1. Derp
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    Derp New Member

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    Im worried about ripping off other peoples work...

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Derp, Jan 25, 2012.

    In fact... terrified.

    Since I overshot straight to the point, I'll fill in a little background about myself and where I'm coming from:
    I've never written anything outside of school assignments; well...maybe the occasional forum troll. =^^=
    As such, I am about as "noob" as it gets in terms of writing on what I would call a "professional" level.
    However, for years I've had this really cool story that I've been wanting to tell. And hey, Ill be honest, maybe even SELL(if Im really that one in a million).
    After all, who comes to these types of forums and doesn't aspire (even if secretly) to be a famous author.

    I'm not comfortable filling in too many details ATM, but I will say its fantasy/fiction. If it matters, think typical "Hero's Quest" yada yada yada.
    Recently I did open up to a couple family members on what was on my mind, and they got EXCITED!
    Of course they are biased, but the fact that I received something other than boredom definitely motivated me to really get this rolling!
    Now I did say "typical hero's quest". What I mean is the standard hero's journey template can most deffinetly apply. However, I have something so thick and potentially detailed that I could fill a whole series.
    This has been on my mind for years. But in the last few weeks scenes, characters, settings, and concepts have been flooding in. Even in my sleep now.
    In fact, I went and got a program that helps organize everything since it was starting to get overwhelming!

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    I'm not an avid reader; the last book I recall reading was some Star Wars novel like 15 years ago.
    So I'm confident I've had little to no pollution there. However I'm a movie and video game buff.
    So many ideas enter the mind that way, even if subconsciously. I would dread having something published one day and then be called a fraud or hack who had to steal ideas.
    EX: I liked Avatar. A lot of people did. But I didn't like finding out that Cameron supposedly ripped off a 1950's sci-fi writer.

    How does that relate to me?
    Chances are, most every piece of this massive puzzle has already been conceptualized, if not in print in some form or another.
    Even if its just a fraction here and there, ideas come from somewhere.
    Words like:
    Kingdom,
    Princess,
    Demon,
    Rogue,
    Ranger,
    Cleric,
    Necromancer,
    Warlock,
    Paladin,
    Summoner,
    Portal,
    Spirit Realm,
    Werewolf,
    Troll,
    Elf
    See what I mean now? That should give you an idea of what kind of stuff Im talking about.
    Think about how many stories there are. We've all heard about the Hero who quested with his companions and saved the kingdom.
    The only option I see is to fill my story with so many facets that I over complicate this to the point of easily filling multiple books.
    In fact, I'm so not wanting to be mainstream that Im killing the Heroes love interest halfway through. The reader will be attached to her, and she will be ripped away :D

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    My point is:
    Am I just being paranoid and this is just a risk I'm going to have to take?
    I know I'll ultimately have to come to a decision myself, but I was wondering how others have dealt with this issue.
    Becasue it would absolutely crush me if this kind of embarrassment happened, even if inadvertently.

    ===============================================================================================================

    P.S.
    This project isn't something that will just be slapped together. however, I've fantasized about it for years and wish I was in this mindset back then.
    I'm fully confidant that this will take YEARS to finish. There is always a start, and this is my first step on the long journey.
    And thanks to everyone who took the time to actually thoughtfully read this long winded post and respond.
     
  2. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Yes.

    Most things have been done before. What's important isn't utter conceptional originality, but that you put enough of a unique spin on an idea to make it interesting. Every writer will approach the same idea differently, and no two would come out with the same finished product.

    My advice is to stop worrying, and start writing. If you keep looking for a wholly untouched concept, you'll never put pen to paper.
     
  3. Derp
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    Derp New Member

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    Thanks for the support!
    At the very least, I want to write this to share with my friends and family.
    Maybe make it a Christmas present some years from now.
    Its going to take a while:)
     
  4. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Movies and video games are a basic grounding in story telling, but if you want to be a bit more confident about not ripping people off, start reading around in your genre. I know I haven't read too much fantasy myself, since I've spent the last 3 years on a literature course being forced to read the old literary classics and new literary work, but I know I've read at least 100 fantasy novels in my time nonetheless, and intend to keep on reading and finding more throughout my life. Only by seeing what other people do in more detail, at the writing level, can you really learn about what to do and what not to do. It's the details you're talking about: many fantasy stories have the same basic outline when you look at the cover. It's reading them that makes it interesting. And that, I suppose, is why you're so worried about ripping things off: you don't know what you're dealing with.

    Go pick up an armful of books with that basic plot structure from the library, or at least a couple from the bookstore, sit down and read them, rise, repeat, and it'll not only make you more certain of your own plot, but probably improve your basic writing and storytelling skills to boot. :)
     
  5. TheComet
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    TheComet Member

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    Writing a completely unique story is impossible; you're always inspired by something. Writing a story in my mind is extending one or more basic ideas from things you've seen. So don't worry about it! As long as you're not copy/pasting you're fine.

    TheComet
     
  6. Derp
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    Derp New Member

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    I have a copy of LOTR that has sat on a shelf since the 90's. I never got past the first couple chapters. I guess Ill start there and see where things take me.
    I'm going to try to actively seek out fictional works that model as close to the tale I want to tell.

