There really is nothing new under the sun. I was scrolling through my newsfeed this morning and saw a post by a cover artist I follow of a cover for a publisher. On it was a beastie who looks a lot like the beastie I was just trying to draw. (His was way better, of course, but then again, he's a pro and I'm a dabbler.)
I assume his drawing was to the specifications of whatever author the cover was for. Which means two authors who've never met each other pulled similar beasties out of their heads at nearly the same time.
I've been thinking about this a bit. I mean, look at the commercials - specifically the taglines. Marketing people have to be running out of new things to say about their products, or they're becoming increasingly stupid. (Here's one that's still new and fresh - with a cat - but most commercials aren't this smart.) I wish I could remember the worst one I saw the other day. It went something like 'Dog food brand... because you have a dog'. It wasn't dog food, but the gist was the same. 'Eye drops... because you have eyes.' Maybe it was 'Skin cream... because you have skin.' Yeah, that sound closer to right.
Anyway, with mankind having written stuff for centuries now, it's hard to come up with something totally new.
I've talked about this before - a friend wrote a book, got it published, and then got crap about it on the internet because it's similar to another book that had been published a couple years prior. I had read the previous book and I read my friend's book when it was still pre-published. There were similarities in the plot and in some of the devices, but that's where the similarities ended. One's book was lighthearted, the other's was more serious.
So, my friend dropped her book. Which was too bad because I thought it was the better book. I had a major sad that the previous author did nothing to stop her fans from attacking my friend. A 'hey guys, thanks for your support, but she didn't steal my work, so cut it out' would've been nice. And even sadder is that both books had a particular twist in them that was similar to one in a popular movie, so there really wasn't something NEW to 'steal' anyway.
How do we, as writers, keep this from happening? How do we write something NEW when it seems like everything out there has been done already? No clue. I guess we write our books to the best of our abilities and hope that what we've created isn't too similar to someone else's work.
You could, of course, read everything that's already been written, so you know for sure. Heh. You could research everything and change whatever seems similar, but you run the risk of 1) changing it so that it's now like something else and 2) ruining your own damn book.
For my part, it's a matter of read what I can and research what I can and hope for the best. Yes, I will probably change some basic things about the mistmorph. (Have to research that name so I don't end up having named my critter something someone else has already used.) Specifically, the quills running along its spine - which is what makes it exceptionally close to what that artist had drawn. Other than that, I think I'm safe. His had a wolf head - mine has a panther head with bat eyes and ears. His was furry and mine is furless with slick gray skin. Not really that big a deal.
I really am trying to write this so that it comes off as fresh and original. I already talked about having a similar name to another fantasy author which gives me a slight stumbler from the get go. Nothing I can do about that. People will think what they want to think whether there's a rational basis for it or not.
And there's a slight plot device that similar to another popular book, but the actual thing and its mythology is, I hope, adequately unusual as to make that a non-issue.
Is it any wonder fantasy novels take so damn long? Maybe I'll talk about that next time.