1. OriginalZen

    OriginalZen New Member

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    Am I a Hack for Using Lovecraftian Imagery?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by OriginalZen, Aug 20, 2018.

    Hey guys! I'm writing a story about an English doctor in the 1560s who comes into contact with a horrific eldritch entity. He is haunted by nightmares and terrifying visions and slowly begins a decent into insanity. As his sanity wanes, he begins to gain strange abilities that allow for momentary control of others and warping of reality at the expense of speeding up his rapidly declining mental state. He plans to use these new powers to attempt to defeat the otherworldly entity before he has become nothing but a mad shell of the man he once was.

    Obviously, the story reeks of Lovecraft and the Cthulhu mythos. That is largely where the inspiration for the piece came from, after all, and it's because I love it that I want to center my work around similar themes and creatures. But if I plan on publishing this work (which I currently do), can I really use such blatant imagery without being seen as a hack or a thief?

    I should also mention that the story itself is not structured in the way that a Lovecraft tale would be. Though steeped in chilling vibes and mystery, I plan on taking it in a more straightforward action oriented direction after the initial suspenseful beginning, with my main character eventually putting together of a group of adventurers determined to defeat the Cthulhu-esque being. It's mostly the thematic elements of the story that I'm worried about borrowing too much on.

    Thanks in advance! I'll also happily accept any advice you have on my plot so far if you guys have any good ideas about where I should take the story!
     
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  2. SolZephyr

    SolZephyr Member Supporter

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    Lovecraftian horrors seem to be rising in popularity lately, but I remember seeing them in stories even before I'd ever heard of Lovecraft or Cthulu. I say go for it.

    As for plot, how about a twist where Eldritch-chan turns out to maybe not be completely unsympathetic to human well-being. It gets really old seeing the same motif of "puny mortal creatures are but pawns and meals to me" coming from these types of characters almost every single time they pop up. I'm not saying to make it have good intentions for humanity, though that would be neat (e.g. "If I ruled the world I could stop these humans from constantly warring with one another"), but maybe make what it's doing be something it doesn't want to do but that it feels it needs to (e.g. "I need to convert these humans into a slave army to wage war against another eldritch abomination").

    If you're worried about people thinking you're stealing ideas, subverting the tropes associated with those ideas would go a long way towards avoiding that accusation.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2018
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  3. OriginalZen

    OriginalZen New Member

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    That is a really, really good point. And I like your suggestion too! I honestly haven't given much thought to the actual goings on in the antagonist's head so far, so I think this is a good starting point to getting a firm grasp on what his personality and goals are beyond the obvious "eternal cosmic horror" stuff.
     
  4. Floran Bailey

    Floran Bailey Member

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    I don't think using the same themes as something as broad as lovecraftian horror is unoriginal in and of itself. If your plot goes in directions Lovecrafts stories didn't go in, if the characters are original in their own right despite the similar situations they're exposed to, if the eldritch abomination has some original elements to it then it's not a rip off at all. It's it's own story. You wouldn't call a mystery book a rip off because it has a curmudgeonly old detective hunting down an axe murderer he unknowingly ran into during his early years as a cop. The story can still be compelling and original, it just uses certain tropes prevalent within the genre. If you want to ensure that it's original just take a common trope and subvert it as the previous commented suggested.
     
  5. Infel

    Infel Contributor Contributor

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    Hey there! I don't think you have to worry about using the 'creatures' per say; Lovecraftian horrors have basically become Tolkien's elves and dwarves at this point, able to be picked off a shelf and used in whatever universe may require them. If World of Warcraft can use it, you can, too.

    HOWEVER

    Whether or not you're labeled as a hack will be determined by how skillfully and in what new direction you take the creatures. Titanic is Romeo and Juliet on a boat: the difference is the boat, I guess. As long as you put your own, personal, subjective spin on it, I'm sure you'll be just fine!
     
  6. zoupskim

    zoupskim Contributor Contributor

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    Short Version: If you just use the aesthetics, like early gaslight 20th century and squids and weird powers and such, you might have something that looks or sounds Lovecraftian, but misses the point of Lovecraftian horror. I'd try to focus on making your characters common but inquisitive, your setting oppressive, and your action grounded in reality, but skewed by a key break in some basic law of nature or belief, to make your readers uncomfortable, and give the characters a puzzle to solve.

    Long Version:

    There is only a passing horror in sordid, sanguinary gruesomeness—in bloody axe murders and sadistic morbidities. What really moves the profoundest springs of human fear and unholy fascination is something which suggests black infinite vistas of cryptic, brooding, half-inscrutable monstrosities for ever lurking behind nature and as capable of being manifested again as in the case treated. The supreme principle of this sort of horror is any suggestion of the major violation of some, basic law of nature—the breaking down of the line betwixt life and death, man and the other animals, etc

    HP Lovecraft

    Lovecraftian horror isn't about squids or eldrichs, or eldrich squids, which as @Infel points out are basically as generic as elves now. Lovecraftian horror is about creating a world where the basic fundamentals of human power or perception or understanding are subverted, and we are left experiencing this strange world where what we value or perceive is wrong.

    The Mountains of Madness isn't scary because of the Shoggoth. It's scary because all life didn't evolve on Earth, but from strange alien monsters somewhere else and billions of years older than us, and we are little more than strange offshoots of these alien monsters biological-engineered workforce, or giant penguins used as cattle. The Call of Cthulhu isn't scary because a squid god will eat your ship and drive you mad, it's scary because Cthulhu isn't even a god, he's the loyal priest of a greater god we don't see or know, and that god might not see or know us, let alone care about us, and yet Cthulhu's mere dreams drive us mad all across the world. Imagine what that unknown god could do to us, let alone what it looks like. Hellraiser isn't scary because the cenobites are torture demons, it's scary because it argues that our desires would destroy us if they were real, or hurt the people we love, and that if what we really thought about in private moments was magically turned into flesh, it would disgust and isolate us.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2018
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  7. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    I agree with the above sentiment. Lovecraft isn't about the monsters, it's about information. Information that man was never meant to know and it's affects on men who try. Lovecraft tapped into the uncomfortable truth that we are insignificantly small in both space and time.
     
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  8. Privateer

    Privateer Senior Member

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    Lovecraftian horror is my favourite kind, specifically because it centres around my favourite thing in all the world; knowledge. The danger doesn't always lurk in tombs or the dark woods- though it can- but might easily be lurking in a cosy, well-lit library. As a compulsive reader and amateur student of the ancient world, that's far scarier than an army of hockey-mask-wearing psychos.
     
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  9. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    Lovecraft derived a lot of his imagery from Poe, Dunsany, Robert W. Chambers, and Arthur Machen, and mining real world mythologies will turn up some very eldritch, Lovecraftian imagery if you know where to look. The man himself actively encouraged other writers to work in the same very loose continuity that became the Cthulhu Mythos. You won't be seen as a thief just for using the same themes or imagery he did.

    Hack is a more complicated matter. A lot of writers badly misunderstand the point of Lovecraft's work and cosmic horror in general, but you'll probably be fine if you keep everything zoupskim mentioned in mind.
     
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