1. Nidhogg
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    Nidhogg Member

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    What to do when your story has already been done?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Nidhogg, Jul 2, 2016.

    For camp NaNo this year I've decided to work on fleshing out a story idea that I've had for a couple of months. I thought that the idea sounded pretty original at the time, and have been excited to start giving writing a go. However, I very recently found out that the idea I had has already been done, and that it is considered an international bestselling series.

    My original premise was "a band of orcs set off on a journey, opposed by both humans and other orcs alike. The story aims to show a fantasy setting from the 'evil' perspective, and in doing so give diversity and development to a typically one-dimensional race."

    The series I found out about is the Orcs: First Blood series by Stan Nicholls. If you're wondering what the premise of his series is, basically just read my premise again.

    Finding this out has left me pretty disheartened, and wondering if I should continue writing my story. I'm refraining from reading the Orcs series to compare ideas, partially because I don't want to end up taking more ideas from the author, and partially because I haven't seen many good reviews for it.

    Should I keep going and hope they are distinct enough for it to be not considered too similar, or should I take the time to rework the initial idea?

    Minor edit: I've started reading the first book in the series against my better judgement. I should've heeded those low reviews. Part of my now wants to try and write my own story out of spite for this one.
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2016
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  2. Cnayur
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    Cnayur Member

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    This one is tough to answer. My heart says that no two writers are alike and that old material tackled anew will bring new emotions, new insights, and new story beats to the premise if that writer's any good. The premise may be similar, but I guess the plot won't be.

    On the other hand, there's my brain saying, ooohh, but people will talk. They'll call you a rip-off, a cheat, derivative... I really don't know. I've had a similar problem a couple years ago. Ever since, I've been keeping that idea (and the first 12000 words already written) hidden away in my Folder of Shame.
     
  3. halisme
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    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    You write it better with different characters. Problem solved. Nothing is that original in the anymore.
     
  4. Gawler
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    Gawler Contributing Member

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    Write it. Unless you are doing it almost word for word you will have a different feel and perspective in your own style. If everyone stopped writing a story because their premise had already been done then there would be a LOT less romantic novels published.
     
  5. Sack-a-Doo!
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    This is tricky.

    Orcs were creations of J.R.R. Tolkien and were then popularized by World of Warcraft. I don't know if Blizzard is paying royalties to the Tolkien estate, but it's a definite possibility. And I don't know if the whole 'orcs as public domain property' argument is valid or not.

    The series you mentioned may be fan fiction or a commissioned work, either of which makes it decidedly unoriginal. If you wanna write your story as-is, I'd look into where you stand on this.

    On the other hand, if you were to change the orcs to some other creature that isn't already a part of popular fiction/games, you wouldn't have to deal with all this. You may even come up with a critter that gets everyone else borrowing from you.
     
  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd keep the big idea, change the details.

    You can follow a band of "evil" characters without them being orcs, right?
     
  7. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    There's an old saying that there are really only three basic stories - 1) man/woman vs. man/woman, 2) man/woman vs. God/nature, 3) man/woman vs. self.

    Every story ever written can be (and probably has been) tweaked. Tweak away!
     
  8. Nidhogg
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    Orcs are most definitely public domain. Tolkien got the idea for them from another word for ogre in Old English, and the term Orc has been used in old literature before LOTR (e.g. Beowulf). They're about as public domain as elves, dwarves, and humans are.

    I'll keep going at the original premise for now and see where it takes me. Thanks everyone for their input!

    Also, having read through more of the original story, part of me wants to do a "Nidhogg Reads Orcs" thing. It's not the best of books, but has positive and negative aspects that could be interesting to talk about. If anything, it allows me to discuss a scene involving a blood-covered unicorn horn used as a sex toy.
     
  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Nicholls isn't the only (or first) to write from the orc POV, or the first to take on an epic fantasy story from the POV of the evil side. Just write it. Lots of things have been done before - you can still make them good.
     
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  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, orcs are public domain, and were popularly used by Dungeons and Dragons and Warhammer long before Blizzard came along. If Blizzard had to pay anyone it'd be Games Workshop, since their orcs and a lot more about the setting were basically copied from Warhammer. But they're not having to pay anyone for them.

    They are in so many games and stories these days they're almost ubiquitous.
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2016
  11. Spencer1990
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    Almost? haha
     
  12. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's actually the advice I give the most when somebody's worried about their story being seen as a copy: focus on what you don't like about the similar work in question and on what you want to do differently.

    I also found out about that series when I started looking into whether orcs in fiction have ever been portrayed as the heroes. I haven't read the first book, but my understanding is that the plot is more MacGuffin-based than anything else. Maybe focus more on what your characters want for their world than on what they plan on using?
     
  13. halisme
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    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah. Warcraft was originally supposed to be a Warhammer game but they couldn't get the license. Fortunately GW's lawyers weren't as rabid back then.
     
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  14. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yep. When the deal fell through Blizzard just went ahead with their own game.
     
  15. Nidhogg
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    Without going into too much detail, the story basically reads way too much like a D&D campaign, with one dimensional characters that I don't really give much of a damn about, serving a leader that they honestly should just kill and reads like she's there to serve as some kind of oddly specific fetish fuel.
     
  16. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well then it sounds like you have a lot to not work with ;)
     
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  17. bonijean2
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    bonijean2 Senior Member Supporter

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    Seems it would be a good idea to steer clear of any work that might be seen as a form of copying just to protect your reputation as a creative writer.
     
  18. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    Tolkien certainly didn't invent elves or dwarves...

    ...but he did invent that plural of them :p
     

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