1. Cyrus
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    Cyrus Member

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    Blocking outside sources

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Cyrus, Mar 29, 2012.

    I know that when everyone comes up with ideas and branstorms they take inspiration from the world around them. But sometimes it can be too much. I have realised recently that a lot of my recent work has been heavily influenced by creative content that I have been taking in at that time or even just stuff that has had a profound effect on me.

    For example. Recently I wrote a screenplay with a friend about a man alone on a moonbase. We both immediately shifted our thinking towards Duncan Jones and Nathan Parker's "Moon" which we both are fans of. Regardless it started to take shape and we couldn't deny the similarities. In the end we tried to hard to distance the story from it so much that the whole script lacked substance.

    This isn't the best example because there where other issues with that script that where unrelated. But I hope I made my point.

    I was wondering if anyone had any advice about sheltering your work from influences at least until your secure enough in your work that it won't matter?
     
  2. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is the main reason I don't read books that are similar to what I'm writing while I'm writing it. The only other cure is to be, as you seem to be, aware of the problem. When the project starts drifting too much toward a 'rewrite' of something else, nip it in the bud. Step back, take a deep breath, and decide what other direction you can take it and still maintain its integrity.
     
  3. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    I don't think you should fight outside influences; I think you should embrace them. All writers are heavily influenced by previous writers. It's the same for other arts. Mozart was heavily influenced by the artists of his time, and took their styles and combined them in creative ways. All jazz musicians religiously transcribe the improvisations of their forerunners to better understand how to improvise. The deeper they delve into the studies of other masters, the better they are going to get and the more likely they will develop their own personal style. You build off what has already been done before. The adage is, "Standing on the shoulders of giants."

    Conversely, Creed (a rock band) once blocked themselves off from all musical influences for an entire month. No radio, no CD's, no grocery shopping muzak, etc. They then recorded an album, hoping to have some new unique sound. I listened to it several times over. I liked it, but it was nothing special.

    I think I know what you mean by being influenced too much by something. You get nervous it's too similar to something already created, and you want to distance yourself from it. Instead, do what great musicians do. Combine a myriad of influences into a new product, meanwhile developing your own style. What other stories of isolation have been done? Kurtz from Heart of Darkness comes to mind.

    Embrace outside sources, don't block.
     
  4. Cyrus
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    Cyrus Member

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    It's funny actually, I have used "Embracing Outside Sources" as an excuse for procrastination and disctraction.

    There is a lot of merit in what your saying though. I have never been short of ideas and arcs I just worry that every thought process is being invaded by these outside sources. Maybe at the end of the day I just need more confident of my work , and worry less about it. It's just been this niggling feeling in the back of my head.

    I suppose this is what they mean when they say nothing is truly orginal anymore. Even though I think that phrase always has such an arrogant tone, I suppose there is no escaping the fact of it.
     
  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You can accept outside sources without copying them. Understand that the originality you provide to your work is not in the basic idea, it's in what you do with it and how you write it. Before 1969, the science fiction magazines were always publishing stories about the first landing on the moon. The great Robert Heinlein wrote a classic one ("The Man Who Sold the Moon"), and there was even a Tom Swift, Jr. adventure about the same thing. Even later on, James Michener wrote Space, which also includes the first trip to the moon.

    None of these writers are ripping each other off, and all the stories are very, very different. If you try to block out sources, you might be blocking out your best research. Go ahead and read anything your want to, and leave it to your creativity to write your own stuff in an original way, with an original take on the subject matter.
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    My general rule on this is: read nonfiction, avoid fiction.
     
  7. Cyrus
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    Cyrus Member

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    I dont think I could ever do that. Consuming Fiction is what got me into wanting to write it in the first place. I think I would fall into a deep and unhappy sleep if I banned myself from it. My hats off to those who make that sacrifice though for the betterment of their writing.

    I would never dream of blocking out any kind of inspiration, maybe I need to construct some sort of mental filter.
     
  8. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think this is a mistake. You don't lose any of your own ideas or your own voice just by reading someone else's, unless yours are very weak to begin with, and I doubt that's true of anyone here on this forum or any serious writer anywhere.

    There's nothing wrong, obviously, with reading nonfiction - wonderful stuff, there, and great research - but to shut out fiction when you're writing fiction is, in my view, to shut out a major source of inspiration, education, and stimulation. You just have to make sure your own ideas are strong, strong enough to not be overwhelmed by the ideas of others. This probably takes confidence, and many young writers don't have much of that, but it comes with age and experience.
     
  9. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Well, the old adage is that all stories derive from only five Greek tragedies.

    My story dates back to a rough draft I first wrote out longhand in 1979. You'd be amazed at how many subsequent books and movies contain elements of the ideas from that era.

    I embrace one source, that might seem odd to many of you. Every few years I watch "All That Jazz." As I have grown older I see new wrinkles in the journey a man takes.

    So much so that I once remarked, "I started off being Luke Skywalker, only to turn out to be a penitent Darth Vader."

    In the end, I think anything worth pursuing that we find life affirming makes us akin to 'the riddle of the Sphinx.'
     
  10. Cassiopeia Phoenix
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    Cassiopeia Phoenix Contributing Member

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    I have the same problem... All I do is not trust when I have a great idea as soon as I end up a book. And, of course, mix the ideas I take from other things that I've read in a way that no one can tell :)
     
  11. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    Absolutely be confident in your own work! As you develop your story, and develop your writing, more of YOU will come through. When that happens, it doesn't matter how similar your ideas are, because your story will feel unique.
     
  12. Kaymindless
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    Kaymindless Contributing Member

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    Honestly, the best thing I could ever do is smile and shrug off the doubts. I read, listen to music, watch TV, look at art, everything when I'm writing. Sometimes it influences me, sometimes it inspires me, I take it all in stride and keep on. Because even if something similar, this is mine, with my own voice and my own style. In the end, give out an idea and there will be fifty books on it already.
     
  13. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    ^ditto that!

    There is nothing wrong to be inspired and influenced by great works. As a beginner writer (I assume) if it is how it is turning out for you continue doing so, believe me, somewhere while doing so you will find your unique voice and style. That particular work may not be suitable for publications because of the similarities, but think of this way, you are one step closer to finding your voice. So, continue writing, the problem is when you lack inspiration to write.
     
  14. skeloboy_97
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    skeloboy_97 Senior Member

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    I understand your point, but I disagree. It's like telling a film director to stop watching films or a football player to stop watching matches.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I can't agree with Ed on this either. Reading fiction keeps the well of creativity flowing.

    If you're really dedicated to writing, you will always have at least one novel or major piece of fiction in the works. Will you therefore never read fiction again?
     

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