Thursday, January 24, 2013

Accidental Unoriginality

Accidental Unoriginality

A little bit to get off my chest. 

Over on the videogames forum I go to, there are personal blogs for members and a whole blogroll.  It’s not formal, people post whatever their thoughts are there, from seriousness to silly things like memes and, recently, one guy laying all of his Legend of Zelda series games out in a pattern after the official Timeline.  I post more often there than here lately.  I’m actually contemplating scrapping this thing in favor of designing a website to promote my writing so I can have something for Kindle to link to should I break down and self-publish one of my novels in e-book form.  I actually got a Kindle for Christmas mostly for the sake of seeing how works look on one, getting a feel for it for the possibility of self-publishing after facing the facts that I’m not good and/or flashy enough to get published in the conventional way. 

That brings me to talking to people on my little forum blog about publishing and books.  There’s someone on the forums who’d bought a company’s publishing package and I asked him how that went.  There was another young person who was dismayed at the depressed tone of my complaint at receipt of a rejection letter who was basically all “Never give up! Never surrender!” 

Then she said something that made me twitch.  I had posted bits of query letters from two of the works I’ve done as basic samples of “These are the basic premises of two things I have written, you can get a feel for my general style. Is this marketable?” - For the guy I was talking publishing/marketing stuff with.  The girl who responded to me, in a fit of encouragement told me “That second one! It reminds me of His Dark M-

And immediately my mind screamed “GOOD LORD, NOT ANOTHER ONE!”

I have a novel about people and their guardian creatures.  With what I hear from people, it seems, when I try to describe it before I even get two sentences out, you’d think that Phillip Pullman had *invented* the idea of supernatural guardians instead of them being a staple of mythology and fantasy everywhere.  Ugh.   I informed my blog-reader that I had not read the His Dark Materials books, that what I’d heard about them turned me off of being inclined to read them due to ideological differences thus far, even though I’d heard they were good, and that I actually got the initial idea from something in one of the Legend of Zelda games (Link and his guardian-fairy).  Of course, I happen to prefer bat-winged dragon-lions in my own fiction… 

The blog-buddy messaged me trying to convince me that I really should read her favorite book series, not to be tainted about what I’d heard about it.  I punched up TV Tropes on it and went through its entries there again – tropes descriptions and reviews from fans, links to review articles and the like and… I can see a lot of ideal logy in the descriptions that I can agree with, but some of the things that turn me off are things I suspect would really turn me off in a full reading.  I’m strangely enough not turned off by a fictional world in which God is evil and must die by the end, but I am turned off by the Unfortunate Implications that no-one who ever made the honest mistake of believing in said God is portrayed with any sympathy at all. Coupled with the class-ism described in the Unfortunate Implications part of it, it leads me to wonder if in reading these books, I’m signing a mental contract with an author who thinks that people who gravitate toward the “lowly” or toward things he disagrees with are “just inferior people.” Doubly problematic when I fall under a couple of “inferior” categories. I know I’m stupid for it, but I am hypersensitive about things like that.  I have to watch my depression-triggers.  I’m probably reading too much into a friggin’ tropes description. 

I read a few of the Left Behind books back in the day when they were popular.  They were particularly odious in regards to “agrees with the authors on abstract concepts = good / disagrees = all their works are tainted.”  A few books in and there were even pages at the head of the books dividing the “sides” people were on.  “Believers / Villains / Undecided.”   Nuanced as a brick.  Arbitrary, too. I’ve realized since I’ve left those books behind, that I’ve pretty much outgrown the idea of categorism.

I remember getting annoyed reading The Lord of the Rings over there being no good Orcs... that’s how deep it goes with me.  One of the things I like about my beloved Legend of Zelda game series is that, while it runs on a black and white morality, there are a few shady people and some “good” monsters.  The usual “humans are good, monsters are bad” gets diced up a little on occasion, and pretty much puree’d for Twilight Princess. I actually got annoyed a bit on the lastest title, Skyward Sword when the resident good-guy helpful monster thought that he had to transform into a human to be “good.”  He was good already.  I’m with his little child-friend in that game: He should have kept his flappy bat wings.  He didn’t need to lose them to be good.      

I like to think with my own writing, that when I’m writing characters who disagree with me about a broad, abstract concept that I’m giving them sympathy, sense and reasons in regards to why they would disagree with me.  I’ve had too many genuine friends who disagreed with me sharply on abstract (and even hard-in/right now political ) issues where we could discuss things without me coming away feeling stupid, and us still being friends and seeing the goodness in each other.  I find it fairly easy to write this way when I don’t know what I’m about most of the time and am a depressed, insecure person and I feel like whatever position I’m trying to convey, I’m coming from a place of weakness rather than strength.  In other words, I’m not even sure if my own message is the right one.

 Yes, I have villains who are actually villainous, but I tend to make that a combination of being messed up in the head and having a personal sadism. Somewhat based on history and real events/people who’ve existed (you don’t need ideological enemies to have a serial killer villain), and moreover based upon my own dark side, things I can imagine.  

I don’t know if I do any of it right because I’m not published yet and… ARGH! As soon as I open my mouth about anything I’ve written or am writing, I get some spiel from someone about how “That’s totally like this very favorite thing of mine!” 

I was almost turned off of one of my favorite childhood movies because I was a part of a writers club in which the head of the club insistently and repeatedly compared a character of mine to Falcor because she thought she was being cute, apparently.  I was a part of a writer’s club years ago that met in a bookstore coffee shop.  I was having them read a story of mine I’ve since scrapped.  I had a character that was a white German shepherd with wings.  The head of the club got it into her head that “white flying dog” must equal Falcor the dragon from “The Neverending Story” even though they were nothing alike save from being white in color and able to fly… AUUUGHG. 

Strangely enough, a friend turned me onto what has become my very favorite videogame by saying “this is like something you’d write” but I think that was because she didn’t compare anything among my characters or premises to anything specific in the game.  In fact, there is nothing specific in Shadow of the Colossus that’s a mirror to anything in any of my stories.  However, the idea that I write stories with melancholy themes and isolation indicating that I would like something with a similar general theme really hit a winner. 

Maybe that’s the trick to attempting to compliment an idea of mine to encourage me to write:  Don’t compare the premise to being “Oh so totally like” your already favorite thing after having only seen a couple of sentences of it.  This only makes me worry that I’m accidentally ripping off people who are known and probably a lot better than I am and feel like giving up on my premise.  Don’t compare one of my characters in a borderline rip-off way to a favorite character of yours when you know well they are very different and only share a fur color.  If you want to encourage me by comparison like that, try *themes* - raw *themes.*  

Please don’t make me worry I’m ripping off something unless I’m *actually ripping off something.* 

Thank you.