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Thread: MC Too Similar

  1. #1
    sucking out all the marrow of life sarrahhakim's Avatar
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    MC Too Similar

    I've realized that my protagonist is very similar to a character in another book. I'm not really sure how to change her so that she is different, especially since she has been in my head for a long time, and everything about her (personality, appearance, etc.) seems to be set. It feels weird changing anything about her, but I feel as though I have to, now that I see how similar she is to the other character. Any advice on how to go about doing that?
    "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." ~C.S. Lewis
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  2. #2
    The Crazy Man in the Sun. Feel me. WillSauger's Avatar
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    I'm going to take a wild guess and say: The first book is unpublished and the second one you're planning to publish?

    If so, I wouldn't worry about it. I've always found writers to create similar characters, especially MCs. But if you're comparing unpublished works, you're just reusing a familiar setup (I did it for 5 years).

    If not... dunno. Maybe work with the second character's personality, try to find another edge that could set them apart.
    When you revise, go through and make sure all the characterization polarizes to what you want the reader to recognize the character as. Tedious, but simple.
    Don't Fear Failure.

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  3. #3
    sucking out all the marrow of life sarrahhakim's Avatar
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    Thanks for the reply! But I meant to say that my MC is too similar to a character in a book that's already been published by someone else. So, for example, if my MC was a boy with jet black hair, round glasses, and a lightning scar, he would be too similar to Harry Potter. Sorry I wasn't clear in my first post.
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  4. #4
    Benefactor Member WeaselFire's Avatar
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    So change her. An overweight blond kid with six toes wouldn't be Harry Potter. Feelings and personalities are still the same.

    Jeff

  5. #5
    Tell it like it Is Susan Littlefield's Avatar
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    sarrahhakim.

    I'll bet that character is not all as similar as you think she is. Just keep writing and make her your own character.
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  6. #6
    The Crazy Man in the Sun. Feel me. WillSauger's Avatar
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    If they're just similar, but not actually copies, or you just designed a character and discovered another character acted/appeared the same; it's fine. In all reality, they are your character, because there is something that will always set them apart. No characters/stories are the same.

    You might want to step inside your character. Look at who they are, what they wish to do, and form their personalities and appearance around that.
    I had a character who was a bit bland, and another character popped up and they were almost indistinguishable. So, I searched into the first character's life and found that she works for a (let's call it) "police" agency, but her thinking process before this was a bit lax. So, I brought out a sense of order and justice into her life, and this carried on to reason with joining this "police" agency later on.

    If you wish to change their personality, because it's bugging you, do what I said earlier. During the revision, rewrite that character's narration and dialogue along the lines that you set for their personality.

    If it's appearance, that's a easier fix (but I think your example, is just an example).


    It would help to know what character your talking about, and what similarities they share with your character.
    Don't Fear Failure.

    "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn" -- Alvin Toffler.

    "The heights of great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night" -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

  7. #7
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    If they aren't _very_ similar, in fact bordering on near-identical, I wouldn't worry about it. And even then, if the other character isn't from a work that others would readily know - I'm not so sure it's an issue. Nothing knew under the sun, after all.

    Of course, this is all presuming innocence and that the rest of the two works are much further apart in semblance than the chars.

  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW Mark Moore's Avatar
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    I wouldn't worry about it. My MCs tend to have things in common with each other, and I borrow some traits from another fictional characters sometimes.
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  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW rwm4768's Avatar
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    There are so many books and characters out there. You can't create a character that isn't similar to someone else's character, so don't worry about it. Write the character the way you want to write her.

    It might help us if you point out what character she is similar to, and how so.

  10. #10
    Freelance Writer Orianna2000's Avatar
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    Dynamic Characters by Nancy Kress. It will solve all your characterization woes.

    Seriously, this book will help you create unique, individual characters. No two people are identical in real life. Even identical twins have different personalities. So there's no need for your character to be identical to someone else's. Sure, it can be difficult to change a character after you've established her. You feel like you know her personally, she's a friend. But writing is a fluid process--you have to be willing to change things.

    Do the exercises the book tells you to do and write a detailed biography of your character. Figure out her likes and dislikes, her motivations and desires. Why does she act the way she does? What kind of childhood did she have? How did that affect her personality? You may learn all kinds of interesting things that you never knew about your character. You may find that she's really nothing like this other character that you're comparing her to. Or you may find that you need to switch a few things around. Give her a scar somewhere, and figure out where it came from. Give her a phobia and decide why she has that fear. Determine what she wants out of life and why. Figure out how she's going to change and grow through the course of the novel--no character should ever remain static (unless that's the point of the story).

    Once I started asking these questions of my characters (and there's a lot more in the book), they turned from cardboard caricatures into living, breathing, three-dimensional people.

  11. #11
    living in the past ishtar'sgate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Orianna2000 View Post
    characters. No two people are identical in real life. Even identical twins have different personalities.
    This is so true. I patterned a pair of identical twins in my novel from a single photo in a newspaper clipping. While their features were exactly the same, one looked sort of ethereal and sad while the other had a kind of anxious energy. Regardless of outward appearance, it is the personality and emotional life of the character that will determine how readers view them. It doesn't matter what they look like, it matters who they are.

