Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by KhalieLa, Dec 11, 2015.
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Short answer: Yes this is part of the curse of writing High Fantasy.
Long Answer: The thing you have to realize here is that people often look a lot more closely at common similarities. Stories about the heroes journey are often compared in spite of having nothing in common but the concept of a call to action. Or perhaps it is less people looking more closely at the similarities and more that not everyone thinks as deeply about the differences. Let me give you my own version of this. People often said the same thing about me copying Avatar The Last Air Bender. At the time I had never even seen the show or had yet to even hear of it. I eventually became curious and checked it out. The most common comparison is that a character I have named Elizabeth was a carbon copy of this water character(I cannot remember the names.)
At a short glance? They do look similar. Both can move water, freeze water and melt ice. If you don't look closer, the comparison seems valid. Yet, differences.
Elizabeth uses energy to move water and this supply can be exhausted leaving her unable. In a sense Elizabeth has Mana.
Avatar Characters do not have this drawback..
Elizabeth's power is purely mental. She can be completely still and move water with her mind. She can also feel tactile sensations through water.
Avatar characters must move in some fashion to cast there magic. Some Avatar characters can feel through elements, but from what I gather the water one can't.
Elizabeth can control water up to a mile away from her.
Avatar characters have a limit of abut fifty feet.
It is notable to say that Elizabeth is unique in this quality. Most are not able to control an element this far away. But people don't say my magic is similar to Avatar. They say Elizabeth is similar to her and well, the difference in distance here is nearly 100x.
I think that is most of it. Take note of this though, my character vs Avatar's water girl. They don't share the same restrictions, or application, how they fight and use magic is not related in really any comparable way. Yet, because they both control water(Elizabeth can even control more than water, lol) they have and are still to this day compared as clones. lol. Which in a sense I think is actually kind of fair. Because, they both can move and freeze water and melt ice and if you don't look closer that does seem like a perfect comparison.
I am sure if you have a water wizard there is someone that would say he/she is a complete clone of my Elizabeth.
When it comes to advice like this you have to rate it for yourself if the person in question is picking up on a valid point of comparison that you should worry about, or if they just aren't looking deep enough to notice the differences.
Oh and if I didn't spell out enough differences. Elizabeth is a military trained super soldier in an ubran fantasy, and the water girl from Avatar is a non-trained almost preistist like teenager in a high fantasy. Yep, they are clones alright. lol
Did your critics say why they thought you were copying Tolkien?
I certainly don't see Tolkien in your plot summary. If it was just the mention of a dwarf race, I wouldn't bother worrying about it. Dwarves (as a race of beings) have been part of mythology for aeons, and Tolkien didn't make them up. (Think Snow White?)
I think the stories that seem to be copying Tolkien are the ones that contain ...wait for it ...dwarves, elves, wizards and ...yep ...orcs. To my knowledge, Tolkien did invent (or at least name) orcs. And a quest for some magic item, a sword or jewelry. And a small band of individuals who are fighting against a supremely evil being who controls the world.
Don't forget, Tolkien himself drew heavily from mythology, and based his made-up languages on ancient ones that actually do exist. Nothing wrong with starting from a place like that. However, it's what he did with these old traditional types of storytelling that made Lord of the Rings unique. And it's the individual characters and their individual story arcs that made that tale so memorable and popular. Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, Aragorn, Gandalf, Gollum, Boromir, Faramir, Eowyn, Saruman ...these are characters who stand out, and who mattered as 'people.'
I believe I glimpsed through your introduction, once. If I remember correctly, it starts with a serving girl (who is also a whore) screwing a man in an inn. Then a bunch of dwarves walk in, and one of them does not want to recruit her, but then there is a mysterious man (I cannot remember if he is a wizard or not) who insists she must come on the journey with them.
This is very reminiscent of the Hobbit, where Gandalf insists to his dwarves than Biblo, who is also an unlikely hero, must come on their journey with them.
Am I off the mark here?
That's a very promising story you are writing on. With a work loaded with such potential you should not worry about people comparing your story to another work of fiction because that will soon pass. If it's as good as it sound then it will be something of its own - and, I mean, it does sound original. Works that are standing so tall eventually become something of their own. It is the cheap rip-offs that in the end gain the bad reputation.
I'm not too much into Fantasy but it sounds really good for a story of that genre so just keep it up and try to get published (if that's your ultimate goal)
Read your synopsis, sounds nothing like Tolkien. The name Ywhe could be construed as Yaweh and that would make some people mad (unless your going for that kind of critique on religion on purpose.)
