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Monday, February 16, 2015

Coincidence vs. Influence

Back in September, I blogged (again) about those "oh, shit" moments I've had when realizing something I've written is very, very similar to something that already exists. It's happened to me a couple times, but I've reassured myself that there's always enough differences for it not to be a big deal. To recap that particular post, I'd just sent in the manuscript for The Fall of the Midnight Scorpions, had played through Dragon Age: Origins, and to my surprise/dismay, one scene in the former bore a striking similarity to one in the latter.

Sometimes the reverse happens, and I fully acknowledge what has influenced me in writing. In a very old post, I freely admitted that the setting for the interlude between Parts 2 and 3 in The Edge of the Sphere came right out of one of the games in the Myst series. It wasn't an exact replica, and I did make some changes; even if someone who was familiar with the game read that scene (or vice versa), I doubt he/she would think, "Hey, that seems an awful lot like ______!"

Then there's a third situation that sometimes occurs, and it's where I find myself now: starting to write something and not realizing until the project is underway what, precisely, were the influences that shaped the ideas. My current WIP, about two-thirds of the way done, mostly takes place in a fantasy setting. There are dragons. From this post alone, it's not too hard to tell what helped inspire me. (I think my thought process was actually something along the lines of "Man, I really love Dragon Age, and there are some kick-ass women in that series. I should write something with dragons and kick-ass women!)

I planned, I outlined, I sat down to write. It wasn't until recently that I started pinpointing the other influences that snuck in. Granted, generic "fantasy" has a lot of common elements, but I noticed some more specific similarities sneaking in. The biggest one (that I laughed at) was when I went back to do some revising, I finally noticed that my heroine bears a striking resemblance to Princess Cassima from King's Quest VI, one of THE games of my childhood.

Minus the pointy hat/head scarf thingabob

I know, I know. At first glance, the "damsel in distress" thing has been done to death. But while both Cassima and my female lead are imprisoned and technically need to be rescued, don't underestimate them. In fact, the only way to win KQVI is to sneak Cassima a dagger before triggering the final sequence so she can bail your ass out in the final battle. (Didn't give her the dagger? Game over. Hope you have an earlier save state.) As for my character...well, I can't give away everything here. ;)

I can pinpoint the influence of other books/games/movies not only in this story, but in just about everything I've written. I don't consider it a bad thing - we all have the books/games/movies we love, and as long as it's not a blatant ripoff (and who's to judge what is or isn't), it's fun to pay homage to the fiction that's shaped us. After all, no one ever sets out to emulate crap, right?


  1. I do love the twist in that game! That is what awesome is made of. :)

    I agree. It's totally okay to be influenced by great things we love. ^_^ But I still

  2. Oh no! I meant to say, but I still cringe when I find out something I'm working on is eerily similar to something I've recently read or watched.