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Old 12-30-2008, 11:01 AM
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I've looked around the site a bit to try and find an answer to this question, but so far have come up empty-handed. At least, I haven't found a question exactly like mine and don't really know what terms to search for.

In my current WIP, I have a memory from my main character's past that really affects how she grew up, who she is as a person now, etc. Upon giving the chapter with it to a few friends to review, I was horror struck when they said that the memory was familiar. They informed me that the scene was very similar to one in a best-selling novel a few years back. I know that I've read the book in question and seen the subsequent movie, but until I went back and re-read the chapters in question I honestly couldn't have told you much about the story itself. I remembered the gist of it, but the specific scenes and the characters just weren't memorable to me, well consciously I suppose.

Now, I'm not sure what I should do. I know that I'll need to do some sort of rewrite on the scene to make it more original and less likely to be confused with the other book, but I'm not sure how much I need to change.

I guess the character's back stories are similar...

In my story, when my main character was 13, she walked in on her mothers coven performing a standard Wiccan ritual. Because of her mood at the time, she takes everything out of context and forms horrible assumptions about the religion as a whole. She cuts her mother out of her life, choosing to live with her father and his new wife. Seven years later, she is forced into seeing her mother, which causes more drama in her life and helps set up the rest of the story.

People are comparing this to the scenes in The Da Vinci Code where Sophie walks in on her grandfather's secret society ritual. She then runs away and never speaks to her grandfather again.

I can definitely see the similarities between the two scenes now that I've re-read the chapters from The Da Vinci Code, but I'm at a loss for what I should do about it. The misunderstanding about the religion and cutting her mother out of her life is a big part of her back story and really defines who she is as a person at the beginning of the story.

The fact that the idea behind the character's back stories are so similar is what has me most worried. I'm pretty certain that I could easily come up with a different scenario for her animosity with her mother if I needed to, but I can't change who my character is without it pretty much ruining the entire novel. Getting over these misconceptions is one step in a long line of internal revelations that my character has to go through to grow as a person throughout the course of the story. This specific step actually makes her consciously realize that maybe she should rethink some of her other preconceived notions.

I hope that my problem isn't too vague. Have any of you ever experienced something similar? Where you unintentionally used an idea from another book or story in a different context. What did you do about it? Do I need to do anything about it? How much unintentional similarity is too much? Gah! I'm so confused...

Thanks in advance,

~Willow

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Old 12-30-2008, 11:34 AM
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Willow--keep your character's back story. Similar things happen all the time in books of different types, so there's no reason for you to change yours.

If this WIP is a rough draft, scenes that contain the back story will most likely morph anyway, and take on a life of their own, not so similar to the one mentioned. Other things will reveal themselves in the process, which will flesh things out and set it apart from the other, more well-known back story.

Now, if you'd taken the exact same scenario as the more familiar back story (and I mean exact, verbatim) then one might think you're trying to plagiarize. But ideas can't be copyrighted, so you're safe in that respect.

Your character is your character, and if something happens in a certain way, you need to go with it. Like I said, things will most likely change anyway as the story becomes more developed. I know I've had things come out about my characters I never even suspected that have strengthened the story line and their interactions with each other.

But I digress. I truly wouldn't worry about it. If you're still worried, and you want to keep things relatively the same, see what smaller aspects can be changed or worked in to set your character's back story apart from the other. It doesn't have to be drastic.

Hope this helped.

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  #3  
Old 12-30-2008, 11:44 AM
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I'm sure if any aspiring author looks hard enough they'll find a novel (or even novels) that are similar or even identical to their own. I wouldn't worry about yours being the same. I can understand how it would unnerve you to realise that someone else had written a similar story to yours, but the thing about ideas is that they can't be plagiarised.

When I wrote my first book, I knew that anyone who read it (anyone who knew Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six) would draw comparisons between my anti-terrorist team and Clancy's. But, after some consultation on a forum like this, I learned that ideas aren't protected by copyright.

Hope this calms you down.
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Old 12-30-2008, 11:52 AM
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Thanks a lot Devon!

I'm pretty certain that I'm going to edit the setting a little bit to try and give it a different feel, if possible. If two different people got that same vibe from the memory, then I'm sure a little more variation couldn't hurt.

The main thing that confuses me is that, yes they have a similar back story, but different people have similar life experiences all the time. Yes, they both walk in on a ritual that they don't understand. Yes, they both cut a family member out of their life because of it, but I think that it's a normal reaction to the circumstances. The incidents affect their lives, but those lives are very different. That's the extent of the similarities in my mind, well once I slightly alter the ritual that my character walks in on, which isn't exactly the same, but similar enough to warrant revision.

