Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Writing Wednesday: Imitiaton Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery or Ain't Life a Bitch?

As a long-time reviewer of crap on Amazon and Vine Voice(tm) and Amazon Prime member and stuff like that, I get offered free shit sometimes.  Like once a month Amazon picks out 4 of their upcoming books to offer for free on Kindle and I can download two.  I've done that a few times and the books usually suck.

Anyway, one of April's selections was called Boundary Crossed, which sounded like generic urban fantasy crap I have no interest in.  I was curious if it was about vampires or witches or angels or mermaids or what (vampires) and the first part of the description is this:
"The third time I died was early on a Monday morning, a week after Labor Day." As opening sentences go, that one is nothing less than awesome. I was hooked.
And I thought, hey that first line seems really familiar.  I've read something like that before.  I racked my brain for a couple of minutes and then went to check out a book on Amazon.  And yup, here's the opening line:
"Last night I died for the third time this week..."
That book is of course Oculus by Michael Offutt.  It was published in 2011, 4 years earlier!  I'm not saying it's plagiarism or anything, but it is a big coincidence.  And really Editor Person of the other book, I have to say Mr. Offutt's sentence is better.  It's a lot less bulky.  I mean the other sentence is a passive sentence whereas the one in Oculus is far more direct and active.  But hey, I guess that editor is blown away by passive sentences.

Anyway, did you ever see that movie Sliding Doors where Gwyneth Paltrow is racing to catch a subway train or something and they show two different outcomes, one where she makes it and one where she doesn't?  I think it's the version where she makes the train that turns out happy.  Or maybe not.  That's kind of how the writing world can work.  I mean, have you ever written something and then two weeks later you see a book or movie that's pretty much the same thing?  Like in 1995 I wrote a book called First Contact and the next year Star Trek:  First Contact comes out!

The point being two writers have two different books with similar opening sentences.  One book gets published by Amazon with all the marketing hoopla.  The other...not so much.  It's certainly not that the one book is bad and the other is good.  It's just that sometimes Fate is bullshit and you aren't at the right place at the right time.

The worst part is knowing there isn't shit you can do about it--except maybe throw more vampires in your book.


  1. Awh. Thank you kind sir. Perhaps I should have thrown more vampires around and then I'd be successful like Stephanie Meyer.

  2. I agree the opening line to Slipstream is better. I think we've all found out that you have to write what's popular if we want sales. Not that a few don't get lucky.

  3. It's a pretty big coincidence alright. The only prescription is more vampires!



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