Monday, April 14, 2014

L = Leave Other People's Ideas in Other People's Books

If you like a book, don’t copy it. 

Ever since Twilight was published, the majority of YA romance books contain a clearing. Always a clearing. 

Need conflict? Have the MC orphaned and living with a cruel uncle and aunt, a la Harry Potter. 

The hero doesn’t have to have perfect abs, perfect grades, popularity, a nice car and skills in every sport. The heroine doesn’t need to be pretty but clumsy. Or pretty but doesn’t realize it. Every vampire doesn’t have to become suddenly beautiful. Every forbidden love story doesn’t have to involve a werewolf and vampire couple. I feel bad for my Native American friends, because people expect them to be wiser than the average person. What pressure. If you thought a plot twist was spectacular, don’t steal it and change the names to put it in your book as your own work.


Just as there are only twelve musical notes which can be made into an infinite combination of beautiful or horrendous sounds, there are an infinite number of plots that can spring from a basic formula of HERE WE ARE + SOMETHING HAPPENS + THINGS ARE TENSE = THINGS RESOLVE. They don’t all have to involve superpowers, too-perfect characters, love triangles, or—*shudder*—a clearing.

56 comments:

  1. Yes, yes, yes. And not to turn this into a traditional vs self publishing thing (we're not anti-traditional) but one of the things that really bothered us was that many times traditional publishers absolutely loved our books but would pass on them simply because it was too unique and would be "difficult to guarantee numbers." Their exact words. Instead, they'd opt for another rehashed Twilight/HP/Hunger Games novel of lesser quality because that IS a proven sale.

    Personally, I think if the traditional market was more willing to take a risk on unique stories, that writers would feel a lot less pressured to write to a fad just to get that first big sale.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. First comment of the day! You won a prize...it was a great piece of chocolate and I ate it since I don't know where you live. You're welcome.

      The first stuff I ever read from you guys was on Alex's blog where you talked about this exact thing. I think the "we'll only take the same rehashed ideas" thing is what drives a lot of authors to self-publish. Frankly, I'm glad for it, because I am beginning to avoid books that even hint at the shape-shifter/Twilight/HarryPotter anything. I want something I haven't already read.

      By the way, your post today on pro wrestlers had me struggling to hold myself together. Just when I think you can't get any funnier, Monday comes again. :)

      Delete
  2. Hi, Lynda. Just found you via your comment on Author Bloggers, Reviewers, & Supporters at Goodreads. This is a nice piece of work you're doing here.

    Beer: What I often got from traditional publishers was, "You have a good story here, but it is too similar to a property we are already handling. Perhaps you should shop it somewhere else." Damned if you do, damned if you don't... What I have also found is that no one is ever going to tell you that your work is substandard, because the next time they see you, you might be on Oprah touting your best-seller, and calling them out for a bunch of hacks that didn't know greatness when they had it in their hands. Writing is the hardest business in the world to break into; you seriously have a better chance of making your country's Olympic team...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jack, I'm so glad you found your way here and took the time to comment!

      I guess the responses authors get can vary greatly from publisher to publisher. I think you're right, though, about them covering their butts. Nobody wants to be known as the person who turned down the next Stephen King.

      My Olympic chances are looking better and better...

      Delete
  3. HERE WE ARE + SOMETHING HAPPENS + THINGS ARE TENSE = THINGS RESOLVE...In a clearing? lol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. NO CLEARING AND NO CAPES!! Also, no love triangles. And no shape-shifting. Um...and no insta-love, for sure. I'll think up some more rules and will get back to you.

      Delete
  4. That's the trouble with today's traditional publishers. They find a trend and then go with it until it peeters out. I think they should always be open to new ideas even if they're not trendy at the moment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a shame, too, because by the time the trend runs its course, nobody even wants to bother reading the better books in the genre.

      Delete
  5. Ah, yes. Imitation is the sincerest form of plagiarism, or something...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure that's the axiom...pretty sure, anyway.

      My cousin is a professor at a college, and he deals with students plagiarizing, admitting it, and genuinely not realizing it's wrong/illegal.

      Sometimes imitation is the quickest route to irritation.

