Trying Not To Be Jim Butcher   Leave a comment

We tend to copy the things we like. Imitation is a sincere form of flattery, and many great writers have made a career out of paying homage to the things they love.

But you have to be extremely careful not to cross the line into plagiarism.

Now, I’ve been trying to work on my novel. I was making a decent amount of progress, but I have had to take everything back to the beginning. Here is why:

While I was working on it, I started with my main character. The basic idea I started with was that he was a writer who uses magic based on the written and spoken word. Slowly I started to add personality: smart, not too subtle, stubborn, clever, snarky, very intuitive, wants to help people, etc…

If you know the Dresden files, you might notice I could very well be describing Harry Dresden. The only difference being my guy is a writer, and not a private investigator.

So I took a step back, and decided I would just work on the magic system.

If that was unique, then he wouldn’t be like Dresden, right? The original idea was magic that is drawn from creativity and imagination. Power would come from how clever and creative you are, and less to do with raw power and will. I started thinking how one would use it, power level of it, how to weaponize/utilize it in combat, etc.

Do you want to guess how this went too?

In short, I took the above and slowly started to add rules after rules to pin down the system. When I got done, my character would be limited to imagining fire, force, wind, ice and the like for combat, leaving more complex effects for sitting down rituals. So basically, I made Dresden’s magic.

That kept happening with most things. Supporting characters, back story, governmental entities, and other stuff like that. I took a break from it for a bit, and when I finally turned around and looked at it, it was just a poor writer’s Dresden files.

Now, I don’t really lose much sleep over that. I see it as a testament to Jim Butcher’s writing and the world he created. His characters are deep, his system is consistent and logical, and his writing is exciting. I am holding of on writing my novel for a bit specifically because I finished (and I am also rereading) his current release. (By the way, it is extremely good, and if you couldn’t tell, I think people should read the whole series.)

I probably wasn’t even copying his work as bad I thought. But the reason I wanted to write about it, is because I think this is a pitfall that newer writer’s like me fall into all the time.

There is no shame in loving an author’s work, and having them inspire you on some level. But if you imitate too closely, you are a best writing fan fiction, and at worse you are stealing.

Therefore it’s back to the drawing board for me. But I think my story will be better for it.


P.S: With all I like about Jim Butcher, I just thought I’d share his LiveJournal link here. He gives a lot of good advice for aspiring writer’s, and it would be very good to check out. 🙂

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