Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group: The Comparison

Insecure Writer's Support Group is a blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh where totally insecure writers can get together and share the things that are making us go argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      This week I want to talk about inevitable comparisons between books. Or more specifically, my upcoming book Seeder's Poison and The Hunger Games (THG).
       Now that I’ve sent my little MS out into the world for critiquing, I’m getting a bit of feedback which likens my story to The Hunger Games. Someone even told me they're too similar to even bother publishing my MS. So before I ditch my story altogether, I wanted to share this insecurity with you guys and see if you've had similar problems.
       I won’t deny the similarities between my MS and THG: an all-powerful and controlling government situated in a central area, an oppressed populace that’s divided into sections, a strong heroine who is handy with a bow and knows plants inside out. But there are things which are different as well. No love triangle for one. No games for another. Definitely no themes on the hazards of war (at least I hope not).
       Regardless of what I say, comparisons will be made whether I like it or not. After all, there are many  claims that The Hunger Games is based on Battle Royale by Koushun Takami and Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Heck, when I described the plot of THG to my husband when we were contemplating watching the movie, he said, "That's the plot of every Final Fantasy game I've ever played."
      Besides, if there's any book my novel could be compared with, The Hunger Games isn't too shabby at all. It's just that I'm a picky reader and I know that I haven't picked up books because they've been compared to other more popular stories that I've read. Half-Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout (too close to Vampire Academy) and Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon (too close to Twilight..although admittedly I didn't like Twilight) to name a few. And if I could go back and remove the things which are similar I would. It's just that I can't do so without losing the the central theme of my MS. 
     Also, the second book in the series will deviate from what makes my book so similar to THG, but now I'm not sure if I should even worry about writing the next book if no one is going to read the first book anyway. What are your thoughts guys? Would you read a book that's too similar to something else that's popular?
     

26 comments:

  1. You're right that comparisons are going to be made regardless. You need to remember that lots of books have had a similar theme with the centralized gov't and oppressed populace. It's what you do with that theme and the characters you create that make all the difference.

    Good luck! And don't worry. I have similar concerns about my own MS.

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    1. I am trying to keep reminding myself that there aren't really any new ideas but it's hard when it's right there in your face. I'll keep chanting it to myself and hope that it sinks in.

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  2. I get scared of this, too, because anime and manga have influenced my writing so much. I know I'm borrowing things right out of them, but still, I'm putting my own spin on things and writing a completely different plot and world building.

    What bugs me is when people compare to the extreme and their comparisons are off the mark. THG and Battle Royale is a coincidence, but people won't let it go. You get a free pass if it's mere coincidence. And, how many times has a book been claimed to have plagiarized Twilight when it was published BEFORE it?! So ludicrous.

    Anyway, like I said before, you only need to change small things in Seeders to get away from the THG similarities. The other stuff really can't be changed without ruining the entire premise and world building. Don't listen to the idiot who told you not to bother publishing it! That is ridiculous! It is a different story altogether and I'm enjoying it....

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    1. That's exactly right Cathy. You're putting a great spin on the anime/manga influences you take. Who wouldn't want to take inspiration from anime/manga? Those guys are insanely creative. I'm so jealous of them!

      People are funny aren't they? They seem to compare things based only on their sphere of knowledge. I was telling my husband about the comment not to publish my book and how the same lady from work also said having someone who is good at archery is copying THG. He got up and walked out saying "this is ridiculous. Should I tell Tolkien and David Eddings and that woman fantasy writer you read (Tamora Pierce) that Suzanne Collins owns the bow and arrow?"

      I just feel really silly because even though I know it's all comparative, I can't help but stress out about it!

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  3. I like diversity. Not sure if I would want to read a book that is too similar. But its easy to make simple adjustments that will differentiate a book and give it it's own identity.

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    1. I'm working on the adjustments at the moment to try and get rid of the similarities. Hopefully it works!

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  4. Hm. Interesting post. I agree with the first commentator. But as long as you make the story your own, I'm sure that people will still love it.