      Delete
  6. One of the stereotypes that bothers me in current YA fiction is the popular girl who's always pretty but mean and the nerdy girl who's always smart but nice. To tell you the truth, I've met plenty of girls who are popular and smart and pretty, and nerdy girls who don't have good grade and mean as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Karen, I am right beside you on this. I hate any of the stereotypes. Why does the mean person suddenly become nice when someone befriends them? It reminds me of how television shows turn a woman into a beauty by removing her glasses. The best, most creative characters are the ones who really don't fit into any mold.

      Thanks for "coming down the mountain" to stop by and comment! I've been enjoying your blog.

      Delete
  7. No love triangles in clearings in my books!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ..but you didn't say no werewolves...hmm...I guess I'll just have to read all the Cassa books to know for sure. You should have that as one of your promo pieces: "No love triangles! No clearings! Just pure space adventure!"

      Delete
  8. No triangles, werewolves, superpowers, vampires....or clearings!!! And no orphans. Lots of bad childhoods, but no orphans.

    My hubs has Huron ancestry...he'd say he does know all the wisdom of the world ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HA! We'll give your husband a pass for today. Just today, though.

      Delete
  9. It is a hard thing to be original but we must try. Personally if the story is good I will read it. Speaking for at least the Cherokee, I would like to say yes...wise people we are...lol.

    Brandon Ax: Writer's Storm

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for chiming in for the Cherokee nation, Brandon. I look forward to your wise words in tomorrow's comments. ;)

      Delete
  10. I think the issue arises from confusing the use of archetypes in writing with using cliche'd characters. So to use your example - the archetypes are the notes in music and the characters are the difference between Beethoven and Bon Jovi...imagine if Bon Jovi just did adaptations on Beethoven?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think Beethoven and Bon Jovi were distant cousins (if I'm remembering my music history correctly) and everything Bon Jovi has written has been Beethoven-esque in the sense that Beethoven used E minor chords, and...wait for it...so did Bon Jovi! Coincidence? I think not. If you want a real treat, you should try this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAM1MKi7bNU

      Dread Zeppelin, who shows you that anything is possible with music. Led Zep music sung by an Elvis impersonator in reggae style. You're welcome.

      Delete
  11. It's hard to always be original but it's definitely possible to be unique in your telling of a story. Must haunted houses always be cryptic looking and a new family moving in? What about a new spin on the tale of what is considered haunted? I think one way of turning an already told tale on it's head is by writing about a different POV - sure, the vampire the girl and the werewolf may be a feature but what about the school bus driver that has to tote them all back and forth? He has a story too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oooh, the school bus driver! Everyone overlooks him. That's a great way to be original!

      Delete
  12. Gee, I haven't got a clearing in one of my books yet, but I'm writing that down. Also my characters haven't blurted. I can't write that verb without laughing. Maybe it's me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wait! I have to take that last bit back. One did blurt. I hate that every time I read it, so guess I blocked it from my mind. "Arrrg," she blurted.

      Delete
    2. HAHAHAHA! If you're going to blurt, then "arrrg" would certainly be the word for it. When I see "blurted" I always think "blarted" and picture whichever character is speaking as giving someone raspberries on their tummies, like you'd do to a toddler. Just don't blurt (or blart) in a clearing. You'll scare the wildlife.

      Delete
  13. LOL! I had not realized clearings were trending in YA books. I'm going to watch for that now.

    True Heroes from A to Z

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm probably offending 75% of the writers with that one, but I just can't take it anymore. They can even be in a field, but just don't say "clearing." ugggghhhh

      Delete
  14. Things become cliche' for a reason....usually a bad one :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, nobody really goes looking for clichés, do they? Not the most popular of literary gems.

      Delete
  15. If I could send a Terminator back through time, it would go after Stephanie Myer. Just for her complete debasement of vampires and werewolves and because the 50 shades series began as a Twilight fanfic. Really, how much damage can one person do? :-P

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's the butterfly effect, literary style. Let me know if you ever manage to send back a Terminator and I'll send you a large gift basket of your favorite things. Or even a broquet (see SK Anthony's "B" word for the photo & definition).

