Constantly Worried I'll be Accused of Stealing Ideas

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Constantly Worried I'll be Accused of Stealing Ideas

Postby forgotten_cake » December 6th, 2018, 2:11 pm

Hey there.

So I've been having a comic-making block for a few years now, and it's not so much a writing or a drawing block, as just... irrational fears, I guess? It seems like every time I come up with a story and start working on it, a famous cartoon studio (or game studio, etc) will release a cartoon/whatever with a *very* similar plot or character design to my own before I get a chance to release my work (or sometimes after I've released it, but my stuff isn't very well-known, so I assume any new readers won't be paying attention to the dates I started posting things).

A few examples:

- That game/manga/anime Angels of Death has a similar tone to my comic Imitation Nightmare, as well as a character that looks very similar to the main character of my comic, and even has a similar name (her name is Ray, my character's name is Reyn). My comic came out years before that series, but since it's been on hiatus for so long, I feel like most of my old readers are probably gone by this point - and again, new ones won't look at dates and will just shrug it off as a cheap knockoff of the much more popular series.

- My boyfriend played this game recently called Fran Bow that has basically the same plot as Imitation Nightmare, down to specific details (it also came out years after my comic, but... yeah).

Those are just a few, there have been many other instances with other stories/comics of mine as well.

I realize that literally every idea has been done and will be done again and again, it's just that these are such recent things so similar to my own, and I'm worried that readers won't take that fact into account. I do draw comics for myself; I don't have any real plans/hopes of monetizing off of them or anything, but still - the fact that anyone who stumbles across them might just see them as ripoffs of more popular things stresses me out to the point where I don't want to work on them at all. And not working on them stresses me out because making comics is my stress relief/something I miss terribly. It's a real catch-22, haha.

I guess what I'm asking is if anyone has had similar issues and maybe knows a good way to train your brain not to care/worry about these things, though any other advice is welcome as well! And thank you for taking the time to read this.
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Re: Constantly Worried I'll be Accused of Stealing Ideas

Postby eishiya » December 6th, 2018, 2:46 pm

I have these fears about my ideas too. What helps me is to remember that if you focus on the similarities between stories rather than their differences, you can make almost any story sound like a copy of any other down to surprisingly fine details, because many stories have a lot of shared elements due to shared cultural influences and some of the predictable ways in which our brains work.

Most often, those similarities don't actually matter all that much. Two stories can have the exact same MacGuffin and premise and have the same character archetypes, but still feel very different because they focus on different aspects. For example, the 2002 anime .hack//SIGN and the 2001 movie Avalon both take place in online games that the main character is unable to log out of, players in both games have well-defined classes or roles in combat, both include a mysterious glowing girl clad in white that the main character tries to track down, both have the character follow bread crumbs that reveal clues about the nature of the game world, both have a pervasive sense of melancholy in the setting, both show the real world as a bleak place full of everyday torments and struggles, the main characters have somewhat similar hair styles, both involve a character who became stuck in the game earlier, both game worlds are based on European cities, I could probably go on if I could remember both stories better xP And yet, they're completely different stories that I doubt anyone would accuse of stealing each other's ideas, or even of being particularly similar.


In over a decade of putting my stories online, no one's accused me of stealing ideas. Instead, people saw the similarities as a good thing - more stories that are similar to what they like, more of a particular plot element, or another take on some idea they liked, that's all fantastic for them!
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Re: Constantly Worried I'll be Accused of Stealing Ideas

