How do fiction book writers avoid the risk of duplicating someone else’s work?

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There are millions of books written in many languages and there has to be boundaries to human imagination.

In: Other

They don’t, really. There is nothing new under the sun; they can only hope to write in a better and more interesting way than what came before. It will never be an exact duplicate unless you’re actually plagiarizing.

They don’t, really.

Like, if you take a look at the underlying plot of Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Harry Potter, they’re all pretty much the same story told through different names and backgrounds: Big evil thing that is foretold by a wise old white-haired mentor wizard figure comes for our hero of meek and meager origin who has a the power of their heart that they then use to overcome that big evil thing by destroying the source of their evil powers, and then eventually killing the big evil thing completely.

LotR the big evil thing is Sauron and his orc army, Star Wars it’s the Emperor and his Empire, Harry Potter it’s Voldemort and his Death Eaters. LotR’s source of evil power is the one ring, Star Wars has a pair of death stars, Harry Potter has horcruxes.

Do a quick search for “the monomyth” and you will find basically the template for a story that essentially all stories tend to follow.

There are works that break from these in ways, but ultimately in the storytelling tradition, we end up with some character or faction or entity that we end up rooting for as the story unfolds, and at the conclusion of the story, that entity/character/faction either succeeds or fails at their ultimate goal, and thus the two overarching types of story, comedy and tragedy, are codified.

Once you realize that all stories are mixed-up versions of things that have come before it, you start to be able to pull and mix from different sources and your own life experiences to make a unique piece of fiction, that while it may be very similar to some other pieces of fiction that were inspired by the same things, will have enough differences to be distinct.

It’s only really a bad thing, overwhelmingly speaking (some people don’t like it when there are more broad similarities but there’s dissention on that) when someone blatantly and knowingly copies the work of someone else, word-for-word, and then tries to pass it off as their own.

It’s been said that there are really only seven (or some other number) stories. And all stories (novels, films, etc.) are a variation on these.

It’s all legal as long as you don’t rip off entire passages.

If your work is too much of a rip off, the audience and critics will reject it. The work will go unread. The author might kill himself.