• U.S. members: The Federal Government is offering each household in the United States four (4) free at-home Covid-19 test kits. https://www.covidtests.gov/

To read or not to read?

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

Psychoclown

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 22, 2021
Messages
258
Reaction score
162
So, I was looking for some more recently published comsic horror. I came across an interesting anthology of short stories. The premise of every story is that it must be set AFTER of the Old Gods have arisen. As soon as I read a blurb about one of the stories, my brain immediately yelled, "That's a great idea!" And now I want to write a story featuring a similar premise.

I know nothing about the details of the published story, I just know the elevator pitch version - Rich guy builds a house meant to withstand the awakening of Cthulu and his minions. I've spent a decent chunk of the day researching ideas and cobbling together a plot. My question is, should I read the story that inspired me to make sure I'm not repeating what has already been done? I hesitate only because I'm afraid the existing story might influence me (consciously or subconsciously) and I'll end up riffing on what's already been done. What do you all recommend?
 

Helix

socially distancing
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 31, 2011
Messages
8,697
Reaction score
2,893
Location
Atherton Tablelands
Website
snailseyeview.medium.com

ChaseJxyz

Writes birds and bird accessories
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 5, 2020
Messages
1,448
Reaction score
1,006
Location
The Rottenest City on the Pacific Coast
Website
www.chasej.xyz
There's been plenty of times when I've gotten the idea to write something I've never done before, so I go out there and read a bunch to see what other people have done. Reasons to do so includes:
  • What do I like about these kinds of stories?
  • What is "required" for this kind of story? What sort of things does the reader expect?
  • What do I not like, and why? What can I do to fix these "problems" in my own work?
  • What mistakes have others made? Can I figure out a reason why they made them? How can I prevent that myself?
  • What is the general voice/tone/vibe? Are there certain POVs that tend to be used, certain words, different ways of using grammar?
To me, analyzing other peoples' stories is very fun, I want to learn their creative process, why they made the decisions they did, and how that influenced the final product. I also get easily annoyed and driven by spite to do something better than someone else; one of my antagonists is faceblind, he's going after the MC because he doesn't realize it's them, and this is because a game I otherwise loved had an antagonist who did horrendous things because he wanted to cure his faceblindness. I am faceblind and it is very clear the writers have not actually talked to someone who is. You ID people by their voice, hair, clothes, mannerisms, you don't brutally murder children.

So when you read a story that's like something you want to make, it can give you ideas, usually in the "what if X but Y?" format. What if the antagonist's faceblindness is the reason he's doing what he's doing...but he doesn't realize that he's being the antagonist? What if this detective actually has a reason to have no faith in his skills? What if I wasn't a coward and I made everyone trans?

Everything has been done before. There are no original ideas. But it's the mixture and execution of those ideas that are new. No two writers will write the same story as the media they've consumed and experiences they've lived are different. What is "cosmic horror" to you isn't exactly the same as someone else, horror is very personal.
 

Kat M

Ooh, look! String!
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jan 4, 2019
Messages
951
Reaction score
610
Location
Puget Sound
Or write, read, rewrite.
I was going to suggest this myself; get your story into your head and then read it to differentiate it from the other. That way you avoid the story's influence on your own until you have your own more firmly defined.

Then I read ChaseJxyz's post and I see their point about analyzing others' stories to improve your own. I definitely advise reading first if you're not familiar with the genre just to, as Chase says, get its tropes and conventions under your skin.

And chances are, even if there are striking similarities between your story and the one you read, and even if the one you read shapes your story even more, your execution will move the stories far apart.
 

stephenf

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 29, 2008
Messages
1,075
Reaction score
178
So, I was looking for some more recently published comsic horror. I came across an interesting anthology of short stories. The premise of every story is that it must be set AFTER of the Old Gods have arisen. As soon as I read a blurb about one of the stories, my brain immediately yelled, "That's a great idea!" And now I want to write a story featuring a similar premise.

I know nothing about the details of the published story, I just know the elevator pitch version - Rich guy builds a house meant to withstand the awakening of Cthulu and his minions. I've spent a decent chunk of the day researching ideas and cobbling together a plot. My question is, should I read the story that inspired me to make sure I'm not repeating what has already been done? I hesitate only because I'm afraid the existing story might influence me (consciously or subconsciously) and I'll end up riffing on what's already been done. What do you all recommend?
I'm sure most writers read the genre they like, and write what they would like to read
 

Psychoclown

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 22, 2021
Messages
258
Reaction score
162
I suppose I should post an update. Based on the advice here, I ordered the anthology in question (and a few other books, because why stop at one?) and read the short story I was interested in right off the bat. It was OK. Not my favorite and definitely went in a different direction than the one I was planning on.

The anthology itself has been a little uneven. Some good, some eh, some what the hell? But even the stuff I didn't care for what interesting to read, and the stories usually had some good imagery. One story did touch on a theme I was planning on for a second novel (if I ever finish the first). The author has in fact published an entire anthology of his own work all dedicated to this same vein of cosmic horror. I will probably be ordering it, once I finish off the books I just got. I might even contact the fellow and see if he'd be willing to discuss some of his ideas.

So in short, I'm glad I followed the collective wisdom here. Thanks!
 
  • Like
Reactions: Helix

Unimportant

but appreciated anyway...
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 8, 2005
Messages
8,165
Reaction score
4,178
Location
Aotearoa
Good on ya.

I do think that it's useful, and valuable, to read and to be au fait in the genre, and more importantly the market, you want to sell.

You don't have to like it, or have a passion for it, or read it for pleasure.... but if you want to sell it, you need to grok it.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Maryn

iBleed2

Registered
Joined
Jul 12, 2019
Messages
39
Reaction score
4
I've had this situation arise several times when I talk to people about my stories. It always reminds them of another. If I hadn't read the story before, when I do read it it's something similar but not in the exact same way, and the original concept gives me more to flesh out my own. When they turn out to be very similar on the point of looking lazy (which happens quite often unfortunately) then I'm forced to relook at what I thought was an original concept and think how I can make it more interesting. Sometimes, though, you just have to accept not every idea in your book is going to be original. That's where execution comes into play.

To answer your original question: read it.
 

Elizabeth George's book Write Away