Postby ArcimboldoFIshFace » December 6th, 2018, 2:49 pm

As you said, it seems that every idea has been used up, over and over again, and the possibility of being accused of ripping off an existing work is ever greater. However, using an old idea and as a foundation for a work done in a novel way is not a new thing. Plus, each ancient idea can be more easily digested when looked through the the lens of today; the same story can be remade to suit today's audience, or twisted to bring a fresh look, or even simple amusement. And this is not a bad thing; for example, from the time od Shakespeare, Hamlet was played by men, but in the 19th century, with the rise actresses, women began to play the role, and playing him they explored a different side of the young prince, but just as human. I'm sorry if this is off topic, but I wanted to point out that yes, there will be people who will accuse you of copying another work, but if they are not capable of looking at the bigger picture, it's their own problem. It's one thing if your work is essentially a plagiate, and another if it uses the same theme, or style, or idea. You can try to make it deliberately different from your initial conception, but not if it feels unnatural.
You can even argue that we are all affected by certain shared archetypes, if you follow Jung (I don't). So don't worry, originality is overrated anyway. :mrgreen:
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Re: Constantly Worried I'll be Accused of Stealing Ideas

Postby forgotten_cake » December 6th, 2018, 4:12 pm

eishiya wrote:I have these fears about my ideas too. What helps me is to remember that if you focus on the similarities between stories rather than their differences, you can make almost any story sound like a copy of any other down to surprisingly fine details, because many stories have a lot of shared elements due to shared cultural influences and some of the predictable ways in which our brains work.

Most often, those similarities don't actually matter all that much. Two stories can have the exact same MacGuffin and premise and have the same character archetypes, but still feel very different because they focus on different aspects. For example, the 2002 anime .hack//SIGN and the 2001 movie Avalon both take place in online games that the main character is unable to log out of, players in both games have well-defined classes or roles in combat, both include a mysterious glowing girl clad in white that the main character tries to track down, both have the character follow bread crumbs that reveal clues about the nature of the game world, both have a pervasive sense of melancholy in the setting, both show the real world as a bleak place full of everyday torments and struggles, the main characters have somewhat similar hair styles, both involve a character who became stuck in the game earlier, both game worlds are based on European cities, I could probably go on if I could remember both stories better xP And yet, they're completely different stories that I doubt anyone would accuse of stealing each other's ideas, or even of being particularly similar.


In over a decade of putting my stories online, no one's accused me of stealing ideas. Instead, people saw the similarities as a good thing - more stories that are similar to what they like, more of a particular plot element, or another take on some idea they liked, that's all fantastic for them!


That's a good point - I think I get too wrapped up in this fear and do that; make the stories seem literally identical in my mind when in reality they probably aren't.
And thank you for that! It's comforting to know you've struggled with similar fears and yet haven't had anyone accuse you of it, that definitely helps.


ArcimboldoFIshFace wrote:As you said, it seems that every idea has been used up, over and over again, and the possibility of being accused of ripping off an existing work is ever greater. However, using an old idea and as a foundation for a work done in a novel way is not a new thing. Plus, each ancient idea can be more easily digested when looked through the the lens of today; the same story can be remade to suit today's audience, or twisted to bring a fresh look, or even simple amusement. And this is not a bad thing; for example, from the time od Shakespeare, Hamlet was played by men, but in the 19th century, with the rise actresses, women began to play the role, and playing him they explored a different side of the young prince, but just as human. I'm sorry if this is off topic, but I wanted to point out that yes, there will be people who will accuse you of copying another work, but if they are not capable of looking at the bigger picture, it's their own problem. It's one thing if your work is essentially a plagiate, and another if it uses the same theme, or style, or idea. You can try to make it deliberately different from your initial conception, but not if it feels unnatural.
You can even argue that we are all affected by certain shared archetypes, if you follow Jung (I don't). So don't worry, originality is overrated anyway. :mrgreen:


That's true - and yeah, I have thought about changing things to distinguish them more, but I think that would get to the point where the changes would end up being similar to something else and I'd just want to change them over and over... But by that point the original feel and concept are kind of lost (or feel unnatural, as you said).
But I agree with that last sentiment, too - originality doesn't even really exist, haha.
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Re: Constantly Worried I'll be Accused of Stealing Ideas

Postby VothnThorvaldson » December 6th, 2018, 5:02 pm

I'm a newbie with comics, so read my message with that in mind :)

I understand that fear so well! It was only transient for me in the case of comics, but it is still something that paralyzes me so much I can't compose music.
Each time I put 10+ notes together I feel like an horrible thief. Especially if I think it's good, then I will have the nagging idea that I must have gotten the idea from somewhere else. And as I listen to many music genres, up to 10 hours a day, I can never verify if I actually stole the idea or not. Horrible. I actually gave up composing music because of that.

