1. M9A8E6S4TO
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    M9A8E6S4TO Senior Member

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    Ever found something you have written in a book you're reading?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by M9A8E6S4TO, Jul 24, 2009.

    I'm currently reading The Shack by William P. Young. At one point, he describes the stars as diamonds against a velvet-black night. It's funny. When I read that, I stopped and laughed, because I have used that exact same description in some of my writings.

    Has this ever happened to any of you guys?
     
  2. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not to me. There's the odd quotation of Gaelic proverbs used in other books, and those are used a lot in my book, but they're also public and if anyone attempted to claim a Gaelic proverb as their property there'd be a massive public outcry. But I keep an eye out, just to be sure...;)
     
  3. thabear637
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    thabear637 Member

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    No. But I have made it a habit to google every character name in my Fantasy novel to be sure I'm not taking any names that I have heard and didn't think I actually heard but thought I came up with one. I was rereading a fantasy novel I had read before and noticed a small character had the same name as one of mine..So I googled the rest of them and found no similarities :p
     
  4. losthawken
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    losthawken Author J. Aurel Guay Role Play Moderator Contributor

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    Hey I just read the same section of the Shack last night! Horribly Great book BTW (and I mean that literally).

    Yeah, I started work on a story where animal guardians represented people's spiritual states. And then the Golden Compass movie came out. I read the synopsis of the movie and the book and felt scooped. I've refused to read the book or watch the movie b/c I was so upset.

    I'm still working on the project, hoping that it will evolve into something distinct enough, and take long enough to write for everyone to forget about an other similar book... :)
     
  5. Rowley
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    Rowley Member

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    When I was reading Scar Night by Alan Campbell I was rather irked that Carnival in his book [A psychotic killer Angel] and Anavrin in my own [Psychotic killer Harpy] were both overly similar. That annoyed me since I thought that Anavrin was my own creation ;_;
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    no...

    which is why that's a cliché! ;-)
     
  7. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Given the large amount of written works out there, I think there is a very high chance that my description of something has already been done. It's a similar case with characters and plot.
     
  8. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    All I can think of while reading this thread is a skit from George Carlin about words you have never heard put together in a sentence before.

    Something like this:

    While tearing my own eyeballs out of their sockets, I want to step on hot coals and dance on broken glass.

    Betcha no one has ever said that before. :)

    But overall, there are only so many combinations of words that can be put together. So it is inevitable that some repetition may happen.
     
  9. daturaonfire
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    daturaonfire Senior Member

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    I read King's 'The Gunslinger' in both awe and dismay--he'd written the novel I wanted to write before I was even born. So not fair.
     
  10. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    I have been trying to figure out how to literally cop the style of this book.

    It's so damn difficult.
     
  11. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    yup

    ALL THE TIME!

    And its funny you point that out, because I have other friends that are also creative and tell me similar stories.

    One had an idea for a painting and then saw something identical to his description of it when flipping through a magazine.

    Another had an awesome title for a story and then in a theater we saw a trailer for a movie with the same friggin title

    I thought I had orginal title, character names, and plot ideas, and once in a while see them on TV, read them in a story, hear someone talking about it on the bus and I think 'no way'

    In this small world of ours with electronics tearing down walls it will be harder and harder to be original

    As King Solomon said 'There is nothing new under the sun'

    If he saw the same stuff in around 700 BC we just have to try harder to be original, thats all.
     
  12. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I have read stars are like diamonds in a velvety black sky and words similar in many novels.
     
  13. Anders Backlund
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    Anders Backlund Contributing Member

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    Terry Pratchett does that to me sometimes. The magnificent bastard keeps retroactively nicking my ideas!

    Like in Johnny and the Bomb, that whole part with the Trousers of Time? He stole that from me! And he did it before I thought of it! oO
     
  14. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Some time after I started my novel about a secret code left by Thomas Jefferson, The Jefferson Bible Code, I saw a new (at the time, 2006) novel in the bookstore by Brad Meltzer, The Book of Fate. To my dismay, I gathered from the dust jacket that it was about a secret code left by Thomas Jefferson. I read the book -- nothing like mine -- whew!

