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whitesilkbreeze
March 25th, 2006, 08:04 PM
I have a rather ambitious project to write a book this year, although I'm a bit doubtful as to how successful this will be, having never written anything longer than a couple thousand words before. I'm not even sure if my attitude is right -- shouldn't I want to have something to say rather than just write a book?

There are two things I want to write. One is about a magical antiques shop, for lack of a better description, and is slowly cooking in my head. I'm not keen on writing this one yet as it's still working itself out.

The other was to write a fantasy, but I don't have any ideas beyond a fantasy. Whenever I start thinking about it, I also start thinking about books I have read or things I have seen (at the moment, the setting is horrifically like the console game Final Fantasy), and it ends up sounding like a direct rip-off. Perhaps it's because there is nothing I particularly want to say here, or perhaps it's because I haven't read or seen enough to trigger off any of my own ideas, but --

How do you come up with your own ideas rather than copy someone else's ideas? How do you stop yourself from being influenced by others too much?

I'm not sure if I should read more, or come to a better understanding of myself and what I believe in, or if I should allow myself to write the most stereotypical fantasy story in the world, if I so wish, just to kickstart myself and have a good time while I'm doing it. (In fact, I'd be delighted if someone would give me permission to do so. There's a pressure to be original or be sneered at, and I also personally want to be able to approve of my first "book", even if no one else ever sees it.)

Dawnstorm
March 25th, 2006, 09:44 PM
How do you come up with your own ideas rather than copy someone else's ideas?

How about some cliché for an answer?

1. There are no new ideas.
2. No two people see the same idea in the same way.

Have elves. Have dwarves. Have dragons. Have magical rings. Have quests. Have whatever you like, but be sure to know what it means to you.

Having elves because it's fantasy is no good reason to have elves.


How do you stop yourself from being influenced by others too much?

You don't. You embrace the influence. You acknowledge it. It's a tribute to the writers you've enjoyed reading. You're not writing in a vaccuum.

Ask two people to write their own version of a certain story, and you have two different stories. (If they don't forget to insert themselves, that is. ;) )

***


The other was to write a fantasy, but I don't have any ideas beyond a fantasy.

I find this a bit confusing, because a story involving a "magical antique shop" would, in my mind, count as a fantasy.


I'm not sure if I should read more,

Reading never hurts. But you don't have to put off writing until you've read "enough". :)


or come to a better understanding of myself and what I believe in

Writing helps with that. ;)


or if I should allow myself to write the most stereotypical fantasy story in the world, if I so wish, just to kickstart myself and have a good time while I'm doing it.

Yes. :D


There's a pressure to be original or be sneered at, and I also personally want to be able to approve of my first "book", even if no one else ever sees it.

Elizabethan poetry was full of poems that compared "lovers" to a "ship at sea". Everybody knew these poems existed, and yet they wrote more of them. (I wonder if every poet had to write one of those to consider himself a poet? Or did they have a competition going?)

And you know what? They ALL took it from the Italian poet Petrarca (Petrarch), and they knew it.

Originality isn't everything in writing. Relax.

The only way to develope a distinctive style is by writing. Try it, and see where it takes you. :)

b-kreep
March 25th, 2006, 10:50 PM
I've been trying to write a book for the last ten years and have yet to finish one.I used to get frustrated and quit, only to pick up the pen again.I once heard a writer say that when you're writing, you shouldn't read any books.I tried that & it got me nowhere.I get ideas wherever I look, whatever I read & wherever I go.If I'm reading a Conan book and a character is described as a dark woman, I get an idea for a character with jet-black skin.If I'm reading To Kill a Mockingbird and Dill comes on the scene, I get an idea for a dwarf-like character, or a goblin... neither of which is original.My advice is to read as much as possible,watch as many movies as you can, but look at them from a different angle.See the players for what they are, then disect them and pick out the pieces that you want.Also, you may want to try writing in various genres to broaden your skills.That's what I did and I'm happy to say that I've found my niche and on my way.:D

Sid_Fallon
March 26th, 2006, 12:06 AM
In my experience, if you don't have something to say (theme, moral, philosophy, etc.), then you will always run into a dead end and never finish. It's usually possible to just let your mind vent onto paper when writing a short story, but books are obviously more complex by their nature.

