1. Josh
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    Josh Member

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    Not Being Another 'Lord Of The Rings'

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Josh, Aug 23, 2009.

    Hi everyone.

    I am currently writing a high fantasy novel and one of my influences is obviously Tolkien and his Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

    However, I would like to hear suggestions on how to give this novel its own identity and not be branded another Lord of the Rings ripoff.

    Thanks.
     
  2. daturaonfire
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    daturaonfire Senior Member

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    The best way to avoid ripping off a particular triology or novel is to read widely, all across your chosen genre, and outside it as well. Don't read just LoTR and its derivative works--read urban fantasy, read mysteries, read poetry. The more you read the richer the material you pull from, the richer the material the more original.
     
  3. Agreen
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    Agreen Faceless Man Contributor

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    Read Joe Abercrombie, George R.R. Martin, and R. Scott Bakker for a sense of how the fantasy genre can be pushed in directions quite different than Tolkien. As a fantasy writer myself, I'd say each of these three and others have had far more influence on me than Tolkien.
     
  4. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Consider using a story type from a wholly different genre. By that I mean: not a story about a hero going on a quest to fight the big evil thingy across the mountains. Once your story is about something entirely different, it becomes much harder to fit Tolkien cliches into it.
     
  5. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Use your own imagination and storytelling ability to come up with your own world, characters and plot line. Avoid the dwarves and elves and orcs, etc.

    And as others said, read both other fantasy novels and outside the genre.

    Terry
     
  6. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh yes. If a fantasy story has elves and orcs in it, I'm not even gonna read the back cover.

    It's funny how fantasy as a word means "anything your imagination comes up with", while as a genre means "Same old stale cliches". Fantasy is one of the most tired and unimaginative genres out there, while it should be the number one most original.
     
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  7. Dante Dases
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    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd blame editors who dismiss original ideas, and who instead are obsessed with finding a new Tolkien.

    On the original topic, just do as the others say. Fantasy can be anything you want it to be, whether that's an epic adventure or a intensely personal drama. In my own work, I utilise politics not dissimilar from the real world and keep 'magic' and other powers to a minimum possible, using characters as the story's core and their actions in the face of events rather than writing about events with the characters incidental. I'm not saying you should do the same - everyone is different, after all - but it's an example.

    I also wouldn't restrict reading to just fantasy. Whilst a breadth of writers can be recommended from the genre - Robin Hobb, George R.R. Martin, K.J. Parker etc - there is also plenty of inspiration to be found elsewhere. A good place to look would be in works of history; Anthony Beevor is an excellent historian whose work is easily accessible (if a little long), and you may find plenty of inspiration in his work.
     
  8. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    The way you avoid being another Tolkien is to just be yourself. You can't be Tolkien, no matter how much he influences you. You can only be you. And remember that "fantasy" as a genre, if you are being open-minded, is a story with ONE element of the impossible, not what most people think it is. It does not require a quest, talking animals, a medieval setting, or even non-human characters. It just requires ONE element of the impossible according to the accepted realities of our world.

    If you ignore the "Clark is an alien" part, several episodes of Smallville are fantasies with none of those elements, especially in the first two seasons. They are stories about magic green rocks that have strange effects on people. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom isn't really a "quest" so it also counts because the rocks have mystical powers and so does the villain.

    Indian in the Cupboard, too. All the characters are human. The magic/impossible element is a magical key.
     
  9. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Create your own species.
     
  10. Rumpole40k
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    Rumpole40k Banned

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    Just remember the "Rings" was Tolkein's attemptat an epic. Before he wrote it he immersed himself many older stories and epics including the tales of Arthur. Stop obessing over whether or not it will be another Rings - that is the worst starting point for a writer. Write the story YOU want to read, be true to yourself, and only worry about being too Tolkein-esque in the revision process.

    (But seriously, if you main character is trying to destroy an item .... maybe you need to stop.)
     
  11. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    I kind of worried about this as well. But I ended up created my own species and my own world. I still have the "Evil Object" so to speak, but neither my good guys nor the bad guys have it yet and I'm not going to walk up Mount Doom and throw it into the lava when I get it. Should I be concerned that my plot can be thought to be a rip-off?
    P.S : Mine is not a ring...
     
  12. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Of course it's not a rip off. It just uses some elements that are the same.
     
  13. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    I think the best advice for anyone working in a specific genre is to absorb as much of what is already out there, before getting too deep into your story. Once you see what's been done in other books, movies, and TV you can find where you want to set yourself apart from the rest of the lemmings.

    I've been watching and reading things based on horror and zombies for the last month or so, when I got my idea. Before I ever started writing, I wanted to make sure I knew what was already out there. I went on amazon and looked through every zombie book I could find. I read the synopsis to get a feel of what it was about ( I don't have to read the entire book to know what the story is based on.) I've been watching zombie movies non-stop for the last two weeks, and I am about 9k words into my story. I am pretty confident that my plot concept is almost completely different from anything I have seen so far.

    I've chosen some choice tidbits to retain in the story, like the evolution of the zombie's intelligence after they have been reanimated, however I am not using the need for brains that is so typical of most zombie horror. I've come up with a different type of zombie.

    I think the key to not being a copy-cat of popular writings in the genre is coming up with your own new, or niche type of thing within the confines of the genre. Fantasy is an expansive genre covering just about anything your imagination can come up with. However there are some confines of story types within the genre, romance, survival, adventure, action, good vs. evil. These are all well worn ideas that have been explored for generations. All you have to do is make unique settings, varied characters, and different objects to populate these time tested themes.

