So this is a thing that comes up frequently in a negative light among writers I’ve spoken to so I thought I’d start off with a common problem the majority of us will have shared at some point.

If you’re an aspiring writer, it’s because you love stories. Whatever form of media you prefer is irrelevant. Whether it’s books, graphic novels, TV shows, anime or film, you’re doing what you do because you’re seeking to become a member of that wonderful world of creators that have people who not only read their work, but they freakin’ love it!

I, for one would love nothing more than to see both positive and negative reviews popping up from respected websites and journalists even if I didn’t profit from it financially. The idea of just having a bunch of people enjoying something that’s mine is nothing short of incredible.

That being said, a lot of writers seem to suffer from the fear that something that they’ve written may still not be considered “original” or “unique” despite the effort and love that’s been put into it. We wouldn’t want to be creators if we weren’t influenced by others but we’re naturally inclined to try and step out from the shadows of those who inspire us. Even so, it can’t be denied that – consciously or subconsciously – our influences can sometimes be recognized clearly within our stories…and that can be concerning to some of us!

Let me ask you this: How many times have you pitched an idea for something you want to work on and it’s been compared to something you yourself have enjoyed in the past?

More importantly, how much does it suck for your confidence in that idea when that happens? Because I’ve had it in the past and it can feel horrible .

Why?

Because we don’t just want to create something that’s enjoyable to others. We want to create something that’s uniquely ours. We pride ourselves as writers and we want to pave our own success rather than leech from the success of another. We often pour a portion of ourselves into our stories, to have that piece of ourselves considered as someone else’s can be disheartening and damaging, especially when a story is still in the early stages of development.

As a result of that we judge ourselves and the output we create very harshly, sometimes to the point that we may completely scrap a project that originally made us more excited than anything we’d ever worked on before.

“I scrapped it because the premise sounded the same as something else…” is a line I’ve heard from several writers.

Now I want you to read that line a couple more times before moving on. I want you to really examine what it means, particularly the fact that it’s just the premise of the idea being questioned…

Isn’t that a little silly?

Even if it sounded EXACTLY like something else, this is a vague summary we’re talking about here.

We are discussing the foundations of a storyline here! How can anyone say what your final story will be like other than you based on the early pre-development pitch?

In terms of a novel, you could be talking about something that has the potential to be hundreds of chapters long! How can you relate that to something else when describing it in just a couple of quick sentences?

If we were to look at popular anime for example:

The Premise: Humanity have become the underdogs in a world dominated by a monster that opposes them.

So we have:

Attack On Titan – Humanity vs Titans
Black Bullet – Humanity vs Bug Like Monsters
Kabaneri Of The Iron Fortress – Humanity vs Zombies
Owari No Seraph – Humanity vs Vampires

These stories have the same premise but they could not be more different in style, pace or concept!Or if we look at something a little more mainstream:

The Premise: A dysfunctional family and the hilariously wacky events that happen in their lives.

So we have:

The Simpsons
Family Guy
American Dad
Rick And Morty
Everybody Loves Raymond
The Brady Bunch
Family Matters
There’s actually no point in me going on with this list. Google “sitcoms about” and it autofills “sitcoms about families”

My point is that you simply can’t define the uniqueness of your idea in a few short sentences! Stop trying to do it!
I get that it’s exciting to have this story unfolding in your mind as you go through the creative process and you want feedback but if you think you can pitch your idea as something unique in a world filled with writers who are constantly churning out ideas for novels, anime, manga, movies, sitcoms, cartoons, computer games, TV shows and any other kind of media I’ve missed out…well…

You’re just overestimating your pitching skills and you’re underestimating the creativity of everyone else around you.And that’s okay, because I’ve done it too! 

Which is why I’m telling you that pitching your idea early for the sake of approval from others is senseless!

I know you’re excited by this idea that you can see clearly in your head but it’s only going to damage your motivation when someone turns around and says “That sounds like [insert well known media content here]!

You can’t define your story in a short message and splurging everything out at once leads to a wall of information which you know nobody will read.

After all, you wouldn’t read it if it wasn’t yours, would you?

I once wrote nearly 100 pages timelining the history of a world I created yet never wrote the story for, how ridiculous is that?
What are the chances you’d make it through a single page of that when you have no idea what it’s leading to?

J.R.R. Tolkien has a massive Lord of the Rings following, some of which read up the entire history built around those books…

…but I guarantee that NOBODY bothered to read that history until they’d read (or watched) the trilogy and decided that they loved it! 

So What’s Your Friggin’ Point Sherbet?

I’m not saying don’t share your ideas. Far from it, I love seeing the progress of my fellow aspiring writers and I’m sure you do too!

All I’m saying is don’t let comments discourage you just because others can compare what you show them to something else.

Don’t search for approval through your ideas, it will come naturally through your stories once they’re finished. The more time you spend chastising yourself over comments people make is just hindering your writing process.

Personally I say screw the idea pitch, at least for now. Churn out the first draft of your Chapter 1. Reread it, refine it and reread it again.

In the time you spend writing that Chapter, close yourself off from your influences. Focus on the task at hand.

After all, you wouldn’t have started that Chapter if you didn’t already have a clear view of what you had planned for it, right?

If you feel yourself burning out, take a break. Go back to your influences and enjoy yourself a little. Let your mind ease up from the pressure you’ve put on it.

BUT

Don’t wait for that moment when you think “I’m ready to keep going.” Set yourself a decent bit of chill time then go back to that first draft. Reread it again and see if you feel the same way you did about it before.

When you have the draft that you’re satisfied with, you’ll be able to show people that your story is something that stands on it’s own.Even then, try to keep an open mind and not be discouraged. No matter how many times you reread that thing, it still might not be complete until you’ve had that constructive criticism.

But at the very least, the negative comments coming your way should finally have some merit to tell you where you can improve. That criticism is a positive thing and your influences are a positive thing.

Still, no matter what people say about your work-in-progress you should always remember that the only person that knows if the finished creation is unique is you!

So no matter what comments get thrown your way,

don’t ever let them stop you writing!
Advertisements

One thought on “How Much Influence Should Influences Have?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s