The more cooked your idea is, the easier it will be to write it with the least amount of trashing & re-starting. That doesn't mean you can't write, though. Write outlines, story bibles, brainstorm characters and settings, etc. I sometimes even write short stories with possible novel characters in order to develop & solidify my own ideas of what they're like.

Nothing's a rip-off if you're saying it with your words and view points.
It isn't really possible to copy someone accidentally. Unless you accidentally write a book that is word for word in a published work, you don't have anything to worry about.

A lot of people will write stereotypical fantasy simply for fun. There's always "fan" fiction (writing in a published author's world). Although publishing fan fiction is always illegal as far as I know without permission from the author, it's fun and sometimes easier to simply practice the art of writing when you're writing in a world you don't have to think up yourself.

Always read more. Always find out what you believe in and understand yourself. As far as approving as your own first book goes...general understanding is that everyone's first book sucks. At the very least, the first draft of your first book will suck. Keep writing, and keep trying. You learn only by doing.

whitesilkbreeze
March 26th, 2006, 04:03 AM
I find this a bit confusing, because a story involving a "magical antique shop" would, in my mind, count as a fantasy.

When I say fantasy, I usually mean something that is set in another world. It's a very loose definition that doesn't cover stories like Harry Potter, but I call those magical. :p The antiques shop is largely based in our world, and is directed towards children, and is going to be what I would have wanted to read when I was nine or ten.

The fantasy story I am talking about (and have begun world-building for, thanks for the encouragement!) is more the sort of thing I'd enjoy writing. I'm not sure if I'd want to read it, actually, but well. :p

When you say that I should write about elves only knowing what elves mean to me, do you mean I should write about what I think elves are like and how they are important to me?

Glad to know that everyone's (first draft of the) first book sucks! Perhaps if one was a genius, or extremely talented, or had lightyears of practice in writing anothe genre, it might not be so terrible, but as I fall in none of those categories, I'm going to have a good time mucking about in my world!

Thanks again for the advice and encouragement. :)

Dawnstorm
March 26th, 2006, 06:06 AM
When you say that I should write about elves only knowing what elves mean to me, do you mean I should write about what I think elves are like and how they are important to me?

Hmm, that's actually a more difficult question than I originally thought.

For starters, I don't think you need to know in detail what elves mean to you. All I meant to say is that - often - we take elves for granted. We enjoy reading them, but don't question why. And when it comes to writing them, we tend to include them, because "elves are cool". But - since we've never really thought about why we like elves - we don't really know how to write them, and we may end up writing them according to the clichés. Then, they may come off somehow flat.

I think I'm talking about the difference between having "a non-human long-lived race" and describing them and calling them something else, and have people say - wait a minute, aren't those kinda like elves - and just saying "elf" and hoping that evokes the same fluffy feeling with your readers that it evokes with you.

Personally, when I have non-humans in my story I tend to ask myself for biological differences first; if I find none, I just turn them into humans. There's quite the difference between indios and vikings, for example. Biology may not be what works for you. Perhaps it's "world-view". Perhaps it's "morals". (These don't work for me, since I can't imagine a world-view, or morals, that I couldn't attribute to some kind of human. But that's just the limitations of my imagination. :) )

When I say, you should know what elves mean to you, I just meant to say ought to have a feel for what your elves are like, enough so you can write them. I certainly didn't mean you have to be able to write an elven encyclopedia before writing them.

Perhaps it helps to see "elves" as a metaphor? Sometimes, you use a metaphor for poetical effect (then you need to know what your metaphor is a metaphor for). Sometimes, you use a metaphor because you don't know how else to express what you feel (but there's that feeling to sustain the metaphor, so you don't really have to know). Sometimes you use a metaphor because lots of people used it before you; often you're not aware you're using a metaphor (like, when people say "I'm down." or "I don't get it."). That's the situation you should avoid when writing elves.

That said, that's not an easy thing to avoid. And it's not worth fretting over to the extent that it stops you from writing. When it comes to writing, go with your gut. You can always edit later. :)

Holbrook
March 26th, 2006, 06:34 AM
shouldn't I want to have something to say rather than just write a book?

Why? You have a story in your head you want to tell others. It doesn't have to have a message (people will put one in even if you don't ;) ) It just has to be, as Wallace would say, "By heck, Gromit, that was a cracking tale!" In other words just tell the tale you want too.