    LoTR is good vs evil + adventure + the personal story of friendship and love + Magic = great book. Star Wars is good vs evil + adventure + friendship and love + Magic = major motion picture. Harry Potter is good vs evil + adventure + friendship and love + Magic = movies and best selling book series. All the same basic elements, but different settings and characters and circumstances.

    It's just a matter of finding new and exciting elements to use as the clay around the skeletal outline of the basic plot lines. All three of the examples have the same elements, but are vastly different because of the clay is different colors.

    Just do your research and don't use the exact same elements that other writers have used, make up your own. But to know if you are being unique you need to know what is out there already. Which means doing your research.
     
  14. Marcelo
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    Marcelo Contributing Member

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    If you think your story is a LoTR rip-off, write it anyways. As you read and write you'll see how your storytelling and writing skills become gradually better, and when the idea for your magnum opus comes to your head you'll be able to pull it off with more expertise. Remember, we can write tons of stories, not all of them have to be cultural phenomenon. Heck, some write without publishing in mind!

    Hope that helped. :D

    PD: I agree with bluebell. The elements are almost always the same. It is the fresh ways in which writers approach them that makes their stories original. Try to strip stories to their most basic facets and you'll see that. For example, Harry Potter: A kid is told he has special abilities and he goes to a school for kids like him. There are hundreds of stories like that. However, J.K. Rowling managed to pull a fresh approach to it. Again, I hope this helped.
     
  15. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    It might be worth mentioning that LotR isn't the wildly original fantasy novel some people seem to think it is....I mean yes its an amazing piece of literature and its treatment of the fantasy genre is certainly genre-defining (imo), but, Tolkien drew heavily from other sources, particularly Norse mythology.
    So don't worry about whether the content is similar, worry about how your specific treatment of the material is original and innovative.
     
  16. Marcelo
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    Marcelo Contributing Member

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    Yeah, it could also be said that the first high fantasy epic was The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison, which predates LoTR by 32 years. Also, Tolkien read the book and praised it in print. Remember people, Tolkien was a human like us. :p
     
  17. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    thanks guys :)
     
  18. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh yeah, and Lord of the Rings is pretty much Tolkien's version of Wagner's Ring opera.

    Tolkien knew the opera very well, and while he refused to admit that LOTR was derived from it, the opera clearly inspired him to a level that borders plagiarism. So no, LOTR is in no ways original, it's just a really well told story.
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Hardly. Wagner himself was tapping into old folk myths, and besides, ideas are not copyrightable.
     
  20. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ok, not plagiarism in the technical, legal sense of the word. What I meant was that the story and key elements are similar in a way that cannot be coincidential.
     
  21. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Plagiarism is a very serious accusation, and should not be tossed about casually.
     
  22. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    There is nothing completely new out there. The theme of good vs. evil has been around a long time, and it will continue to be.

    Quest fantasy novels are popular enough that they still get published. If they're well written and not a carbon copy (wow, that's an old comparison--sorry for you younger folks--I could say photo copy or exact duplicate ;) ) and has unique twists and turns...

    My fantasy novel that's scheduled for publication later this year has goblins, ogres, and dragons, and many other 'standard' creatures of fantasy literature. But not everything is as one would expect. It has elves, but not what elves are in Tolkien's world. Beautiful mermaids, well are not on the side of the 'good guys.'

    What makes it different? What sparked the initial flame that brought the story into being? I wondered what would happen if a dragons faced WW II aircraft in combat. How would creatures of magical legend stand up to panzers and Stukas?

    That brought on the idea (which eventually formed the core of my teaser): What happens when fire-breathing dragons battle Stukas for aerial supremacy over a battlefield? Can an earth wizard’s magic defeat a panzer? Krish, a farmhand turned mercenary, witnesses this and much more as he confronts the Necromancer King’s new war machines resurrected from before the First Civilization's fall. Worse yet, a wounded prince tasks Krish to find the fabled Colonel of the West and barter the royal family’s malevolent Blood-Sword for a weapon to thwart the Necromancer King’s victory.

    Flank Hawk is set in the distant future where magic exists and brutish ogres are more than a child’s nightmare.


    The point is, some of the elements one might find in other fantasy novels, including Lord of the Rings, can be found in my novel, but overall it stands by itself. The characters and creatures and events and the world they inhabit are my creation.

    As an aside, there have been some blatant 'rip offs' if you'd call them that of Tolkien's works. The Iron Tower Trilogy would be one example. Even so, Dennis McKiernan made a name for himself and has gone on to a successful writing career, authoring many more novels. He found a niche, readers craving more Tolkienish novels. I cannot say that it would work again--actually it probably wouldn't.

    From where you stand, the best you can do is understand how Tolkien put his world together, the depth and wonder it provided to readers. As suggested, read a bit more widely, and then shift your imagination into gear. Maybe you'll have to start in first gear to get moving and pick up traction, but you'll pick up speed, shifting along until you're in 5th and cruising down the writing highway.

    Good luck!

    Terry
     
  23. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've read The Iron Tower Trilogy. (discussed in my previous post just above). It is very very much like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, probably closer than what you've suggested HorusEye, and it wasn't considered plagerism.

    Terry
     
  24. Marcelo
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    Marcelo Contributing Member

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    Woah, congratulations Terry! I'll give it a read once it's published. :D
     
  25. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    According to the wiki you linked, "It has even caused cries of plagiarism from readers who are annoyed by McKiernan's markedly similar storyline and details."

    However, I aknowledge that my choice of the word regarding LOTR being inspired by Wagner was misplaced. I should simply have said the similarities are so striking, that LOTR cannot be considered an original storyline.
     

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