There's nothing new under the sun. There are only two stories in the world: someone leaves town and someone comes to town. It's all be done before. Simpsons did it.
Just about every story we can put out, if it's not directly inspired by a previous story, it will most certainly share elements of one. Honestly, it's just statistics are this point. We're 7.6 billion people on the same rock, all with a ton of ancestors who told us stories. It's not a cosmic miracle that cultures who never encountered each other have similar stories. These stories are part of who we are and reflect what it means to be human. So of course they're going to tread on each other's toes. But with all that said, where does one draw the line between inspiration and plagiarism?
I suppose intent is as good a test as any, but how do you know a writer's intent? Did she mean to draw so many one-to-one comparisons with Twelfth Night? Was it just homage when he wrote characters who practically quoted Romeo and Juliet? Some other example that doesn't involve Shakespeare, question mark.
I'm not asking because I'm wanting to call out some author for writing Star Wars but in feudal Japan, but because when I look out at the world, when I see stories, I wonder How would I write that? More than once I've felt something heart-wrenching in a movie and thought, Could I replicate that feeling in my books? Hell, often times I'm guilt of just taking a little something from my favorite works, something unimportant and unobtrusive, and sneaking it in as my own way of saying Thank you. Without your work and your stories, I wouldn't be doing this.
I've taken inspiration from games, movies, books, and, gasp, real life, too! I don't think it's wrong to look at children's television show in passing, think about the characters and plot points in play and wonder, Could that be done for grown-ups? It's natural. And whether you think imitation is the sincerest form of flattery or not, it's really human nature. But... try to add something of you to it. That's the key. Like a good recipe passed one from generation, understand what made it good and understand how you can make it your own.
Be Excellent to Each Other
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Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.