How do you come up with your own ideas rather than copy someone else's ideas? How do you stop yourself from being influenced by others too much?

You can't. Everything you have read, seen, experienced since you were born has influenced you in some way. You can't filter everything out, for without what is inside your memory you will have nothing to give life to your story.

Think on everything as a pick and mix sweet stall, you pick what flavours you like and eat them in the order you want too. It might be a bit like anothers, but it will be mostly yours.


I'm not sure if I should read more, or come to a better understanding of myself and what I believe in, or if I should allow myself to write the most stereotypical fantasy story in the world, if I so wish, just to kickstart myself and have a good time while I'm doing it. (In fact, I'd be delighted if someone would give me permission to do so. There's a pressure to be original or be sneered at, and I also personally want to be able to approve of my first "book", even if no one else ever sees it.)

Just write the story you have inside you. Don't think of what others might think. You will approve of it, hate it and often wish to bury it, but it will be a story complete from beginning to end. A lot of folks start, but I have found few finish.

GhostShell
March 26th, 2006, 09:49 AM
My influence to write was that i was looking for a particular breed of fantasy that was few and far between, and i keep up momentum because with every new moment and try to take it from a different angle.

With other writers: as was already mentioned its a tribute, sometimes a rebuke: I deliberately avoid things i hate about other fantasies, and i have 3 "one moment" characters, an apprentice wizard named gareth who pops up for a few lines and then vanishes, a thief's errand boy named James and Andrea, a cleric.
Even though it will never be fully evident, as they have maybe one line or something - passing characters and all - they are shout outs to Eddings, Fiest and Rosenberg. The three authors who really brought me into fantasy fiction.

Many of these authors: Eddings, Fiest, Barclay, Rosenberg, Nicholls, Weis and Hickman, Wurts, Martin... (the list goes on) they all remind me how cool characters can be and what an adventure has to feel like, they keep me on track.

I know where all my shout outs are even though their small (deliberatly so), and reading fantasy lets me know what ground has been covered before.

My heroes were original a mish-mash mercenary band but then Barclay's dawnthief came out, his was much better than my idea could have been so i looked at it again and i found a hidden point that made mine what i really want it to become.

Final fantasy is great for scope and when i write i tend to imagine the pace and gradure of it when writing important/impressive moments, or dramatic sequences. Final Fantasy 8 give me drive to write a particular scene in my story that i didn't know how to approach before but the momentum from the game made me feel i could write it. - bares no resemblance to or is in anyway a copy of that game, but it gave me the feel - like listening to fast music during writing fight scenes, if you know what i mean.

If you wanna write a fantasy you enjoy, find the points that you like from what you've read and scene, and find what you hate, now you have parameters you can be happy to work in. Then find the world, some idea of its past (something five lines long when you write the history down) and find how people in general work in that world - after all your world breeds you characters. Then create your story or characters, mine have mish-mashed and shifted so much over three years that they ideas are so different from what they were and they have developed continually.

Most fantasies are propelled by an action, that action draws in the cast and brings them to the forefront. The events begin.

Man i write messages too long, i hope this can help, everyone who has already messaged, i know them quite well, and they all know what they are talking about - give them ear, and search the forum, there is some great knowledge out there to be had, and you may find the one !click! idea that sets off your adventure.

Like it was said earlier, you will see a plot differetly than someone else, its original because you are writing it with your characters, their beliefs, ploting and world around the characters. You make it original by making things the way you prefer and not the way others do. JUst make sure you write it for you, your wants, not for other people or to be successful, because it will be impossible for that reason. Write for you and you won't notice when you've already achieved what you set out to do.

Good Luck
Chris.

TheGhost
March 26th, 2006, 11:55 AM
It's your book. Write it how you want, but keep two things in mind:

1) Remember that you have an audience, and an author's primary duty is to entertain them. That entertainment can come through many ways, for in any story you'll always find action, emotion, loss, comedy, romance, etc. When you don't entertain that audience, they fall asleep or, worse, shut the book forever.