    Thanks for stopping by,
    @ Livin' Life Through Books

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  5. Stopping in from ISWG, thanks for visiting and commenting on my blog. I say go for it, work on the things you can to differentiate it but still keep it your story.

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  6. Honestly, I don't see what the big deal is. Like you said, there are a lot of books that have similar themes/plots but aren't EXACTLY the same. No matter how original our story idea is, someone else has already written something along those lines already. Does that mean we should stop writing because 'all the good stories are taken'? No! Not only that, writers play on that factor too--one book is super popular and they write one similar (in that genre) and then claim it to be just like the popular book.

    When it comes to critiquing, you're bound to have someone that has an opinion that is just that... an opinion. You have to take a look at what the group of beta readers say. If 4 of 5 say the same thing, then you take a look at it. If 1 of 5 says they don't like the similarities, you note their opinion and either move on or maybe make some slight adjustments.

    Maybe instead of getting to work on the sequel you could get to work on a different novel idea. I'd like to see you finish Iron Will! ;)

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  7. There will ALWAYS be other books that you can compare one too -- whether it's the type of heroine, the epic storyline, or the romance -- so I don't think it's bad at all that yours is slightly similar to The Hunger Games! Because unless the plot twists are practically the same as well as the world, characters, and everything else, then it's your own story. That's why it's so much harder not to be a cliche nowadays. You could probably draw similarities from my book to a ton of others, but the idea is unique and the character relationships haven't been done in YA before (I think), so hopefully it will be okay. :')

    Besides, I actually LOVE hearing that books are similar to other ones that I loved, so saying that yours has an awesome heroine similar to Katniss and a creepy-cool world like in THG actually makes me even more intrigued, and I'm sure it will have the same effect on other people! ;)

    I feel scared every time I feel like someone will say like my book is a rip-off of something else too. But you don't have to change the whole premise to try to make it as un-Hunger-Games-ish as possible! And actually, Half-Blood was a lot like the sequel thing too -- Half-Blood WAS admittedly a lot like VA, but Pure branched off and became its own flavour or awesome! :)

    Haha I love this meme, Lan! I feel like I can rant about writing problems and be justified x) <3

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    1. My comment... is so long! O_O You can ignore me haha :')

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  8. I read a ton of urban fantasy and a lot of it is very similar. Some of them all kind of start clashing together after a while. I will pick up the next in a series and start to get confused, and mixing up series lately. It is the ones that stand out that gain my attention. It doesn't have to be the plot that stands out, sometimes it is the writing. Beautiful prose can go a long way, so can character development, and plot. The best books have all of these, and make you think about them years later. This is why no two great books can ever be the same in my eyes. I don't know if that helped.

    Beth ^_^
    http://sweetbooksnstuff.blogspot.com/

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  9. Hi Lan. Thanks for finding/following me. Have returned the compliment.
    I'm not a great reader of urban fantasy, but you've made me interested here.

    Denise

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  10. I think it's not a bad idea to take a popular book and try and put some common elements in your novel. Obviously you don't want to overdo it, but there is something to be said in some circumstances for starting your story from someplace that is more comfortable to readers and then taking them out into the deep end as it were where you've got stuff that isn't as comfortable.

    I remember reading an interview with Robert Jordan where he said that in The Wheel of Time that he intentionally tried to create some similarities (I don't remember what exactly) with Tolkien for largely that reason.

    Best of luck!

    Dean

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  11. I think that you should definitely be true to your story, even if there are some similarities on the outside. From what it sounds like, your story is completely different from THG once you take a closer look. Kind of like Battle Royale from what I've heard. Both have a similar frame (kids fighting kids in the arena), but are very different when you look closely.

    I think you shouldn't worry too much about it at this point. When you submit the MS to an agent and/or editor, and if they recommend some changes, that's when I would definitely listen. For now, be true to your story and believe in it!

    Thank you for reminding me that I need to read both your MS and Battle Royale. :) I should definitely go get on that first one since I just finished the book I was reading. Ahem. Sorry I'm such a procrastinator sometimes.

