View Full Version : How do you keep from being too derivative?
July 8th, 2003, 11:23 PM
Simple question, but very hard to do in practice. What do you guys do when you find that your story is starting to sound an awful lot like something else you've read. Every hard scifi story I write tends to lean towards Star Wars or Star Trek a little and before long, I lose my originality in there. What do you guys (and gals) think?
July 8th, 2003, 11:44 PM
Here, let me blab a little bit about my problem.
I haven't written in a while, been busy. But now, for reasons I'll leave to mystery, I have a lot of time on my hands and want to do something besides sit around and play Morrowind (great fantasy PC game, but that's besides the point) all day.
I talked about this story idea a while back, you may remember.
Anyway, here goes...
I am making a scifi/fantasy story. It is a little of both. Anyway, there is this secret brotherhood of monk-like people who learn to harness the natural energies in the universe to perform amazing feats. They are basically psions, psychic warriors. This is a very secret brotherhood though. They live on a rather small island in which there is a great stronghold built into. This is their sole base of operation, where they train and where they run their business from. Anyway, I got this far. Organizing all my thoughts about this brotherhood and then I got to thinking. This sounds an awful lot like Star Wars!
Hmm... what can I do to add some originality to this. Or should I just scrap the idea and run with my other idea about the psychic detective (see my other post about extraordinary/average oe chars.)???
Thanks in advance for your help!
July 9th, 2003, 02:15 AM
Simple... carry on writing it but make it bigger and better and write it so brilliantly that the reader is so busy hanging on your every word they can't possibly even think of Star Wars... that's all. :D
July 9th, 2003, 02:53 AM
I have the same problem when it comes to my writing!
Every writer draws on, what they know and experience to make their work have meaning to the reader. It is hard to avoid a lot of Sci fi plots as there is always a current theam within them, it's all about taking an existing idea and bringing a new direction/twist to it.
Don't take it as a bad thing if your work sounds like an episode from Star trek, it's not a bad thing.
As you have identified the problem with you own work, you are half way there to becoming a better writer.
I was advised to try and read books from different genre's to broaden my own knowledge
I hope this makes some sense or at least helps a bit
July 9th, 2003, 03:25 AM
...brotherhood of monk-like people who learn to harness the natural energies in the universe to perform amazing feats.
This is precisely what is in my current work in progress! Excepting mine is not secretive, nor live on an island - they are simply based on general monastic living of the western European Middle-Ages.
Does this mean it's unoriginal? Not in the slightest. The problem is nothing more than repeating historical motiffs in a different (ie, futuristic) setting.
What makes my own use of it original is the actual theory behind these people and their abilities - I use them as a vehicle for some immense specualtive ideas.
I never even thought of there being a possible comparison to Star Wars until I sent it out for editorial review, where it was distinctly pointed out. I even used the word "Knight" as well! Now changed.
The problem with Star Wars and Jedi Knights is simply because Lucas took the age-old romance of mediaeval Knights (especially Teutons, etc) and applied it in a sci-fi setting. And as Star Wars became a global phenomenon it sometimes seems as if he has patented the simply transferrence of using mediaeval knights in a sci-fi setting! Which, of course, he has not.
At the end of the day, there's often someone somewhere who's already covered any theme in question - it's up to ourselves as writers to ensure that our use of such themes in a distinctly personal and unique way.
July 9th, 2003, 06:52 AM
I think that almost everything has been done/written about in some form or another and it's entirely possible to draw comparisons between lots of work, especially when they are in the same genre. For me it's important to develop your own voice (for the want of a better word) and tell your story - no matter how similiar to somebody elses it might appear -.:)
July 9th, 2003, 06:04 PM
You add depth and realism. Large concepts can be similar to other large concepts but you need to try and get the "small stuff" as original as possible. Everyone starts with "cliche" type ideas. That doesn't mean it isn't good. My main villains in my fantasy are a group of aliens that can take human form and don't posses emotions as humans do. Wow, that is so done already! :) But from this I have added originality and placed them in my own unique world. They look different and act differently then what people have seen before. I find that by reading and continuing to add more and more little pieces of information that I can't help but be original. The main concept puzzle is familiar (which is actually helpful) but everything else is a smaller piece of that puzzle that the reader needs to put together themselves.
July 9th, 2003, 08:27 PM
Not to be a stick-in-the-mud or anything, but it also sounds a lot like the Bene Gesserit from Frank Herbert's "Dune" series, which is in fact a lot like the Jedi from Star Wars without the psychokenisis (but they do have mind control, extra-human control of body etc.).
That as may be, though, it is all up to how you write it. True enough, almost every concievable theme has already been written (not to say they've all been done, but to come up with something truely unique is what we strive for, right?), so I think the goal is to write it in a unique way, different world etc. etc.
Just so long as the story-line isn't about a pathetic wannabe farmer training to become one of these "monks" in order to save the universe from a "dark force" I don't think there will be a problem.
July 9th, 2003, 10:16 PM
You just have to be creative and thoughtful. Give it your own personal spin. A bit of this, a bit of that, and it's never going to be a replica of another novel/series. With all my stories I try to use a different setting each time. Especially in fantasy, a lot of people tend to stick to the usual pseudo-medieval setting. And in sci-fi a spaceship in space or soldiers on a planet. (Watch the show "The Outer Limits" for good examples of how to create sci-fi stories that are original and unique) Mix it up a bit.
July 10th, 2003, 10:28 AM
As others have said, it's nigh on impossible to be totally original.
What matters is the twist and spark of your own, that you add to whatever the genre is.
Try not to go down the most obvious path with your idea. Think of new directions to take it and try to surprise your reader with something out of the blue.
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