    The movie National Treasure, also released after my book was plotted and underway, had some similarities, but still substantially different.

    On a somewhat different note... when I was a little kid in the 1970s, I loved the monster cereals Count Chocula and Frankenberry. I thought, "Hey, they could probably make other ones!" So I took out a pen and paper and wrote down my ideas. I swear, the folks at General Mills must have had someone spying on me, because I was the one who invented Boo Berry and the now defunct Fruit Brute. They became actual cereals about a year after I came up with those ideas.

    Charlie
     
  15. Henry The Purple
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    Henry The Purple Active Member

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    Never. And one never will, unless, as maia already pointed out, it's a cliché.
     
  16. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    that's an unfair assesment and I think you're wrong, but whatever...
     
  17. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    I remember the skit.

    I remembered "Hand me that piano," and "Do what you want with the girl, but leave me alone."

    A quick google of other version Carlin did added "Please help me saw my legs off," and "Stick that red-hot poker up my..." well, you get the idea.

    To the last couple posts:

    I wouldn't say that any similarities between two writings = cliche, and I'd also say that it's probably very easy to for two people to stumble on the same analogy, for example. That is not to say that cliche doesn't exist -- it does -- but two people stumbling on the same sequence of three or four words does not make something cliched. In fact, with the abundance of writing out there, it's almost inevitable that something like that would happen, especially when (this is a cliche) great minds think alike.

    However, I googled the phrase in question, and, although "diamonds against a velvet-black night" as describing stars does not come up in google, the "black velvet night" and "velvet black night" appears quite often. So that probably is a cliche.

    For fun, I googled lists of cliches. I didn't find the velvet black night anywhere. Interestingly, "nothing new under the sun" (used here) is on several lists.

    Check it out: it may be cliche, but don't kick him when he's down. You're just not seeing eye to eye. Ah, well, it's that same old song and dance, people get off on the wrong foot, play hardball and then push the envelope. If you think you're going to drive that point home, don't hold your breath! Jiminy Christmas, cliches can be fun!

    Now, I'm going to try to go back to bed. I hate waking up at 3:00 am (EST) unable to fall back asleep.
     
  18. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Good points Charlie...

    I think that people are straying from the OP; which is, have you ever found something in a book similar to what you wrote?

    I think that anyone who says 'no' is either lying or isnt reading enough

    To suggest that someone is stealing YOUR idea if they publish it first isnt fair. An idea is an idea, if you can make money from it make damn sure to get a Copyright or a patent or something. Hell, Newton is credited with inventing Calculus but Leibnitz or whatever his name is invented it around the same time but just didnt have it published first.

    It also isnt fair to say that anytime you have an idea repeated its a cliche, that argument is oversimplification at best because two people may arrive at the same conclusion independently of each other, both believing themselves original, while one may be ignorant of its use or overuse. At one point in time every cliche was original.

    BTW, I was the one who quoted the Bible when I said that 'there is nothing new under the sun', and that shouldnt be called a cliche if its a quote. If you can dig what King Solomon was saying you see that in the context of the OP it bears much more relevance than whoever it was who brought up this whole cliche thing in the first place.:cool:
     
  19. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Thanks Jonathan, your points were good also...

    Ideas can't be copyrighted. It's how the idea is presented, including characters and plot, that are copyrightable.

    Heck, in some cases an idea becomes an entire genre.

    You can't copyright, for example, "A story where a murder takes place and there's a detective trying to solve the murder, and he has a number of suspects and he pieces together the clues, gathers the suspects together, says how all the clues fit together, how he identified the 'red herrings' and then reveals the name of the killer." Though I have a feeling, I may have read a book a little bit like that. ;)

    I think the cliche point (and the original post, for that matter) referred to little snippets, such as an analogy, such as the stars being diamonds on a black velvet night.

    When I googled cliche, I found this quote (by Salvador Dali) in Wikipedia on cliches: "The first man to compare the cheeks of a young woman to a rose was obviously a poet; the first to repeat it was possibly an idiot."