  12. #12
    practical experience, FTW RobertEvert's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sarrahhakim View Post
    I've realized that my protagonist is very similar to a character in another book. I'm not really sure how to change her so that she is different, especially since she has been in my head for a long time, and everything about her (personality, appearance, etc.) seems to be set. It feels weird changing anything about her, but I feel as though I have to, now that I see how similar she is to the other character. Any advice on how to go about doing that?

    Change her hair color. That's what they do in television!

  13. #13
    Freelance Writer Orianna2000's Avatar
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    I just wanted to add, if you do give your character a scar or a phobia, don't make it random, but have it tie into the story. Like Indiana Jones and his fear of snakes. They didn't just say he was scared of snakes to give him some depth and leave it at that. No, they brought it into the story and made him face his fears. He had to traverse a room full of snakes in order to get the Staff of Ra (if I'm remembering correctly).

    So if your character has a unique characteristic, make it important to the plot and not just window dressing. Maybe if she has a fear of heights, she'll have to cross a high bridge in order to escape the enemy at the climax of the story. Or if she has a scar, maybe it was given to her by the bad guy when he defeated her as a teenager. It's haunted her all her life and now she'll have to face him again, not only to save the world, but to prove to herself that she's not still a scared, weak child.

  14. #14
    Writer Erin Kelly's Avatar
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    Just an FYI:

    When my agent subbed my contemporary MG, one of the editors came back and said, "This is great -- unfortunately we just acquired a book with a similar MC, who faces a similar problem."

    About four months later, that same book was acquired by another editor in a two-book deal.

    So - similar MCs aren't as big an issue as you would think. They are actually quite common. As long as your MC has her OWN story, her OWN plot, and her OWN thoughts and experiences, then you should be okay. What's most important is her personal story.

    Best of luck.
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    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    It depends on whether you mean 'chosen child with powers' similar, or 'chosen British boy with lightning scar who goes who magic boarding school' similar.

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    Retired Illuminatus dangerousbill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sarrahhakim View Post
    It feels weird changing anything about her, but I feel as though I have to, now that I see how similar she is to the other character. Any advice on how to go about doing that?
    If you change her, don't be surprised if the story begins to sound contrived. In your own head, she will still be the same person.
    Dangerous Bill

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  17. #17
    Makes useful distinctions Lady Ice's Avatar
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    Were you reading the other book at the time of writing yours or do they just happen to have similarities?
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  18. #18
    Travel biologist, piss-poor fluffer quicklime's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sarrahhakim View Post
    Thanks for the reply! But I meant to say that my MC is too similar to a character in a book that's already been published by someone else. So, for example, if my MC was a boy with jet black hair, round glasses, and a lightning scar, he would be too similar to Harry Potter. Sorry I wasn't clear in my first post.

    as others have said, the details matter.

    "chosen boy" may not be new, but isn't going to give you the uphill climb "boy wizard with scar at english boarding school" or "Harold Plotter" is going to. Not knowing what you mean yet about "similar" and where on the spectrum you are, it is difficult to say much about it.
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  19. #19
    sucking out all the marrow of life sarrahhakim's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the replies!

    Looking back, I think I was probably just being paranoid about my character. She seemed too similar to Kate, from THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY by Trenton Lee Stewart, because she's bold, adventurous, and carries a backpack with useful things everywhere (in THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY it's a bucket). She's also very flexible and in my mind, looks awfully similar.

    But I think I'll be okay. I'll just keep writing, and since the story is entirely different, the events that take place may shape her in a different way. I don't want the story to sound contrived, like dangerousbill says.
    Last edited by sarrahhakim; 11-25-2012 at 08:55 AM. Reason: I wanted to add the author of THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY.
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  20. #20
    Friendly Neighborhood Mustelidae The Otter's Avatar
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    I haven't read THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY, but those similarities seem very general. I'm sure there are quite a few bold, adventurous female protagonists who carry around useful things; no one is going to accuse you of plagiarism based on that. So yeah, don't worry about it.

  21. #21
    practical experience, FTW rwm4768's Avatar
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    I agree. Those similarities are general. There are so many characters like that. Don't worry about it.

  22. #22
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    I wouldn't be too bothered about it being similar, so long as they've got their own story. It's a big, wide world out there.
    I don't want a perfect life, just a happy one.

  23. #23
    Batman is bold, adventurous and wears a utility belt. A rucksack is a total non issue, anybody can carry one IRL.

    Characters follow archetypes. There's dirty cops, barmy detectives, crafty crooks, shady suspects; you'll be familiar with them all, and so it goes for every genre.

    These are as recurring in fiction as themes of love, marriage, loss and loneliness and that's okay. Truly unique characters are like snowflakes: they might look like one-of-a-kind close up, but if you take a step back the snow sure looks familiar.
    Last edited by absoluteamateur; 11-29-2012 at 10:54 PM.

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