      Delete
  16. I've noticed these trends, which is why my next book is going to be about an ugly, graceful girl who falls for a repulsive vampire sporting a beer belly. The love triangle will not involve werewolves. I've decided to go with trolls. Really mix things up, you know?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. *Jumping up and down* I CAN'T WAIT I CAN'T WAIT I CAN'T WAIT I CAN'T WAIT!!!! EEEEE

      I have a "thing," if you will, for beer-bellied vampires. If you make him sing Broadway show tunes, I'll buy all your books and give them to the literarily needy. I swear it.

      Delete
  17. So true. Its like a topic become hot and now everyone jumps on that band wagon. Even book cover styles. Seems like very new release now looks like it could be a Fifty Shades book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right about the covers. I deal with those on my "Z" day. So many of them look the same, and I find myself rejecting books based on their cover sameness.

      Delete
  18. Oh my goodness, I love this post so, so much. It's so true. Even if you love something, I think that's all the more reason not to copy anything it did. Being original is difficult, but a good way to work towards that is to check and see if what you've done happened in any of your favorite books. I think subconsciously we always go back to things we love, and themes and concepts that were in books we loved, but it's a good habit to fight.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I think it's tough to be original in everything, but to purposely copy something that's successful and not change much gets tiring for readers.

      Delete
  19. I guess I am going to have to scrap my rough draft and start again... hahahaha.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hahaha...I wish I could say I was sorry... *runs away*

      Delete
  20. You're so right! So many stories all have the same plots!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's amazing. Once you start to notice them, you see them everywhere.

      Delete
  21. Makes logical sense. While I like a few certain types of characters, I'm certainly not going to write them the exact same way as everyone else. That wouldn't be original.

    A-Z Challenge at Father Nature's Corner

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would hope that most authors, if they're creative enough to write a book, are creative enough to think of their own characters. All you have to do is look around and see how different people are in any group, anywhere.

      Thanks for the visit and the comment, G. B.!

      Delete
  22. I'm getting caught up on my A-to-Z posts, and I am loving your theme. Awesome advice bites! Today's is a perfect example. It's an important reminder to draw inspiration from others, but not to mimic...unless, of course, it's about a clearing. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Now everyone is going to add clearings to clearing-free novels just to make me read them, lol.

      Imitating a favorite author's style is fine, but imitating their content is another thing entirely.

      I need to get caught up, too. I've missed yours the past few days and saw Johnny Cash in there. I will catch up, I promise!

      Delete
  23. Excellent post and good point. I know that copying is a form of flattery, but it also lacks originality/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would feel as if I were in one of those "Congratulations! You showed up and got a trophy!" situations if I were to copy someone's ideas.

      Delete
  24. This is an awesome post! Thankfully, none of my stories feature a clearing, vampires, werewolves, or shape shifters, so I'm feeling pretty confident there. LOL.

    But it is frustrating when publishers follow those trends and miss out on other great stories.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You bring up a valid point that the A Beer for the Shower guys mentioned above. The publishers are so busy only taking what's already selling that they're missing some really great stuff right under their noses, and that's got to be frustrating to authors who KNOW their writing is better than what's at Barnes & Nobel on the shelves.

      Delete
  25. Yes, yes, yes! This was the hardest lesson to get across when I was teaching high school creative writing--tell your story not someone else's!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. SO hard to teach kids about this, especially, because they read and like what they've read, and often can't see beyond that idea. More power to you for trying.

      Delete
    2. Hmmm, I think I missed the memo about the clearing. I did have an LA parking lot does that count? How about a couple of warehouses? There are no trees there. Vampires? Yes, it is kinda hard to have a story ABOUT vampires without having vampires in it. Let's see what rules did I not break...

      Delete
  26. "Every vampire doesn’t have to become suddenly beautiful."

    You really need to read Beauty Is For Suckers by M.A. Carson. Talk about turning a trope upside down...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've heard good things about that book! Actually, I may have heard them from you. See, I do listen to you once in awhile.

      I'm all for reading the books that don't conform.

      Delete

I love comments, and will always answer them, partly because I like having the last word and partly because I just like getting to know the people who read my blog. (Note: if the post is more than a couple weeks old, your comment will automatically go into the "needs approval" folder, but I will still publish it and reply!)