2) Influences are fine, and indeed one common saying about writing is that good writers borrow and great writers steal. And there is a whole world of literature and story-telling and ideas and history to draw from, not just fantasy. If you find your themes and story echoing too closely a fantasy you've read before, do some more reading outside the genre. There's a long list of great works of literature, and what makes them great? Examine the methods that make those stories so lasting, and adapt some of those methods to your own writing.


Ghostie

KatG
March 26th, 2006, 12:59 PM
Well, you're getting a lot of instruction here, aren't you? :) So here's mine:

1) Don't use the fantasy-magical nomenclature. You'll only confuse folk. There is no separate category of magical fiction. (Well, there's the magic realists, but let's not even go there.) It's all fantasy. The alternate, imaginary realm that is very common in the epic fantasy sub-genre of fantasy is not the only way to do a fantasy story. In fact, it can be argued that it's not even the most common scenario anymore. Contemporary and urban fantasy stories, especially supernatural stories with witches, vampires or ghosts, are going great guns in the genre, so a story about a magical antique store might be just the ticket in the market. (Harry Potter is contemporary children's fantasy -- officially middle school, though the series has sort of moved on into young adult.)

In other words, you are not obligated to write about the medieval land of Zoog, and to people Zoog with dragons, elves and whatnot. Especially if you really have little interest in writing about Zoog. I mean, if you start off bored, why wouldn't we be on reading about it? I'd rather read about the antique store.

2) The stories that many fans laud as original and innovative really aren't very much those things. What they often are is very noir and violent, which a lot of people like and see as edgy. (This is especially the case with male readers, and sff still has a predominantly male audience.)

But these writers are also dealing with interesting stories and tackling subjects in a way that people find refreshing. The writer's style, way with words, abilities with characterization or dialogue -- there are many aspects of a writer's work which people may find creative or even feel are very fresh, even if it's the umpteenth story about vampires, war or dragons, and whether it's very noir or not. That's what Dawnstorm means, I think, about doing elves your way. But that's likely only to work if you actually want to write about elves.

And no matter what you do, it's only going to work with some people, not all of them. No matter how innovative and original some fans feel you to be, there will be others who believe that you are horribly derivative and cliched, or just plain no good. If you want to be read, you have to get used to that. The more people you attract to your novels, the more of both kinds -- fans and critics -- there will be.

3) Ideas you can work with are the ideas that interest you. Otherwise, it's rather hard to sustain a story over the weeks or months it will take you to write a long work. If you practice looking for things that surround you that catch your eye, and they can be little things, you may find that your mind then takes that bit that caught your attention and starts to play with it. Which is how you end up with a magical antique store, for example. Such imaginings from the world around you may lead you to the imaginary world of Zoog, or just to your own street in New York, or to a farm, or to a futuristic city filled with alchemists, but you do have to go there on your own.

4) Avoiding being influenced by others -- you're going to be influenced sometimes, maybe without even consciously noticing it. One of the reasons I had to shelve a project, for instance, was that I kept lapsing into what you could call the Brit-mode of fantasy, and the story didn't need that. But there's this wonderful thing called revision. Anything you put into a story can be taken out or changed, so if you identify something that you think is too like a better known story, you can fix it. So if you want permission to write any old thing without worrying about that aspect, there it is -- you can put anything you want into the manuscript, because a manuscript isn't print. Until you plan to market the work, you don't have to worry about influences. But if you do notice you're going down a well-worn path, and one that isn't working for you, as I did, you can also stop in the middle of writing and turn around and try something else.

What you can't do is read every genre fantasy novel (including tie-ins) that has been written in the last fifty years. Or even the last twenty. And there have been an awful lot of them, which is a wonderful thing for which we should be thankful. So the odds that you will do something similar in story structure, characterization, fantasy elements, etc., to what somebody else has done before, are very high. So unless you have a pal read material and that pal says, "oh, that's just like so and so's story," it's again not something to lose a lot of sleep over.

4) Which is very hypocritical of me to say, because I lose sleep over it all the time. Everybody does. But you can't let it stymie you too much. Read widely in the fantasy genre (including those contemporary stories you think of as magical,) because it will help you get ideas (which is a good thing and the reason you liked fantasy in the first place,) and let you know what other authors have been doing out there. And because the more you read, generally the better a writer it may make you.

Unless of course, you are one of those writers who cannot read anybody else's stuff while trying to create or you go into a writers block funk, in which case avoid other fiction works like the plague. :)