Whoever told you this sounds like tolkien is not a smart person.
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My experience, when I show my writing to other people (and especially with those that do not write themselves, or have read many) is that they are always going to be biased to point out some similarities. Sometimes, I had to agree with them, sometimes not. I'm working on a story about a lord of a medieval castle, and the first thing a friend of mine told me after reading the first few sentences was: "That's very Game of Thrones like, dude". No it isn't you twat, just keep on reading Like, all stories having castles and lords are now suddenly taboo, just because G.R.R.M wrote about them? That's just silly and unfair.
I read your synopsis, and it's not LotR-like at all. Sure there are dwarfs, but with that mentality, any fantasy is LotR-like and there would not be any escaping from it.
One thing I did frown upon a bit, and which triggered me to write my next point of advise is the name "Yhwe". Now, that is very LotR-like, be careful with that. Ingwe, Finwe, Olwe, etc, the name Yhwe fits in perfectly. No problem when it's a stand-alone case, but since you get this kind of critique from people, be sure to stay careful with those
One point of advise I may give, and believe me, I often find myself guilty of it as well. is this:
I myself started reading with Tolkien's books, and the next fantasy I read was George R.R. Martin, so these books I can consider the foundation on which my interest in fantasy was build. This works through in one's subconsciousness. You may think you came up with a name that is new, but when you look close at it, from an objective point of view, is it really that original? How much am I letting that foundation of mine influence my thoughts when thinking of this?
I came up with the name of a castle of mine (the one I mentioned above), and it was Vynterhold, a perfectly fitting title given the setting and nature of the castle.
When that friend of mine said (without having read the name) " That's very Game of Thrones like, dude" I was like, gtfo dude.
Then he read further and saw my name "Vynterhold" and said "Are you still sure you aren't influenced by A Game of Thrones"? and I had to admit defeat.
Now, in your case I wouldn't worry about it too much, since your synopsis is nothing like Tolkien, but still, especially since you get this kind of critique, stay cautious and prove them wrong
Is this the same critique group that gave you the problem with the dwarf-who-wasn't-really-a-dwarf-only-kind-of-was and interspecies sex?
If so, I think you're either seriously misinterpreting what these people are saying or they're seriously strange people. Either way, as recommended in that other thread, you probably want to find new crit partners. Wherever the communication breakdown is coming from, these guys clearly aren't helping you much.
ETA: And while I was double-checking to make sure you WERE the one with the dwarf-who-isn't-a-dwarf, I came across your "kennings" bit - is it possible that your readers are reacting more to the style of your writing, rather than the content? If you're writing in a deliberately archaic style, and writing about wizards and dwarves, and sending them on a long journey... I can start to see where the Tolkien connections might come in.
What? Is that a real question? What would Christianity be like 600 years before the birth of its founder?
It'd be a little dull, I imagine...
Yes I was that person and no it wasn't this group. Those comments came from a beta reader.
I don't think style is an issue. (Well for them it's an issue, but not the one you might suppose.) One guy claimed that my writing was too modern and would never get published by a reputable house because of it. He told me that my dialogue tags should never include anything other than the word said. I have ignored everything that has come out of his mouth since.
You had three different readers who used the term "interracial" - two from a workshop? I thought maybe the workshop was this group.
Do be aware that the "nothing but said" rule is a pretty common one. I don't think it's a good one, but someone could follow it and still have other valuable things to contribute.
I did spot some similarities with Tolkien, but that's because you sort of forced my hand. By bringing up Tolkien in the thread title, my brain was then primed with his work in mind - thus making it easier for me to spot - and sometimes force - similarities.
Reading it twice more with a more neutral mindset, I can say that you aren't copying Tolkien. I mean, it's the same genre so there are going to be comparisons. I think it's unfair to label an entire WIP as a copy if it's not even finished, especially because yours is historical fantasy. For now is recommend not taking that criticism too much to heart, because if you do, you're going to start writing your story with the direct objective of not being like Tolkien. You'll be writing something you don't actually want to be writing. Write what you feel you want to, and then if there are any extreme comparisons to be made between your work and that of another, take a moment to think things through.
I think it was called judaism.
KhalieLa, stop fussing so much and let it be. Worrying about it is not healthy, all that time worrying could be better spent polishing and tweaking word choices, descriptions and such. You might need better beta readers and such... many often say they can handle things which they really cannot. Though they do not sound well-read either.
