Dodging Derivatives

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Have you ever written a story that you soon realized was clearly lifted from another author’s work? Have you ever come up with an idea only to discover it was actually developed by someone else?

Science fiction is a genre that can easily fall into derivatives. Far too often writers of genre fiction either copy ideas from others without thinking about it, or develop ideas from the same source material.

Here’s 3 tips on how to avoid that:

1. Don’t Just Read the Science 

The “science” part of science fiction is important. But taking all your inspiration from the science periodicals is a recipe for disaster. Every submission season, it’s obvious when a new article came out with an interesting scientific breakthrough, because multiple people write about it!

Try breaking out the philosophy magazines and the histories and classics. Maybe there you’ll find inspiration that other people won’t also write about!

2. Take the Tropes and Twist Them

There are a ton of tropes in genre fiction. Science fiction especially suffers from the same sort of ideas time and again. Whether it’s the “AI will kill us” scenario or the “humans are their own enemy” story, it’s a recurring thing when these plot elements are used so frequently.

Take these ideas, and flip them around! Instead of AI being a killer, make it the one suspected of the murder. In reality, people killed and made the AI look like a murderer on purpose! How about the “humans are their own enemy” story? What would an alien race look like who was worse to themselves than humanity is to themselves?

3. Write Down Your Dreams

This seems silly, but I’ve had so many great ideas in the twilight hours! While I’m on the edge of consciousness, my brain just spits out random ideas and thoughts. It’s helpful to write them down so you have unique images and ideas to work from!


I hope you enjoyed that! Let me know in the comments below if anything else has helped you avoid falling into the “same old, same old”. Thanks!

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