I recently had someone tell me they didn’t read in the genre that they were writing in. It’s not the first time I’ve heard this.
It seems that it stems from the fear of possibly writing something so similar that future readers will cry, “Ripoff! Copycat!”
Really? Is that all? So, I should never have watched my DVD collection of Harry Potter movies because I was writing about a teen witch (The Book of Lost Souls). I guess I should be concerned that my character has red hair or blonde or black or brown. Unless I give them green or something else, there will always be a comparison. Does that mean that my critique partner should never read about vampires because she writes about vampires? No. That’s, well, silly. That would mean there could never again be a novel written containing a rich, handsome, dark-eyed, dark-haired vampire. Or a lawyer bent on proving his client’s innocence, only to find out the truth is bigger than the both of them. There never again be a story about a cop named Joe, or an FBI agent with baggage who sets out to save the woman he loves from the clutches of a serial killer. Geez, if the last example were true, it’d be the end of romantic suspense.
It’s not the idea, folks. It’s the execution. It’s not wrong to have teens in love and one of them is a vampire. It’s probably not a good idea to set it in the northeast and have one of them sparkle, though. It’s not the best idea to have a school for witchcraft and wizardry where the student stay there during school terms and a parentless main character. Don’t name your wizards Harry nor your teenage girls Bella and you’ll be fine. And even then, I don’t think either Ms. Rowling or Mr. Butcher care that they both have wizards named Harry.
But, you can certainly have a teen vampire and a teen wizard. Just make their story different. Make the setting different. Give them different risks and motives. Give them different backgrounds. Give them their own unique personality, quirks and all. Invent new things!
It goes without saying that every word you write is entirely your own. But it’d be a lie to say that someone else’s work didn’t help you become a better writer. It’d be a lie to say that certain authors or works haven’t influenced how you write. Stephen King was clearly so impressed with Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House that he created Rose Red. Both are haunted houses. In both stories, there’s a character that heads up a parapsychology expedition. Both houses want to keep the occupants forever – bwaaaaahahaha! Both succeed. They are entirely different stories.
By reading other authors, you’ve picked up on new dialog tags, how adding emotion and the senses bring out pivotal scenes. But, the words are yours and your characters.
So, keep reading what you love! Keep writing. Keep coming up with your own spin on cops, agents, vampire, and what-nots. Make the story your own in only a way you can tell it.
On a separate note, I’m still promoting my debut, The Book of Lost Souls. Today, I’m over at author David Burton’s site, Random Musings. Please come say hello!