This is definitely a rough draft, but the entire thing is outlined in amazing detail. My beta reader says that the first draft is written, I just lapsed into moments of writing in the wrong POV, lol. My outlines are all stream-of-consciousness (She goes here and does that, which makes this happen...) so it's almost like a narrator keeps slipping in and taking over my first person novel, lol. I even wrote a scene where the outline was longer than the actual finished work. oops, found myself a tangent again...

But anyway, thanks for the advice. I found it very helpful.

~Willow
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Old 12-30-2008, 06:13 PM
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Like the others said, don't worry if it sounds familiar. There's really nothing new under the sun, and with so many writers and books out today, you can't really help but find some that sound similar without ever being related.

My advice for you to tweak the backstory a bit, though, is for you not to have your character walk in on her mother's coven. Perhaps have her watch from a hiding place, overhear the rites and investigate, etc. The rest I'd say you should keep mostly the same, as it seems quite essential to your plot. The little change in how she discovers her mother is likely enough to keep readers from thinking, "This is exactly like The Da Vinci Code!" And when you go back to edit, look for places where you can insert little extras to further increase the difference, perhaps putting the characters in a sort of mood that The Da Vinci Code doesn't include. I've never read the book myself, but I'd guess there's indignation, anger, sense of betrayal, shock, etc. Shock you have to keep, but perhaps keep the character's anger contained, making her more cold than exploding into a tantrum. That sort of thing.

Don't worry about it, though. A lot of writers would be flattered if you wrote something similar to one of their scenes. A famous author (Yeah, I forgot his name) once said, "I'd rather see an engaging, well-written rip-off of my work than read a pile of completely original drivel." And as their lives are completely different, there's no worries. If people got sued over that sort of thing, ninety percent of sword and sorcery authors would be accusing other S&S authors of stealing their enchanted weapons and battle scenes
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  #6  
Old 12-30-2008, 06:38 PM
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You guys really are the best! I knew that I liked this forum before I joined it, now I feel first hand why I was right about you guys.

I think I just had that moment of, "Oh my gods, I had no idea!!!" *panic* when I read my friend's e-mails. But, after reading all of your encouraging words and calming down a bit, I can see that you are all exactly right. I'm not intentionally using his idea, hell I even forgot it existed and it's not exactly the same, so I should be good.

Daedalus: It's so nice to know that someone else has gone though this and that you're so willing to share your experiences with new writers like myself. Thanks!

Winterbite: Your advice is wonderful. Luckily, the similarities are only present in one scene, where the entire memory finally floods back without her permission, so extended rewrites won't be too horrible.

My character actually runs into the room, upset and freaking out and wanting her mother's help, only to see a skyclad coven of witches doing a ritual. I'm pretty sure that the character in The Da Vinci Code went to find her grandfather in a happy, "I'm going to surprise you by coming home early," type of mood.

Man, I just re-read that scene this morning and it's already gone from my memory... I know that at one time I was totally hooked on Dan Brown's novel's, but now I can't remember anything specific about any of them... d'oh! there I go, running away on a tangent again...

Actually, most of my nerves were because the author whose idea I have unknowingly used is one of the few that made the news because they were sueing people for plaigerising and ripping them off. But now, after hearing all of your wonderful advice, I'm not worried anymore. My story is completely different from his and the moods and scenery surrounding my scene are different as well, well the reactions are similar, but really, how would you react to something like that? For whatever reason you walk into a room at your house and find your parents engaged in something like that, something that you don't understand at all? Knowing my character so well, I can see why she'd run off and lock herself in her room until she was able to find alternate livng arrangements too. Which, she was able to do very easily, having divorced parents and all.

Darn it, there I go making enormous posts again... I just get so wrapped up when I'm writing, I forget how much space I'm taking up...

Thanks again everyone! You are all completely awesome!

~Willow
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Old 01-02-2009, 03:40 PM
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Yes, I would suggest keeping it.

Every piece of writing, except the original works of each genre, takes a piece from other writings.

The link with the Da Vinci Code might even interest readers. However, I would suggest changing several factors of that part. Read the Da Vinci Code (that part, anyway), and see what you can change to alter it so the reader doesn't automatically think of it. They will, doubtless, but that doesn't make your writing bad.
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Old 01-02-2009, 09:18 PM
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Thanks SW! I never thought about the minute similarities actually helping the feel of the story like that. I've already went through and noted a few minor changes that I think will not only give the scene a slightly different feel, but also make how it affects my main character more realistic.

