Every word you say…

Has been written down…

somewhere (as the Peter Sarstedt song said.).

I set out to write original stories. To break new ground. I got smartarse one day… Ok more than one day. Most days. You’d think I’d learn, but I plainly don’t. It’s hereditary, I think. I got it from my children. Anyway, various pantsers had been talking to me about my plotting style of writing. So I invited a group of them to follow my plotting out a story. I had what I considered a unique idea, which gave me a universe-spanning framework for a slew of stories.

I expounded on it… and several people promptly told me that was near identical to some TV series and how would I make it different?

Now… if I wrote it, it would be different. But at the time I HAD NO TV, and had watched none for at least 20 years. I’m well read (if somewhat patchily – I decided I didn’t enjoy much modern sf, or the modern literary fiction, that so many of the trad sf writers of the last 10 years have been imitating. So it has to catch me pretty fast or I don’t even start) but I am an absolute ignoramus about TV or movies — largely because I find it very hard to sit still for a whole movie. Yes, I am hyperactive, and probably ADD, and my conscience always pricks me, and says “You should be working, young man.” My conscience is old and very grumpy.

The end result is I might see one movie a year, and I haven’t watched anything on TV besides the first few Hugh Fearlessly Eatsitall (AKA ‘River Cottage’ – I don’t know if this ever got to the US) This is a curse and blessing too.

It’s a curse because the right way to do elevator pitches to editors was to describe your book as like X movie or TV series, meets Y movie or TV series. Mary Poppins meets Die Hard and have a bastard love-child would be about my level… but I have actually heard it done, with movies I had never heard of (I am sure everyone else had). The Movie/TV tropes and references were plainly so much easier for both the author and the editor, than book ones. It is also plainly popular with readers, who, it seems know much more about movies than I do.

On the blessing side – I might come up with a similar plot idea, but I am unlikely to follow their direction.

Anyway, I did come out of that thinking to myself: well if I am going recreate movie-plots I have never seen, I might as be hung for a herd of rhino than a lamb. And I have spent a lot of my life wishing there were more of X author’s work, and loving the idea that Y author put in there and never expanded on… ergo PYRAMID SCHEME – which was an excuse to revisit Pratt and Sprague De Camp’s Compleat Enchanter series… I’ve picked on other authors I admire and tried to write ‘in their style’ (Schmitz). Inevitably, these turn into the bastard love-children of several other authors too… (I think I see feeble echoes of Pratchett, Zelazny, Michael Scott Rohan, Heyer, L’Amour, Heinlein, Andre Norton, Simak, Sharpe… for a start)

And in the end… it doesn’t matter too much. The telling is my own, the experience I bring to it is my own, the story changes, and people tell me how original it is…

My thanks to the many people who have ranked and written reviews for CLOUD CASTLES. I have learned all sorts of things and must admit you’ve seen things I didn’t realize, but now can see.

21 comments

  1. So far I’ve see echoes of various stories in Cloud Castles. But it’s been echoes not imitation.

    BTW it took me several chapters to really get immersed.

      1. Some of it may have been my mood at the time….at different times, I’m most interested in different types of books.

        I do like how the plot and mood shifts…at first, it seems like just this clueless dude with the city slicker sidekick, but then the whole story takes an unexpected twist.

  2. We really are twins separated at birth. (REALLY SEPARATED. And yet we found each other.)
    In the early two thousands I wrote a story called “Stargate.” It came back with accusations I’d based it on a TV series. We hadn’t watched TV in decades (Same reasons.) So we went and found them. Oh, sure. Okay. the device. But everything else was different.
    HOWEVER the name was the same, and so….

    1. ….where did they think the TV show got the name from…?

      (In at least the 70s, it was A Thing in the weird booklet areas; I vaguely remember it had something to do with, of course, the pyramids)

    2. Isn’t adding the word “Star” + thing a common science fiction tradition? Star Wars, Star Trek, Starship Troopers, etc?

    3. Yeah. I remember hopping around on YouTube one day and finding a music video for Sabaton’s “Light in the Black,” which is about what peacekeepers are supposed to be. (We won’t get into whether they live up to that.)

      Someone posted about how they were ripping off a song with the same title by a group called Rainbow. Said song is…a rather generic ’70s power ballad. The music is different, the structure is different, the lyrics are different–literally the only similarity is the titles. But just based on that this guy decided that Sabaton was copying Rainbow and went on a “kids these days” rant about it.

        1. Even worse are the people who read LOTR and didn’t like it because they thought Tolkien had ripped off Terry Brooks. Yes, I once heard of such a person.

  3. My review appears in Ricochet.com this upcoming Sunday. I am supposed to limit myself to 400 words, but there was so much good stuff in Cloud Castles I hit 500 and had to trim it down. I referenced Bob Asprin’s Phule series in the review. I also said one of the characters appears reminiscent of one from the Dragon’s Ring series. Any writer can steal. Stealing from yourself? That’s a cut above average.

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