I thought the same thing. I even read Ywhe as Yahweh, which, author, if you didn't know is God. It may be how you subconsciously, or purposely since I have no idea, came up with the name.
It doesn't sound Tolkien to me. I lump elves, dwarves, wizards, etc. into the fantasy genre, but I don't write it. I hardly even read it after having read Tolkien. Personally, the description of a distant nebula is more impressive than the interior of a wizards laboratory.
Well, there you have it really. Of course, you did kind of force me to go looking for any similarities, some of which I might not even have noticed had the topic of this thread not been Tolkien. Like you said, to say one can never base a work on ancient Celtic culture just because a famous writer borrowed heavily from it as well is not fair. Your research seems solid and as a result so are your arguments against these critics. With their mindset, one could not write about giant monsters, since that would be too reminiscent of Lovecraft, one could not write any portal-world fantasy as it would be reminiscent of Lewis, and could not write about war in space because it's "too Star Wars".
In the end, all stories are going to share some elements together. I would not worry too much about it. Just keep on writing your story. The synopsis sounds promising, keep on perfecting it and don't be discouraged by some people that fail to see that all stories, essentially, share at least some elements. If this is going to be the only critique you get, and it overshadows any other constructive feedback, try searching for another group of readers that can look at things a bit more objective, and can look past these little similarities which in my opinion are not heavy enough to make a writer doubt his own work like this. It's unfair, not constructive and "tunnel-vision". The time spent arguing about Tolkien could have better been put to work to give feedback on prose, voice, pacing etc.
Just keep doing what you are doing
You need to toughen up KhalieLa. Clearly you are letting their words get into you and writers need to take the criticism. Learn to listen the right feedback and ignore the useless. You say "I have ignored everything that has come out of his mouth since", but then you talk about it and open up to us.
I can tell that getting published is one of your dreams. If you have a beta reader, who is shitting on you by saying "this way you never get published", you need to move on and leave him out. Why? His/her words, while not possibly meant to hurt, still do. Saying that out loud isn't gonna help anyone and least you. No one needs THAT negative people, who taunt you and pull you down while you chase your dream.
A proper critic would never put you down that badly, calling out absolute results like "you never get published". That's bs and you don't need it. Leave this one out of your loop.
It's your story. I don't see Tolkien elements and even if I did, so what? Almost every single writer that writes fantasy, gets a question or implication of having Tolkien elements. Hell, even GRRM gets that all the time and he keeps repeating how it isn't his doing/purpose. And what GRRM does? Has some magic, medieval type of world and . . . well that's pretty much the similarities.
Tolkien is one of the first to write magnificent fantasy and we deem him as the father of high fantasy. Rooting from there, every single high fantasy story has Tolkien flavours. So crying about Tolkienish in that category, is more or less, useless gibberish.
(Everything I am about to write is my own personal opinion, and I am writing it in the interest of helping you, Khaliela)
The primary issue I am seeing here is that, the story you are trying to tell would be better told as a historical fiction. That would immediately eliminate your issues with being compared to Tolkien. You could even keep the same themes and characters, just do a little bit of tweaking. To be totally honest with you though, your inclusion of what is essentially Yahweh as the villain is a little cringe-worthy. I think your idea for the nature of your villain (essentially being a foreign ethnic culture invading and changing the Celtic way of life) is very good and unique, and you could even personify this villain as a god. However... Yahweh just doesn't really work for me in this setting.
The way I see it, there are really two steps here to remove the issue of being compared to Tolkien if it really bothers you that much.
1. Translate your narrative from High-Fantasy into something closer to Historical-Fiction.
2. Change the name of the villain entity/god. I'm saying this because it "offends" me or anything, it really doesn't, it just doesn't fit with the rest of your story. It sticks out so within your story that its distracting, and takes away from the genuinely interesting narrative you have devised. You could keep the intent, the villainous goal, everything, just change the name to something a little less obvious.
As a suggestion, I would say that a more legitimately evil/foreign god to include which would better fit your setting would be one of the Slavic gods. They would be just alien enough to be seen as foreign and strange to your Celts. Several seem to have a darker tone to them, rather than the often cheerful and helpful Celtic deities. I would recommend checking out Czernobog, and Koschei the Immortal.
Still, you are the creator, your word is the final one. Just because your reviewers say you remind them of Tolkien should not discourage you. Hell, people have been making a living off writing like Tolkien Lotr was first published.