The type of advice that everyone has given me regarding this matter makes me so glad that I joined this group. Not only do I get to talk with wonderful people and read their amazing works, but I'm growing as a writer as I go. So thanks everyone!
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Old 01-02-2009, 10:10 PM
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It's probably already been said, or at least something similar has been said, but humans have been alive and writing for thousands of years. It is almost certain that, somewhere in the history of humankind, a story very much like yours will have been written. Nothing can be truly 'original'.

The best thing to do is just keep going and, as you do, just try to give it your own personal 'flare'.

For example, with my story:
Semi-futuristic, post-apocalyptic story. It's been done, a fair few times.
Add to that the cause of the 'apocalypse'--a big ol' rock. Still been done, but it narrows it down a bit.
Add to that the widespread belief that God brought about the apocalypse to punish mankind for their misdeeds. That's gettin' a fair bit more original.
For once, it's not the US of A that has survived, almost there.
The two remaining nations are engaged in a bloody war to achieve supremacy and conquer what few resources remain; a hint of originality there

Then there's the real plot twist that i ain't gonna reveal, sufficed to say: Originality achieved.

From that, you can clearly see that, whilst several ideas of mine have been done before, as you work through it there are details in your own story that really define it as something different.

Also, as the others have said, as you write more different ideas will come to you. You will progress your own plot to lengths you never originally planned.
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Old 01-02-2009, 10:26 PM
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Originally Posted by ArchAngel View Post
Also, as the others have said, as you write more different ideas will come to you. You will progress your own plot to lengths you never originally planned.
Oh, believe me I know this. 50% of my original plot was scrapped when I realized that I had misinterpreted a couple of scenes that had been playing in my head. First, I was wrong about when in my main character's life this story occurs... four years off. (oops! Well, she is quite mature for her age in my defense.) Then, I finally figured out who the villain was as they'd been lurking in the shadows the entire time. Learning the identity and story behind my "bad guy" opened up such a good plot twist that I couldn't resist adding in new scenes to set it all up.

It may have been a lot of work fixing these problems, but it's all been worth it and I've had a blast writing this story. I'm currently at around 85,000 words and it's growing every day!
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Old 01-03-2009, 02:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Willow View Post
Oh, believe me I know this. 50% of my original plot was scrapped when I realized that I had misinterpreted a couple of scenes that had been playing in my head. First, I was wrong about when in my main character's life this story occurs... four years off. (oops! Well, she is quite mature for her age in my defense.) Then, I finally figured out who the villain was as they'd been lurking in the shadows the entire time. Learning the identity and story behind my "bad guy" opened up such a good plot twist that I couldn't resist adding in new scenes to set it all up.

It may have been a lot of work fixing these problems, but it's all been worth it and I've had a blast writing this story. I'm currently at around 85,000 words and it's growing every day!
You should never scrap work completely, especially when it's that size. Create a folder called "Scrap" and cut and paste everything in there. Sometimes, reading back over your scrap book will give you ideas where to use some of it in your novel. Or the next novel. Never throw away writing. Reading something in a scrapbook may even give you an idea for a new novel.
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Old 01-03-2009, 08:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Daedalus View Post
You should never scrap work completely, especially when it's that size. Create a folder called "Scrap" and cut and paste everything in there. Sometimes, reading back over your scrap book will give you ideas where to use some of it in your novel. Or the next novel. Never throw away writing. Reading something in a scrapbook may even give you an idea for a new novel.
Oh, it wasn't anywhere near this size when I scrapped it. It was, luckily, still a fairly short outline at that point. I just saved the file as "Rough Draft 2" and stuck the original in an "Old Outlines" folder. I'm thinking that one part of the original would actually work nicely in the second book that I have outlined for these characters.

I don't even throw out my original outline when I replace them with chapters. I tend to type up new chapters in a new file and then paste the original outline at the end. Then, I copy the finished scenes and replace them in my main file. You never know when something that you decided not to include from your outline could come in handy later too.

Thanks for the advice Daed, it's nice to know that the habits I'm getting into now are actually good ones!

~Willow
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Old 01-04-2009, 08:26 AM
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Imagine the amount of books that have been published, different genres, character ideas everything. No matter what you write you are not going to be the first person that has written something like it. This is where the story is in the hands of the writer, the writer is what makes the story unique.
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