    Honestly, I think that's a bit harsh, and I disagree with the statement.

    Be that as it may, that two people stumble on the same analogy does not mean it's a cliche, so I share your disagreement with that premise, and I agree with you that, if you think your writing shares no resemblance to anyone else's, you probably haven't read enough.

    This is moving a bit off topic, but I don't think well-placed cliches are necessarily all that bad. In fact, I think in certain first-person narratives (and limited third-person where the viewpoint character has a certain personality) the cliches just might reveal something about the character of the narrator (or in limited third-person, the viewpoint character) and also, of course, in dialogue.

    In humor, cliches can even be used very intentionally. One of my favorite cartoons as a kid was about a guy who died and went to heaven, and had to relate his life's story to St. Peter. He used nothing but cliches, and St. Peter took him literally. (It started with, "I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth," and you saw a baby with an actual silver spoon in his mouth, and it went on from there.)

    I realize that cliches are supposed to be avoided, and that's good advice, although I do think there may be times that they can be intentionally used for a purpose.

    The tricky part is identifying cliches. Apparently, from my google, "velvet black night" has been used quite a bit, but honestly, I can see myself writing that line and having no idea it's been used before. One can be judgmental and look down ones nose at me, saying, "That only means you don't know cliche," or, "that only means you haven't read enough," but frankly, I don't think it's possible to know all the cliches, or to remember every word you read, or to have read even a meaningful fraction of all the vast libraries of books that have been written, and frankly, if I don't know it's a cliche, there's a good chance my reader won't either.

    I think the "bad" cliches (unless intentionally placed to present a personality) are the ones that are so overused they've become trite. "Velvet sky," even if it's arguably a cliche, is not nearly as trite or unoriginal a cliche as "rose red cheeks," or "raining cats and dogs" or some of the more painful cliches.

    And, as I said, not everything that's been used more than once is a cliche. Considering the volume of writing that exists, the odds that someone besides you strung two words together that you also strung together, are pretty great.

    Charlie

    PS. I looked it up, and you may be right: "Nothing new under the sun" comes from Ecclesiastes 1:9, which has been attributed by Talmudic tradition to King Solomon, although there's scholarly debate on the actual authorship of Ecclesiastes.

    PPS. I know what you said, but I maintain that General Mills stole my idea. When I was a kid, they came out with "Count Chocula" and "Frankenberry," and I said, "They should make a blueberry flavored cereal and call it Boo Berry!" and I wrote it down on a little piece of paper. I don't know how they got into my house, found my little piece of paper, and stole my idea, but they did it!
     
  20. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ideas, they're a gas. They float in the air and people grab at them. Sometimes, two or more people grab the same idea. **** happens :)
     
  21. Henry The Purple
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    Henry The Purple Active Member

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    It depends what you mean by similarity. If the similarity is basically a carbon copy of the description, as was the case for the OP, then it's safe to assume it's a cliché, or at least extremely unoriginal.


    It's a tired, old description. The black equivalent of 'white as snow', imo...
     
  22. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    That would be "black as coal," imo. Or "black as night," but in this case he's describing night.

    I don't really hear "black velvet" to describe the night that often, in fact, I don't recall hearing it. I think describing stars as "diamonds on black velvet" works, and is hardly tired.

    Say, may be we can come up with a new one...

    How about, "the stars were like popcorn dropped on a black leather car seat."

    Um... nah.

    One could do some card play with this one... "the stars were diamonds laid down on the black spades of night." Except black spades may be cliched.

    We'll work on it. ;) :D
     
  23. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have something similar to that last one in my story, but it completely ruined the rest of the dramatic phrases because it just didn't fit ;)
     
  24. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    "The brightness of the stars only made the dark of night seem deeper."

    How about something plain and simple like that? Metaphors are overrated in my oppinion and reminds me of cheesy teenage love poems ;)
     
  25. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    A metaphor is like a cheesy love poem.

    Oops.
     

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