1. SilverDragon
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    SilverDragon New Member

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    Characterization question

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by SilverDragon, Jan 1, 2015.

    So...I was about halfway through the third book in my series, and while I was looking through my bookshelf I realized that one of my characters seems similar to one in another novel I read years ago, around the same time I started to work on my series. The antagonist in my series is basically an attractive, charming sociopath. These are the three traits which are the same...but the background and motivation which I created for the character are completely different. When I first noticed the similarity I thought “Well, it probably doesn’t matter because it’s not anywhere near the same thing anymore, even if it was at one point.” But I guess now that I’ve seen the ways in which they’re the same, I can’t un-see it, and I’m debating removing the character from my series...which is going to be a pretty big hassle since it’s an integral part of my story (and it means cutting the aspects of the character which I know I came up with on my own).

    I suppose that the traits I described could belong to a lot of different characters in different works. However, I’m pretty sure, when I think about it, that I did take inspiration from another book even if not intentionally. I’m not sure how ethical this is. Anyway, I just thought I’d ask for everyone’s thoughts on this before I make any changes.

    Any advice would be appreciated! :)
     
  2. SilverDragon
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    SilverDragon New Member

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    Sorry, I probably should have titled it "Characterization/inspiration question," as it now looks like it's in the wrong place, but it doesn't appear that I can change the title...
     
  3. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Those traits are pretty generic. Plus inspiration isn't plagiarism. Plagiarism is lifting actual words in a long sequence and acting as if you put them together. I'm not sure you can plagiarize a character - in order to do so you'd have to plagiarize the story because a characters motivations and actions are ingrained in the story. As long as his words are his own, his motivation and actions pretty different, I don't see the problem.
     
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  4. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Exactly what I was going to say. Characters are a product of the story and the story is a product of the characters. If a character feels similar to another you've encountered, that's only bad if you also copied the book's story or if your borrowed characterization just doesn't fit into your own story (i.e. feels like a cliche). If you merely copied a few character traits from another source and then naturalized them into your own, distinct book world, then the character will naturally become distinct from the source and there will be no problem.
     
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  5. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    You have nothing to worry about. You have a long way to go before there is even a remote hint of imitation in your work. And even if your character does imitate another character, then there is still nothing necessarily unethical about that.

    The only thing that is unethical is taking credit for someone else's work. (The definition of "plagiarism".) Doing something similar to what someone else once did is nothing remotely like claiming you actually did the thing someone else did.

    A better question is: do the similarities make your book more or less worth reading? To me, it seems like they make it more worth reading. You have basically discovered that there are tropes in your work, and that you are not the first to use them. Every single work of fiction contains tropes that have already appeared in prior works. Some tropes are more popular than others, and there is a good reason: people like certain tropes. There are entire genres defined by the tropes that typically appear in them, and there are readers who specifically seek out certain genres because they enjoy the tropes. Therefore, you would do your readers a favor to take the tropes they like and to execute those tropes effectively.
     
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  6. SilverDragon
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    SilverDragon New Member

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    Thanks to everyone for the well thought-out responses. That is very helpful! I was getting rather frustrated with my project but feel better about it now.
     

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