As a writer of high fantasy, I also get accused of this. I've been told that my writing sounds like a lot like Tolkien and Robert Jordan. The funny thing is, it doesn't bother me. Actually I take it as a compliment because I have never read either of those two authors, and didn't even know who RJ was before someone told me.
I should also mention that there are so many times where I am reading about some other work and I find something in there that is exactly like or very very close to something I thought I came up with. So my advice to you is this: You might strive and toil to invent these things in your head from scratch, but the bigger your world and story is, the more likely it is that you're gonna find someone else who beat you to it anyway. It's happened to me like 5 times. I just accept it.
Being called a copycat is part of the criticism part of being an artist. It's no different than someone saying you have no imagination, or that you're an awful writer. People will say these things. Now you need to let go of your pride. For all we know, your story may have similarities to mine and we don't even know each other.
Here are my actual inspirations :
Game of Thrones (I don't watch or read it. Just admire what I hear of it really!)
Harry Potter (Again, only for what I hear. Never read past chapter 1 nor do I care to.)
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Okay, now I'm asking you hear me out on this. I'm not trying to be antagonistic here, just trying to help.
To me, it seems like what you really want is to write a story where the Christian God is the main antagonist. Your goal is to show how, if perceived by an alien culture, the actions of the Christian God could be seen as morally evil instead of morally good. That is totally interesting, and really compelling, but it has been done before. The difference in your narrative seems to be that this difference in perception is actually the main source of conflict for your characters, which I have never personally seen done in a story. So, kudos, your idea is actually quite unique in that sense.
On the negative side...
You've said you want to avoid historical fiction because it require too much research and ties your hands more with the story. This is understandable, however, you've stepped into the limbo that is High-Historical-Fantasy. Ultimately, your world is the real world, but with all the fantastical elements of the various cultures of Europe being real as well. This by itself is difficult to do, because no matter how hard you try, you will always be criticized by history people for over a weak grasp of the actual historical setting (even if you do have a good grasp of it). Fantasy people will criticize you for what they see as laziness; using the real world as a setting and backdrop, but still wanting to write high-fantasy, can make you seem as if you really just didn't want to be bothered with the work of world-building. Like you're taking a shortcut, if you will.
This is the precise reason why Tolkien's writing is and was so successful. He took elements from the real world that the reader was familiar with (European fairytales) and placed them into his own world where he could have free reign to do what he pleased with them without criticism.
Now here's the point:
If you really want to portray the Christian God as the villain, then your entire setting is going to have to follow suit. Bringing the Christian God into Ancient Europe is, well its just odd. The Holy Trinity, the Greek influence, Jesus Christ the man, the role of the Roman Empire in the Middle-East, all of these things are so integral to the "Christian God," that trying to pluck Him out of this setting and place him in Ancient Europe would require immense amounts of research and work in order to do it justice.
So many things would have to be explained.
1. Why is the god's name Yhwe instead of any other of the plethora of names different cultures have given to this entity? Yhwe is actually extremely close to the Hebrew spelling of the name, were you going for that? If so, why and how are the Jews invading Europe?
2. How did this god come to be in Europe? How did a Semitic, monotheistic god come to be within polytheistic Celtic lands without a radical positive message and the roads of an empire to spread it?
3. How could a god that is so obviously seen as evil ever gain any followers or spread his religion?
4. How could this god, which is monotheistic in nature, exist in a world with other gods? How do these other gods have any power over him?
I think you're probably picking up what I'm laying down here, right? If your goal is to write a story with the Christian God as the bad guy, you're going to have to do it justice; buckle down, do the research, and write a fantasy/historical fiction set in about 300-400AD. If you want to write a story which is an accurate depiction of ancient Celtic culture and beliefs, then do the same for that time-period.
If what you really want to write is an intriguing story about a young woman who overcomes adversity and becomes a hero, then write a high-fantasy which includes elements of all these real world cultures.
P.S. While the Celtic and Slavic ethnic groups as a whole never fought any massive battles against each-other, this is more because massive battles did not really happen in ancient Europe, not because they were really friendly with each other. Warfare occurred on a tribe against tribe basis, and the beliefs of the tribe across the river from your own would have often seemed different and strange; let alone the gods and beliefs of an entirely different ethnic group hundreds of miles away. Czernobog is actually an evil deity within Slavic mythology; he is the opposite of Belobog god of light.
Again though, you're the creator. You create, others critique. If you don't like what your critics say about your writing, your choices are to change it to please them, or just ignore them. Either way, you've got to be able to live with your choice.
Separate names with a comma.