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  12. It's VERY hard to find a book with different plot lines. There are billions of books out there, so in my view looking for originality is one of the hardest thing ever. Stereotype characters, predictable plot line - it's especially hard to find something different if you read so much!

    However, I don't mind reading books with similar plot lines. I don't like books that follow exactly the same plot line, so I tried not to compare the likeness of some books. If I like the book, I like it. As long as it's not plain plagiarism, I think I would take it. For example, I like Hush Hush yet I dislike Twilight. *high five Lan for disliking it either* That's strange, because both stories are very similar in nature, right? ;)

    I hope that this helps! x)

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  13. People will ALWAYS make comparisons... honestly, it's one of the ways people selling books: "It's like Looking for Alibrandi meets Omega Man!" (heh. Can you imagine?). The fact that The Hunger Games is so EVERYWHERE at the moment probaly doesn't help. Honestly, I'm sure I could think of a dozen girl-archers if I put my mind to it, and a dozen girls with a good knowledge of herbs. Especially when it comes to placing them in a dystopian future, where these kinds of things become neessary survival skills. And there was a time not too long ago where EVERY YA parnormal that came out was compared to Twilight. It's THAT book. The one everyone knows.

    Those details about Katniss are fairly inconsequential. The book is about the GAMES.

    You know, before I was a big reader, I read the Sookie Stackhouse books a little after reading Twilight, and I drew comparisons then, too. Let me see: telepathic character? Check. Human/vampire romance? Check. Addictive, tasty, 'special' blood? Check. Anyone can draw comparisons if they look for them :)

    Your book just needs to be unique and YOU. Can't wait to see it! ♥

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  14. At the writer's conference I attended last month one literary agent said not to compare your novel to The Hunger Games because it's like comparing your novel to Twilight. It's become an entity of it's own. Then another said it's okay. I guess it depends on who you're querying.

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  15. Readers will always make comparisons between books, so not much you can do about it. In fact, it might even help you get published, as THG was such a success and the industry seems to love following a hot trend! It's your story in your own words, so stick to your guns and don't change anything!

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  16. I think most books in a very specific genre (e.g. dystopian or paranormal romance) are going to be similar on multiple points. But just because they have similar bases doesn't mean they're the same--each has it's own spin and deals with the plot and setting in different ways. And I'm pretty sure a lot of dystopians are compared to HG--it's kinda the mother of the YA dystopian genre. So I'll bet your book is totally fine, comparisons notwithstanding.

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  17. Actually, if I really fall in love with a book I search for other books just like it, so I'd say go ahead! Not to mention that almost every story follows the same basic structure since the ancient myths of our ancestors. hehe. So don't worry, keep writing! :)

    Andrea

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  18. I think a lot of people read books that's similar to a popular one BECAUSE it's similar. They loved the one, and are hungry for more! And you're right. Not too shabby of one to be compared to at all!

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  19. K, so I'm late to the party but I still have something to say. I can think of way too many books that are similar. And yet, they're all really popular. Don't worry about the similarities. Some people will complain but most will eat it up.

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  20. People won't be able to help comparing books. It happens! I remember, like every book that was published after Twilight that was YA and involved some sort of mythical creature was instantly likened to Twilight. People like to compare, so don't let that deter you from your own writing! And like you said, being compared to The Hunger Games isn't bad at all. In fact, The Hunger Games is often compared to Battle Royale, so it can't escape the comparisons either!

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  21. I thought THG was based on a greek myth? I'm sure those stories have been around forever and get retold in many different ways. I think these 'stories of old' if you will, are always going to get retold in some way or another. I totally dig these books. Also Margaret Atwood wrote some similar themes in Oryx and Crake, and the Year Of The Flood- perhaps the best dystopian books I've ever read, but they're done in such a unique way that I devour them!

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  22. Jumping the wagon late here. Obviously I haven't read your MS, but as other commentators have mentioned - stories are already compared to others, I believe it's virtually impossible to write something that's 100% original - it's all been done before. The question is the details, the execution and your spin of it. And honestly? I'd say being compared to The Hunger Games is quite a compliment. If your book was really bad, it would inevitably be compared to something similarly bad, if you catch my drift.

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