Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Nothing's Original. Get Over It.

Here's a link to the image so you can read it for yourself because fuck trying to copy all that into the blog post. Hat tip to Grames Barnaby (@overunderwriter) on twitter for linking to me when he capped and posted this garbage fire of a comment. Now this comment deals primarily with manga and anime, but I don't want to talk about that right now. I'm going to use this as a springboard to talk about something that's a hangup for many writers, and that we all need to collectively just get the fuck over.

Nothing, I repeat NOTHING is original.

None of it. 

I'll guaran-fucking-tee that whatever you think is original, isn't. Punisher? Punisher's an edgier Batman clone. Batman? He's a less edgy Shadow clone. And on and on back because they're embodiments of the Dark Avenger Archetype. You can do this with any character out there. They all fit into archetypes, they all have a lineage that can be traced back through various influences both implicit and explicit. 

I, for example, am writing a story wherein the main character is based HEAVILY on Mad Max, specifically Max from The Road Warrior. The character of Max is cool and I like that archetype that he fits in, so I'm going to make my own Mad Max type character. The setting is also borrowing from the idea of the Gate anime, because I like the idea of fantasy creatures invading the modern world. I'm unoriginal, and I know it. I just want to be able to do it WELL.

And that's the important thing. Doing it well.

If you want originality, go read Gilgamesh. It's literally the oldest piece of literature humanity has ever created. So far as we know it's completely original, but the legends that it talks about had to come from somewhere, right? The giant in the forest, for instance. That had to have been a legend before it was put down in Gilgamesh. So not even Gilgamesh is completely original.

So if you're sitting there with what you think is a really neat story idea, but you're worried that it's not original, stop worrying. So long as it isn't plagiarism, nobody cares. There's a meme I've seen floating around tumblr that I can't be arsed to dig up at the moment, but it's relevant so I'll give you the rundown.

It depicts a baker bringing a cake to a table and setting it next to a much nicer cake, and the baker is thinking, "Oh man, my cake's not as nice as that guy's." The next panel depicts another person with a fork and a goofy look on their face in front of the cakes saying, "Holy shit, two cakes!"

EDIT: I found the image while scrolling tumblr after writing this, so here it is


The reason I bring this up is that this is the mindset most people have towards "original content" as well as how people view art. Nobody cares that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle already made stories about a great detective and yours looks similar. Nobody cares that he also wrote a story about a lost land where dinosaurs still exist. 

That last one is actually a good example. The Lost World (NOT CRICHTON'S) has been redone in film and print so many times it would make your head spin. Not all of them are great, but most of them are at least fun to sit through or read. Marvel did it with The Savage Land. The Valley of Gwangi did it as well (which you should totally look up that movie, as an aside. Cowboys vs dinosaurs. Prime cheesecake awesomeness. Amazon affiliate link to where you can rent or buy it. Do yourself a favor). And so on and so forth.

People like the stories, they don't care that yours is "unoriginal." To return to anime for a moment, observe the pedantic dude in that screencap above. The type of anime he's sperging out over is pretty popular. So popular that the industry has started making a shitload more of it, because that's what the fans want. Yes, it's derivative. Yes, it's unoriginal. Yes, it's pandering. Yes, it's also fanservice (people like tits, get over that as well). 

But nobody cares. They still eat it up. The harem anime trope has been around since Christ only knows. Tenchi Muyo is an example from the early to mid 1990's, but I'll guarantee there's older ones I don't know about. And despite this, people still buy shit like Monster Musume no Iru Nichijou. Shit, I buy stuff like that. Because it's usually funny, sometimes has decent action, and everybody likes tits. It also does the harem genre well, which, as I said earlier, is the most important thing.

So you can put aside your worries of whether or not your main character is too much like Aragorn, or whether your fantasy world is too much like The Forgotten Realms, or whether your plot sounds a little too much like one of Robert Howard's Conan stories. I'll tell you what people are going to say, if it is.

"Yeah, it was a little similar to (insert influence here), but I still liked it."

That's all. If you did it well. So stop focusing on originality, and start focusing on doing it well. Make your characters people, your worlds vibrant, and your plot fun. 


It's really not as important as some people seem to think it is. All that really matters to the audience is now they have two cakes to nosh on. 

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