Coming back to comics. I started thinking of writing one before actually reading online comics, and I was never a big paper comic reader either. When I started reading online comics I felt like all my ideas had already been utilized 1000 times. It was pretty depressing and also paralyzed me for a while.

However, contrarily to music where you can actually memorize and reproduce the exact notes by accident (which would constitute real and provable plagiarism if it's long enough to be significant), I don't think it's likely to happen with comics, especially if we are aware of the issue.
As it was said before, there will necessarily be similarities in the theme with many other comics. But as long as you give your personal touch to the plot and art, I don't think there is anything to worry about.

In my case what made my lose this fear with comics is that one of my two comic projects has various themes; so that I'm pretty sure I won't come across a million comics that have that specific combination of themes. My other project has only one main theme and a pretty straightforward and simple plot and I'm certain that is the reason I started working on the more complex project first. The straightforward story doesn't give me the safety the more convoluted one provides.
So maybe that would be my advice: if part of your plot/theme feel too common or too trendy, maybe give it a twist by associating it to a fresher/more unusual theme, point of view, secondary plot etc..
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Re: Constantly Worried I'll be Accused of Stealing Ideas

Postby eishiya » December 6th, 2018, 5:38 pm

VothnThorvaldson wrote:I understand that fear so well! It was only transient for me in the case of comics, but it is still something that paralyzes me so much I can't compose music.
Each time I put 10+ notes together I feel like an horrible thief. Especially if I think it's good, then I will have the nagging idea that I must have gotten the idea from somewhere else. And as I listen to many music genres, up to 10 hours a day, I can never verify if I actually stole the idea or not. Horrible. I actually gave up composing music because of that.

At the risk of going off topic: it's very common for music, especially music within a genre, to share sequences of notes. There are only so many notes, chords, and short combinations of them that sound good to human brains. Music is much more than the sequences of notes making up any several seconds of it, it's also the overall progression or story created by those sequences of notes, the instrumentation, and all that other stuff. Even if you accidentally steal some ideas, chances are the piece as a whole will be significantly different from any of its inspirations, especially if you're purposeful in your composition (i.e. go for a particular mood/story as opposed to just stringing together bits of melody that sound good).

One of my interests outside of comics is pixel art. When working at very small resolutions, there are only so many ways you can place each pixel and pick each colour and still produce an appealing, readable image. Similarities in style, including outright identical features such as faces, are very common between different pixel artists, and it's not a problem because these limitations are understood. If every piece had to be wholly unique and original, no one would be able to make small-res pixel art anymore! I think it's similar with music.
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Re: Constantly Worried I'll be Accused of Stealing Ideas

Postby VothnThorvaldson » December 6th, 2018, 6:07 pm

I'm aware of that, that why I said that it is plagiarism “if it's long enough to be significant”.
But it's probably right to assume that most of the time, I'm overreacting.
However there were a few times when I know I was not, and how can I be sure that there were no other cases that I did not find out?

I'm (was) writing prog metal with folk influences.
One time I wanted to add a simple melody with a generic Armenian folk feel and ended up copying almost note for note an original composition. That was surprising too, because I listen to a lot of Armenian "true"(=old) traditional songs, and to only few original compositions with traditional Armenian influences, but for some reason that's one of the later that stuck and tricked me.
That was the worst case, pretty traumatizing to me.
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Re: Constantly Worried I'll be Accused of Stealing Ideas

Postby forgotten_cake » December 7th, 2018, 10:00 am

VothnThorvaldson wrote:I'm a newbie with comics, so read my message with that in mind :)

I understand that fear so well! It was only transient for me in the case of comics, but it is still something that paralyzes me so much I can't compose music.
Each time I put 10+ notes together I feel like an horrible thief. Especially if I think it's good, then I will have the nagging idea that I must have gotten the idea from somewhere else. And as I listen to many music genres, up to 10 hours a day, I can never verify if I actually stole the idea or not. Horrible. I actually gave up composing music because of that.

