Escapist Uncensored: Copy Cats Make Me Nauseous

Escapists Uncensored

Escapists UncensoredIt’s rare to run into another wanna-be writer, but occasionally I get the privilege, though sometimes it’s more of a headache. Like the time I ran into a guy who told me about his favorite authors/books and what he loved about them. He also went into great detail of a novel he was working on. It was almost exactly like the novel of his #1 favorite author. I remember saying something like ‘So in other words it’s just like Ms. Blahblahs’ novel but set in Kentucky instead of Kansas’. Needless to say he wasn’t happy with my response, and we never talked ‘shop’ again…

(No worries people, this was long ago and he never wrote the book. I just happened to see his name on Facebook and got inspired myself, ha ha.)

I know that there are no, quote on quote, original ideas anymore. That anyone can find something out there that is similar. I know everyone is influenced by someone. Also, I know some concepts/characters/storylines are just so kick ass that people want to write about it too. Trust me, I like to write stories, I get it. My problem is when a series, character, or world by a new author is the exact replica of another’s. I don’t see that as showing respect or honoring a favorite author. That, dear child, is copying, and it’s illegal!

If your favorite author has a series with a sarcastic vampire hunter with short black hair, always wears blood red, high heel boots and her favorite weapon of choice is a crossbow, do not for the love of all things holy write about the exact same set up! Vampire hunters are kick ass, I know! You like a snarky sense of humor? Me too! But you don’t have to tell the same jokes as some else. The chick could be blonde, use a wooden stake, and prefer orange boots with lilies on them, for Pete’s sake. Hell, it could be a man! There is no need whatsoever to copy and paste some else’s story/idea. You aren’t improving it! You aren’t coming up with a new twist just because you changed names and location! You are copying. You are also doing yourself an injustice, not just because this is illegal, but because baby, you could have killed a story just using your own material.

I get that sometimes this is an accident. Let’s face it, you can’t read every tome out there to make sure yours isn’t exactly the same. But there are only so many similarities one story can have with another, or others, before someone realizes the jig is up.

So, this is a friendly note to any fellow wanna-be author out there. Please, please, please, explore, imagine, and create all on your own! Yes, get ideas from other authors, that is a given! But ideas as in writing techniques, NOT specific details about characters or worlds. Because someone out there will notice and you will pay for it.

About Nikki R 120 Articles
SAHM of 2, happily married bookworm, blogger and aspiring author. If I could read/write all day, every day, I would. Luckily I have a very understanding, and patient, husband who lets me get away with it as much as possible. Now if only the kids would understand my obsession, and the house would clean itself, then I'd be all set.

1 Comment

  1. This is something I’ve struggled with more than once when it comes to my “career” as a writer. (I say that in quotations because I have yet to make a cent off my writing, but that doesn’t stop me from doing it or from aiming for eventual publication someday.) Sometimes the inspiration is obvious, other times it’s not so much inspiration as coincidence, but the similarities are there. I had an idea for a fantasy story set in a place where the laws and justice were carried out by elite individuals who were partnered with gryphons, and then thought to myself, “Crap, this is pretty derivative of Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books, only with gryphons instead of telepathic spirit-horses.” Which at the time didn’t strike me as entirely a bad thing, since I love those books and they inspire me in many ways, but I wanted my work to stand out a little more than that and to not seem so much like I was just giving her idea a facelift.

    Or the issue of another time in which I came up with the beginning of an idea of a girl packed away to summer camp, where BAM, she learns that the whole point of the camp is to teach people magic. The story itself went beyond that idea, with a bunch of cheesy ideas about destiny and prophecy and a dozen other tropes, but shortly after I came up with the idea, I discovered Harry Potter. And realized that even if my idea didn’t come from those books, one could sum up the early stages on the idea with, “like Harry Potter, only at summer camp.” The inevitable comparison would be there, no matter what was actually behind the inspiration.

    It’s tough sometimes to walk the fine line between writing your own ideas (no matter where the inspiration came from) and realizing that you’re writing someone else’s ideas instead. Unconscious plagiarism, paying homage to a beloved work, or just that headdesky moment where you realize that your idea sounds suspiciously like someone else’s anyway, I think there’s always going to be that stuff lurking in the background. Nothing new under the sun. But you’re right that the devil’s in the details, and even if someone’s writing yet another story about a hot demon hunter who wears knee-high leather boots, what will make them stand out in a reader’s mind is how unique you make them, how much they’re different from any other character who fits the same rough outline.

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