    Thanks for the tips.
     
  7. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    LotR isn't the best one to start with: I find parts of it an enormous drag and I'm a huge fan who's read it through several times plus dipped in and out many more times. Start with some fantasy written more recently; the pattern is the same because everyone rips off Tolkien anyways for their plot and world structure at the most basic level, and you'll probably enjoy it a lot more. Whether you love the LotR movies or not, the book is going to give you a massive headache if you're not used to reading books :p I'm afraid I have to run so I can't sit here thinking of examples, but I'm sure someone will come along with some, or you can make a new thread on this forum asking for a book list.

    Anyway, happy reading. :D
     
  8. Makeshift
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    Makeshift Active Member

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    I've had the same fear as you and sometimes for a good reason. Before I got to writing prose, I was thinking of writing movie scripts. Sometimes I had some really cool scenes in my head and then later realized it was really similar to something I had seen. So unconscious copying does happen, at least for me. Recently I posted my first story on this forum and several people commented on it's similarity to the movie The Ring. I haven't seen it, but I know what it's about and now I'm wondering if this was sort of unintended plagiarism as well. I don't think you need to fear this so much, if you're not a heavy reader. When you have some great idea in your head, think about it for a while. Think of all your favourite books, films, TV shows etc. Sometimes it starts to ring bells, you realize where it's from. If that happens, abandon the idea and think of something else. Has happened to me a few times.
     
  9. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    I've also had the same fear as yoiu, but here's the realization I had that pretty much put an end to that:

    Ever heard of the old movie Strangers on a Train? I haven't seen the movie, but from what I hear the basic plot is that the two people meet on a train and talk about their wife/boss/enemy/whoever that is giving them a hard time. Both of them agree to kill the other person's "victim" so that for both sets of murderer/victim, they won't be suspected as the murder since they don't actually know the victim. I forget how the movie ends exactly, but the point I'm trying to make is... basically every crime/mystery TV show has had a "Strangers on a Train" episode, half the time they reference the movie when they realize what is going on. So once you realize that these famous TV shows are fine with "ripping" off another persons idea, society itself doesn't have a problem with it either. You only run into trouble when you take word for word paragraphs and just plug them into your story... if you just take the idea and put it in your own words, it's completely fine.
     
  10. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    What you fear is very common amongst writers. But I will say one thing, unless you read a lot of literature, you have very small chance of actually writing something good. "Polluting" your mind with other people's writing is not what happens. Not reading for the fear of finding out that your idea has been done before is pretty much pointless because whether you later swear to everyone that "you never read it" and therefore couldn't copy someone, will be irrelevant. People want to read new things, and the only thing you can do to suss out the quality of your idea, and to develop your own style, is to read lots in the genre you want to write in. Whether the theme or general plot idea is similar to others really doesn't matter, it's how you present it. But anyway, reading a lot simply helps you learn how to express yourself better.
    So first thing I would recommend is that you start reading And best of luck with your writing!
     
  11. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    At a writers conference in one of the classes the instructor told us a basic story line and some details about a specific scene in the story she was talking about (not an actual published book, so no one had read it). Then we all had time to write the scene. I was amazed at how very different the scenes were. Yet we had all been given the same idea. The class was about Voice and I'm a firm believer that if you find a nice strong voice, you can retell any story out there and have it be completely different.

    That being said, I also work to twist things differently in my stories when I realize it's similar to something else.
     
  12. Inspired writer
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    Inspired writer Member

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    I shouldn't worry about it. As long as you make the story your own with your own particular style. There shouldn't be a problem. Personally, I'm dealt with the same issue. I've got a string of ideas but I'm worried there's a dozen out there who's already written the same but I've been given the same advice by a quite a few.
    Anyway, good luck and I hope you go far with it.
     
  13. Derp
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    Derp New Member

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    Thanks everyone. Both soft and strong(not mean mind you...just a little more forceful) are much appreciated.
    I'm actually completely at ease now and critics be dammed :-D
    I intend to have fun with this new hobby!

    I ordered the Ice and Fire Saga and am looking forward to reading it.
    I'm sure you will all see me pop in from time to time with questions on writing styles ect.
    Looking forward to the many inputs from this community...possibly for years to come :)
     
  14. THP
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    THP New Member

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    You should definatly read as much as you can if you want to write. But not just in your own genre. Read everything anyeerything. Most good storytelling is about the characters, and the more you learn about different characters and how they are portrayed, whether it be a elfen princess or a forensic scientist will help. With plagurism there are two traps to fall into.
    1) what you've been doing. Thinking everything has to be different. You end up changing things for the sake of it and it doesn't lead to good charactisation. You will end up with silly things like 'these are elves, but they hate nature.'
    2) the opposite. Thinking this is a fantasy story so it has to have x, y and z. Think about every character, every place and every race. Think about the logic behind them. Why is a troll attacking your party? What is the motivation for this troll? What sort of culture does it have? What is it afraid of and why? Is it just after food? If so how does it get enough food in a mountain region? This way you will end up with far more rounder characters and a more believable world. Hopefully your fantasy realm will be somewhere people want to 'visit' and they will read your book.

    In short always ask 'why?'
     

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