Tag Archives: Anxiety of Influence

Writing Excuses 7.27: The Problem of Originality

It’s important to be original, but is it possible to be TOO original? Further, is it possible that we over-value originality?

Dan raises the question in regards to James Cameron’s Avatar, which made lots of money and was widely enjoyed, but which was also roundly criticized for being a story we’ve already heard before. Christopher Paolini’s Eragon is similarly criticized. It is solid execution upon a story cycle that science fiction and fantasy fans are already intimately familiar with.

Howard talks about borrowing “uplift” from David Brin, Mary points out that David Brin borrowed it from Christian Missionaries in Africa, and Brandon then ponders aloud whether this ‘cast is going to be of any use to any of you.

Each of us have struggled with this. It’s exceedingly unlikely that you won’t. The point? Originality is not the be-all, end-all some make it out to be, and authors need to take care not to pursue it to the point that they miss other objectives.

Meme of the Week: “If I pee far, it’s because I stand on the shoulders of giants.” — Howard Tayler

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Regarding riding mounted beasts — make the cost to the rider so high that it’s almost never worth it. Now create circumstances under which it’s always worth it.

Sharpe’s Rifles, by Bernard Cornwell, narrated by Frederick Davidson

Writing Excuses 4.18: How to Steal for Fun and Profit

We here at Writing Excuses have talked about the Anxiety of Influence before, we’ve discussed genre-blending, and we’ve talked about where ideas come from. Now we’re going to blend all of those in one ‘cast as we talk about stealing stuff without plagiarizing.

You can call it “borrowing” if you want to, but as Howard Tayler once said, “good artists borrow, great artists steal.” (Note: It’s possible that Pablo Picasso also said this.) We offer examples from books, film, music, and the visual arts — done right, done wrong, and done award-winningly well. If you’re coming up short on ideas, this is the ‘cast for you. It’s probably a good ‘cast even if you’re NOT coming up short on ideas.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman, narrated by Neil Himself, which is a great example of stealing (from Kipling in this case) and getting away with it (and getting a Hugo Award in this case.)

Writing Prompt: Hit the button labeled “click here to be randomly teraported into the archives” at Schlock Mercenary (it’s under the calendar navigation to the right of the comic), read three or four strips, and steal from them to create something new.

Funny Song That Would Have Been Funnier If We’d Mentioned Baloo The Zombear: “Brain Necessities.”

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Writing Excuses 4.3: How to Manage Your Influences

How do you avoid letting other people’s work creep into your own? We’re all influenced by the media we partake in whether we admit it or not. How much of those influences should we allow into our own work? How do we control that?

As we engage the topic, we admit that sometimes we want to be influenced, and that letting those influences do their work is a good thing. But this isn’t the podcast where we cover that. This is the podcast where we talk about tuning that out.

We also talk about tuning out the influence of those who are critiquing or commenting on our work. These might be fellow members of the writing group or other early readers, or they might (especially in Howard’s case) be outspoken members of your audience ranting on web forums or wikis.

And then we talk about whether or not we should allow Brandon to influence our work. Take that, Brandon! (Take it, in fact, all the way out to nineteen minutes and six seconds!)

Audiobook Plug: The Black Swan, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Writing Prompt: Write a story, and pretend that a famous historical figure is looking over your shoulder and offering advice while you write.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.Visit http://AudiblePodcast.com/excuse for a free trial membership*.

*Note: From the Audible website, here are the terms of the free membership. Read the fine print, please!

Audible® Free Trial Details
Get your first 14 days of the AudibleListener® Gold membership plan free, which includes one audiobook credit. After your 14 day trial, your membership will renew each month for just $14.95 per month so you can continue to receive one audiobook credit per month plus members-only discounts on all audio purchases. A very small number of titles are more than one credit. Cancel your membership before your free trial period is up and you will not be charged. Thereafter, cancel anytime, effective the next billing cycle. Any unused audiobook credits will be lost at cancellation.

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