Undue Influence

So I’ve been watching this show, very intensely and continuously (this is what happens when you watch series on DVD instead of being a slave to the television and its schedule). I just finished an erotica piece and was waiting for another character to show up and tell me his story. And while walking last night, a beginning and a sketchy plot line occurred to me.

And that plot was extremely reminiscent of the show I’ve been watching.

I’m sure this happens to all writers. Whatever you’re reading, whatever you’re watching, whatever stories are currently taking up a lot of room inside your head, they seem to have an influence. And you worry that people will say, “Ah, she’s been watching too much Whatever Show!” and shake their fingers. And that this will affect whether they buy the book.

I’d like to make several points about that. Firstly, if you’re any kind of decent writer at all, you will not be plagiarizing here. Your own stylistic influence will be the overwhelmingly recognizable one. You can’t really write with someone else’s voice, except by imitation, and what I’m talking about here is dismay at finding your style influenced by another, not directly lifting it.

Secondly, even if you somehow did write closely enough to another’s style or concepts to be recognizable, there will be a great deal of time between the idea, its execution, and the eventual publication. If, for example, I start the novel that occurred to me and finish it and send it out and it gets accepted and published, it’s going to be something like two years from now. The world will have moved on.

Thirdly, even if anyone does read it and say, hmm, that’s kind of like the Whatever Show… the only way they will be familiar enough with the style is if they have also watched the Whatever Show enough to become intimate with it. That means they probably liked it a lot. So it will only raise the likelihood of buying your book, not lower it. And anyway, most likely they are raging fancritters and will just feel clever that they spotted it.

So while I would never advocate lifting your plot too obviously from a show or book (file off the serial numbers first) or trying to change your style to match someone else’s… if a stylistic or conceptual difference is creeping into your work by accident, don’t worry about it.

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