When you worry too much about copying

Just posting my thoughts to hopefully get some advice. Any way if your like me you want to make your stories at least somewhat unique and different to other stories. That even comes down to naming things. If I’m using a word or name that already in common use then I won’t worry to much about it, but if it’s uncommon or unique then I’ll worry that some other work has already used it, and at least half the time that hunch is correct. I come up with alot of this stuff on my own without much inspiration from other works but a little bit of research later I find that I wasn’t the first to have the idea.

This also extends to characters and setting. I know characters and setting have been rehashed and reused multiple times and the standards probably aren’t as high as I think they are. Still I worry my games and stories won’t just be compared to other games and remind people of certain things, but I’m overly worried that people will think that my games is just rehashed version of (insert name of game, novel, movie, etc.)

I already know most stuff has already been used but I’m worried but stuff being thought of as closer than it should be. RANT OVER.

In general how close is too close for similar characters, what if you got the inspiration from somewhere?
How close is too close for settings?

If a unique name I came up with independently but then found out is already used or razors edge close to something already in use, what can I do, could I still use it?
In general how do I make sure my story is different enough from others that I’m not worried about readers thinking that I’m copying another work?

Any advice for not being so worrisome on this topic?

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Honestly, just write what you want to write. Put out a demo, get feedback, do some editing.

That’s why those steps exist. There’s no point in worrying over work that doesn’t exist yet.
Once you have something on paper, the best way to alleviate those fears is to get feedback. People will tell you if they feel it borrows too much from familiar sources, at which point you can move things around.

But also, know that it’s very hard to come up with something truly original in this world. Commonalities are a given. As long as you’re not intentionally transcribing another story chapter to chapter I’m sure you’ll be fine.

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Honestly as soon as I learnt that there are only 7 stories in the world, everything is a remix. Just pinpoint what you like from other stories and styles and frankenstein them together because that’s what everyone else does and dont worry about someone telling you that “this person did it first” because I can tell you that that person did not do it first.

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Inspiration and plagiarism are far apart than you think. Like how @CJW puts it, originality is hard to come by. An invention is always molded from a discovery, and no one else can claim the same discovery twice. Just drop your worries for now and write it :slight_smile:

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If it helps, the Tolkien estate sued Gary Gygax/Dungeons & Dragons for being too close to the books. As a result, the names of Ents were changed to Treants, Balrogs were changed to Balor and Hobbits were changed to Halflings.

And now it’s the best-selling tabletop rpg of all time and is more or less responsible for the success of its entire medium. I wouldn’t worry too much about name similarities; character and plot are what sell stories. I can’t think of any time in my life where I bought a book because I was excited about one of the supporting character’s names. :blush:

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Everything became a remix as soon as I realised there are only seven stories in the universe. Simply pick out what you like from different tales and styles and mash them together since that’s what everyone else does, and don’t be concerned if someone tells you that “this person did it first” since I can assure you that they didn’t.

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This is why tropes are a thing.

Think of it this way: People like fantasy (or whatever genre) because of the tropes. Now, most of those people would also probably like another story with the same tropes. Don’t think of it as a “rehash”, think of it as “putting your own spin” at the genre/setting/tropes/characters that you like.

Why do you think people write fanfiction? I started out writing fanfiction because I wanted to write my own story in that same world. I eventually wanted to write a story with my own setting and characters, but I like fantasy, so I write fantasy. Of course I would use the same elements as the other fantasy stories that I like, or else it wouldn’t be fantasy.


No one else has shared their own experience with this yet, so here you go:

Summary

This has also happened to me with a name I came up with myself, based on a phrase. It’s the perfect name for my setting, and then I later found out it wasn’t unique at all. And you know what? I’m not gonna change it just because I’m not the only one who thought of the same thing.

On the same vein, two of my main characters has quite a few similarities with two other main characters from a popular show that I’m a fan of. It was purely coincidental and I only realized it later, but there’s no way I’m gonna change their characters–I wouldn’t like them anymore.

In fact, if someone pointed out the similarities, I would actually feel happy. Because that’s what I want my characters to be like. It reminded them of something WE both like.

Being original is overrated.

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I recently shared a worry very similar to this one in the thread “anxiety while writing” and I relate to this so so so much!

Some people already shared some advice with me over there, but I’ll bookmark this thread because the anxiety I get when I see works similar to mine on the internet is really overwhelming and I’m curious to see what more people have to say about it!
From what I gather tho, it’s not exactly uncommon amongst writers.

I can tell you that at the end of the day it’s not the premise but the execution that makes the story, so even if some of the things you thought about were to appear similar to other project’s on the surface, it’s still the way you develop them that’s going to give your project its indivituality.

I know from experience that this is not an easy feeling to deal with, but I hope I was able to help a bit :confused: .

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What’s “original” by the way? A 12yo watching for the first time a fantasy movie probably would find it extremely original, a 30yo would probably think “Oh God! The same old trite fantasy shit I know since I was twelve”.

Do whatever you want, if the execution will be good enough the target audiece will enjoy it.

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I see what you did there :wink:

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Like others have said, there’s actually very few truly original works since most things are a variation.

For example, The Gingerbread Man is a well-known folktale throughout the entire world. But there’s also a Norwegian folktale that’s basically the exact same story except it’s about a pancake instead.

Same thing with myths and religion: There’s pretty much always a Trickster God/Archetype and I have yet to stumble across a culture that doesn’t have a Flood Myth.

Now how is the above relevant?

Because when you right down to it, stories are about shared experiences, and for every person who will accuse you of ripping off a story, there will be another who will defend you and say that the accuser is reading way too much into the similarities.

That’s not to say that plagiarism accusations aren’t unfounded, of course. It’s just that there’s a reason you can’t copyright an idea.

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OP, I agree with others here that you are probably worrying a bit too much. I had the exact same worries when I started working on writing projects, so I totally get the initial (and good-intentioned) concern about perhaps subconsciously ‘borrowing’ too much from others. No one wants to be viewed as doing that.

When it comes down to it, execution (putting your own spin on things and actually finishing projects) is what counts the most, imo.

And honestly, anyone who is writing with an eye toward profit will give readers/players what they want, even if there are dozens other similar stories/games out there. People just f’ing consume that stuff and they want more!

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If something is pretty common that’s when I feel comfortable using it and loose most reservations about it. But if only like one or two works used a specific word or phrase, at least something razor edge similar, then the worry of copying starts to rear it’s ugly head into my mind.

Its not the tropes of settings, characters and plot that worry me. I may take concepts from certain works that my story was inspired by and change them into my “own thing”. I start to get worried if these concepts line up with another work, or rather too many parts of my story line up with or resemble another work, regardless if that work inspired those parts or not.

Still for me it’s just the concern that my story will be seen as TOO close to another work.

Archetypes and tropes are general stuff that’s used enough that people won’t generally think of your work copying as other works use the same stuff plentifully.

For me at least it’s more about the specifics and details being too similar to another work even though I made changes to them.