmails B, and does C with or too B, or A is curious about B and gets C to introduce them to it. Did I leave anything out?
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Old 03-26-2015, 06:36 PM   #22
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OK, you're making fun of the new guy. Right?
Maybe a little.

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Write your story. Don't worry about it. All writers start out with things they read or saw as the foundation of their work. How many truly original stories get posted here or to any erotic fiction site? A is bad, B punishes them with C, or A lusts after B, captures/seduces/blackmails B, and does C with or too B, or A is curious about B and gets C to introduce them to it. Did I leave anything out?
How many truly original stories get posted or published at all? Not many, of course.

As for A, B, and C, I won't quibble; you covered the basics.

Welcome to Lit, by the way.
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Old 03-26-2015, 06:56 PM   #23
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Steal ideas, not words. Twist the words. Twist words enough, and they'll seem original -- same with ideas. The basic love story (they meet; they're separated; they rejoin) has infinite variations. The prototypical vampire story was written in the same stormy session that saw Mary Shelly write FRANKENSTEIN. That basic story has since been twisted in near-infinite directions. (See Barbara Hambly's James Asher books for some interesting takes re: revenants et al.) Is there anything new under the sun? Every now and then, sure. But mostly it's just new twists to old ideas.
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Old 03-26-2015, 07:31 PM   #24
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Welcome to Lit, by the way.
Thanks.
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Old 03-27-2015, 06:10 PM   #25
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Conflict makes a story. Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Himself. (and yes, arguments can be made for Man vs. Society, Machine, The Supernatural, God) Everything else is just pretty window dressing. Write away.

Long time no see, Slyc. Hope all is well.
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