A Life Of fiction XCIV

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work before purchasing it on the Kindle store; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

 

Inspiration Not Theft: I get inspired by all manner of stuff – films, books, music. But the point is to be inspired to do something original, rather than copy other books. As I have said, in posts past, there is no point in re-writing Dracula, it won’t be as good as the Bram Stoker original.

That, though, does not mean that you cannot write another vampire tale, as long as you do it in a new and original manner. I have completed two vampire trilogies (not connected) and one stand alone novel. The two trilogies were both inspired by books which I had read, or read about.

The first of those trilogies was my Varnae trilogy. I think that I have described that as a re-imagining of Varney the vampire. The original tale was published in the mid-Victorian era. It complete name was Varney the Vampire; or, the Feast of Blood. It was written by James Malcolm Rymer. But it has been claimed that the actual author was Thomas Preskett Prest. The story is immense in size, running to around two thirds of a million words.

The original book was only a jumping off point for me, though. I wondered what the central character would be like if he came back in the modern day. The same Varney, perhaps, but in a different setting. I saw little ways in which I could use Varney to play with the tropes of the vampire mythos, and to approach things in what I hoped was a new and interesting way. I didn’t steal anything from the original, apart from echoing the opening sentence. Like I said: inspiration not theft.

 

The other vampire trilogy of mine was The Shades trilogy. That was inspired by the Twilight series. But I wanted my vampires to be the antithesis of those sparkly things. I was inspired not to write something similar, but to go in the opposite direction, and restore vampires to being truly evil creatures of the darkness, rather than moon-faced goths. Another way in which a person can be inspired – to do a rejection of another piece of media.

I deliberately made the first novel go very slowly. I didn’t want it to come across as some novel where a vampire is sinking his teeth into some buxom wench’s neck before the end of page two. Sometimes, for horror to be effective, it has to build, with the reader unable to do anything about it, but to read on, until the terrible conclusion.

I have only recently completed the trilogy. I spent a year or two thinking about the structure of the third novel in the trilogy, before completing it. I wanted it to be right – or as good as I was able to write at the time.

 

I know of people – not just Enya – who listen to know music but their own, because they don’t really want to be influenced by other stuff. But not only is that impossible, but undesirable. Everybody is influenced by what they see and hear around them, even if they don’t want to be. I am no different in that, and I am sure that I have subconsciously been influenced by Stephen King, Terry Pratchett, Robert Rankin, David Mitchell, superhero comics, punk music, horror films, and so on. And there is nothing wrong with that, as long as you use those influences to create something which is original. It must not have been done before.

What is not acceptable is rewriting somebody else’s novel – pinching their plot ideas. Yes, occasionally I like playing with such toys as Sherlock Holmes. I have written a Holmes-Ripper novel. But you will find that it is different, in its plot, to any other such novel out there.

I am therefore not in favour of some of these cinematic ‘re-imaginings’, which basically mean remaking a movie after only a few years, and not doing as good a job as the original filmmakers. The current Spiderman films come to mind, as do the remakes of Total Recall and Robocop. I suppose at least they tried to change the stories a bit. But they were unnecessary films.

I am never going to try to rewrite The Hound of the Baskervilles or The Sign of Four. The Valley of Fear, on the other hand, might be one work which could do with being re-imagined – but only if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was around to do it.

 

People have found inspiration in all manner of things, though, and not just those examples of media created by other artists and writers. Poets such as William Wordsworth have found inspiration in nature, in such things as clouds and daffodils. Keats was inspired by a Grecian urn. Coleridge was allegedly inspired by drug-induced dreams.

I get inspired by things I read, things I watch on TV, music which moves me. But sometimes ideas just seem to come out of nowhere. Usually when I am sitting in the bath, because it is one of the few times when I am totally relaxed. Then, if the idea is any good, I have to jump out of the bath to scribble the idea down before I forget it. Ah, the number of times I have left wet footprints behind me…

 

There are those times, generally in music, where a person has felt inspired, but has discovered that they have stolen by accident. Perhaps some other tune entered their head and stayed there without them realising it; and, years later, they wrote something which they thought was original. But it was not.

Perhaps the most famous example of that is George Harrison, and My Sweet Lord, which, in a court case, was judged to have the same tune as He’s So Fine by the Chiffons. There have been several other cases, though, such as Oasis versus the New Seekers; and that Blurred Lines track which was judged to be similar to a work by Marvin Gaye.

Can such a thing occur just with the literary word? I see no reason not. Perhaps some author read something as a child or young adult, and the words or the plot stayed with him, only for the author to regurgitate years later in something which he truly believed to be original. Such things do occur. I am not going to name names, here, for legal reasons, but I can think of at least once case of something like that. I can’t afford to fight a libel action.

But, to complete this thought, I think that we should be inspired by the books which we read. We have to produce the next generation of books, and few ideas truly come out of nowhere. As the great man himself, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle once said, input should exceed output.

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