1. zilly
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    zilly Senior Member

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    How do you avoid taking to much from another story?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by zilly, Nov 17, 2010.

    So, my friend and I have finally pretty much finished the novel we've been writing.

    Anyway, the original idea was for us to write a screenplay for a movie, but we figured a novel was a better approach since more of them get published. It ended up working out really well and I learned a lot from it, but I still think the story was much better suited for a movie than a book.

    That being said, I've started writing a screenplay -- which is basically just my philosophy of life which, by coincidence, leads itself to a story similar to The Matrix (ah run on). So, I want to know what you all do in situations where you find your story resembling another a little too closely for your liking.

    My biggest problem is that, regardless of the main character having not much in common with Neo, he's the main character in a story with comparisons so it does make him a bit similar. And, there is a character that is almost exactly Trinity.

    I fell like having a character so closely resemble another character from a story really takes away from any of the stories originality. But, I'm also feeling like it might not be as big of a deal as I think because Trinity and my character play the same role so they are bound to be similar. And, Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is pretty much Jesus and everyone thought the similarity was a good thing. So, I think I may be over thinking it.

    What do you think?
     
  2. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    My own feeling is that any time you have to describe your story as "just like...except..." you have a problem. As Cogito loves to point out, it's all been done before, so similiarities to something already written are inevitable. The key is to make your story your own, with its own reason for being told and for the reader to want to know it.

    Also, I would advise focusing on why the story deserves to be told, and worry about whether it's worthy of being published later on.
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    That's more a matter of symbolism.
     
  4. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    In some ways you can't win. Pitching screenplays seems to be largely a case of showing how similar they are to something else (Saturn 5 is "High Noon in space"), but I know somebody who had a screenplay rejected because "It's like Educating Rita" solely on the grounds that a teacher-pupil relationship was at the heart of it. Basically, if it's going to be rejected then any excuse will do.

    On the other hand, TV detective story writers notoriously use each others stories. A lot. But they get away with it because the setting and writing style are so different for each show. So don't worry if your story is like another one. Worry if your novel or screenplay is like another one.
     
  5. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    Make it your own. Make this screenplay something original but still use the symbolism, the inspiration, and energy you enjoyed from another movie, story, whatever. Make it something you'd like to see up on that big screen.

    You know how fanfic writers add in the stuff into their work they would have liked to see happen in Twilight or Harry Potter? Do that in your movie. Take things up a notch. Switch characters around, add more subplots, more conflicts; internal or external.

    This is something I battle with everyday while crafting my stories. I'm afraid my story too similar to the book or movie I got the inspiration from to start my new project. I'm afraid my characters are put into situations and circumstances that have been overdone. But characters facing similar problems can't be overdone. You'll always want to watch the hero save his girl and defeat the antagonist. So put the hero in a different situation. And put the girl in another one too.

    I don't think you're over-thinking at all. You obviously don't want to obsess and stress about it, but after completing your novel form and switching over to screenplay form, things like this will pop up. Because you're being thorough, and you're honing your skill as a writer :D

    I wish you all the best, zilly.
     
  6. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I avoid it by taking lots of ideas from lots of places - most of my more 'unique' or unusual ideas I think I have had, I then come across in something I have read, listened to or seen.
     
  7. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    How do you avoid taking to much from another story?

    sorry to nitpick, but that to should be too:redface:(this is a writing forum after all:rolleyes:

    As to the question: if Cog were here he might also point out that it's okay to be inspired by other work and borrow ideas liberally. The Matrix had some ideas that were hardly original, but the way they were used/stressed/explored, etc made it a success.

    When using other motifs always remember the golden mean, moderation in all things as the greeks used to say >_>

    If nobody inspired anybody else we'd all be writing epic poems these days still like the ancients used to:cool:
     
  8. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Not to sound trite, but I just don't let lit trip me out. There is nothing new under the sun and even if you feel that what you have written (the greater you, not you you) someone else will come along and say, "Oh, that is just like blah blah blah."

    I wrote a story called Two Bullets Left. I love it. I have babied it for the past twenty years. When the X-Men movies started coming out, I thought, "Well, there goes that idea onto the big screen, but without my name in the credits." But, doesn't matter. X-Men already existed long before I ever started that story and even X-Men is nothing novel. Group of young, good looking people, with super powers is one of the pillars of science fiction, especially theatrical science fiction.
     
  9. TobiasJames
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    TobiasJames Contributing Member

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    I have absolutely nothing against taking ideas from a good story. If it's a good idea, and you can mould it to your own devices, then yours will be a good story too. I will probably never tire of the Joseph Campbell "Monomyth"-style adventures, and every new one that comes along is just as exciting as the rest of them.
     
  10. Jones6192
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    Jones6192 Member

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    I was once told that it doesn't matter if it is derivative, as long as it is done well. The movie he was referencing with this statement? Avatar. Probably the best-ever example of a derivative story that was done well enough that most audiences started to just not care anymore about the Pocahontas comparisons. Your mileage may vary, of course.
     
  11. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    With so much out there, you can probably find two characters that are exactly alike from two different books by two different authors that lived in two different generations. Do not let how similar your ideas are to another's hinder your writing.
     
  12. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't really care. The odds that it will line up exactly are next to impossible and odds are the place I got the idea from ripped it off of somebody else. Nobody else has MY characters experiencing THESE events. So it's original enough for me.
     
  13. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Pertinent to which -- a running gag in the episode of Castle that I'm watching at the moment is as they consider each suspect they mention which classic movie that motive and relationship would correspond to. What they haven't mentioned is that the overall plot is the same as an episode of Murder She Wrote that I saw a couple of weeks ago.
     
  14. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I love Castle. It's a show that is self-aware of the cliche and "rip off" nature of crime stories. That's what makes it so unique.
     
  15. zilly
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    zilly Senior Member

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    I saw that when I logged in to check this and cringed. I was hoping no one noticed and that I could change it =p

    Anyway, I really appreciate all the feedback. I kind of got what I was hoping to hear. I always look at newer movies that come out and say, "oh, this is ____ except..."

    Even movies like Inception are hard to consider new ideas. But, the way the movie is told is everything.

    The Matrix, for example, heavily borrowed from other works. But, it put everything together nicely and dumbed it down to just the right level that everyone could get it but it wasn't stupid-dumb.

    I guess my character isn't exactly like Trinity -- she ends up being the bad guy, so that makes her a little different, I guess.
     
  16. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    ^That's good. She is different then :D Sometimes it's inevitable not to take things from other works. We're smart, we breed of writers, and as someone else said, "No two minds think alike."
     

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