Coming back to comics. I started thinking of writing one before actually reading online comics, and I was never a big paper comic reader either. When I started reading online comics I felt like all my ideas had already been utilized 1000 times. It was pretty depressing and also paralyzed me for a while.

However, contrarily to music where you can actually memorize and reproduce the exact notes by accident (which would constitute real and provable plagiarism if it's long enough to be significant), I don't think it's likely to happen with comics, especially if we are aware of the issue.
As it was said before, there will necessarily be similarities in the theme with many other comics. But as long as you give your personal touch to the plot and art, I don't think there is anything to worry about.

In my case what made my lose this fear with comics is that one of my two comic projects has various themes; so that I'm pretty sure I won't come across a million comics that have that specific combination of themes. My other project has only one main theme and a pretty straightforward and simple plot and I'm certain that is the reason I started working on the more complex project first. The straightforward story doesn't give me the safety the more convoluted one provides.
So maybe that would be my advice: if part of your plot/theme feel too common or too trendy, maybe give it a twist by associating it to a fresher/more unusual theme, point of view, secondary plot etc..


I hope you find your own peace of mind with your music someday. ;v;

I actually have a tendency of making my stories overly complex(to the point where it annoys me, haha), and I agree that does help distinguish them, at least. They just tend to look like other things on a superficial level to me, which causes the worry of readers not giving them enough of a chance to see that they're their own thing - but, like ArcimboldoFIshFace said, I guess that's their own problem if it happens.
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Re: Constantly Worried I'll be Accused of Stealing Ideas

Postby Shyads » December 7th, 2018, 12:09 pm

I echo other people's sentiment that everything's been done before but god if this wasn't a huge factor holding me back from any projects for years now. Then a couple days ago I just decided "fuckit" and started storyboarding a webcomic. And I'm still scared, but I've spent enough time being scared that it's lessened to the point where my boredom and curiosity have become stronger

Weirdly enough, this model is one that my therapist has helped me with when dealing with my ptsd; leaning into the negative emotions head-on rather than avoiding them, wallowing in them and experiencing them in a safe environment for so long and so often that my brain no longer flips the panic switch when they occur, and just kind of goes "oh, this again? whatever"

What I'm saying is that there isn't a way to really shut off emotions, but there is a way to rewire your brain, it just tames time. Emotions are chemical responses, they're very real things, and over time, your thoughts can be shifted so that you're better able to deal with them and they wont interfere with things as much! How wonderful it would be to be a robot and not have such trivial things like fatigue and sadness halt our productivity, eh?

Figure out what works best for you, maybe venting in a forum like this helps a ton and that's awesome! There's lots of people in lots of places you can talk to, and many other ways to vent things out (I've found talking to people works best in my case) maybe you'll need it just the once, maybe you'll have to keep doing this a bunch over time. Either way, if it takes a week or a month or a year, it's possible to change in big ways

sorry if i kinda went off on a tangent there, I hope this is readable and helpful in some way, I wish you luck on your future projects and hope that we get to read them : o
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Re: Constantly Worried I'll be Accused of Stealing Ideas

Postby forgotten_cake » December 7th, 2018, 6:33 pm

Man, I wish I could be a robot - I'd get so much done, haha. So much.

Like I said, I know that everything's been done, and I'm not actually too worried about being 100% original or anything - I just don't want to be seen as a common thief. That's an interesting idea that your therapist had, although I think my problem is the opposite where I do that already (spend so much time thinking and worrying about the bad thing happening when it hasn't even happened yet), so I'm not sure which approach would work best for me. I've vented to friends about this in the past, but I think venting here has actually helped a bit more - you know, being in a space with other people who have experienced the same fear, whereas my friends may not completely understand - so thank you all for that. : D
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