“Bad artists copy. Good artists steal.” – Pablo Picasso
When I was in school someone introduced me to Japanese animation. The Japanese have a unique animation style and lots of quirky characters. I loved the look of their books and shows. So in order to learn how to properly draw in that same fashion I decided to pick up some tracing paper and copy what I saw in books.
After a while of doing that I’d lay the page beside the original and try my best to draw it myself. Later, I would buy character cards and draw them onto a sketch pad. I still remember trying to draw a female character and, while failing repeatedly to get her symmetrical, wanting wanting to shout out “I can’t draw breasts!”, but that would have garnered looks.
All of these steps led me to being able to freehand loads of characters. It’s the same when writing. How many times have you as a writer read or seen a character and just thought “that’s brilliant!”? You see this character and want to be able to create just like that.
Every artist steals. At least on some level. I’m not saying greatness can’t just come out of thin air, but everyone has a muse. The whole point of doing writing exercises is to get that mind of yours turning and flying with new ideas. It’s where those ideas come from that’s stolen.
Think like this; there are millions of stories about vampires. Some more vicious than others. Dark Matter Heart for example is more gory whereas Twilight is nearly family friendly. But they all are stealing the vampire persona.
How many times have you recommended a particular book to someone based on a character similar to another they already know? Reading the Tempest Series by Nicole Peeler and then picking up any of the True Blood books you’ll find many similarities.
When you are beginning to write it’s okay to try your hand at fan-fiction. Take favorite characters and put them in crazy situations. Once get I the habit try changing things about that particular character. His back story or his name could provide interesting new problems. But what if you change his home planet or his style of dress? Maybe your favorite character is more shy and introverted and you put him in a clown outfit. It draws attention, especially from children who he’s never been around. Now he has to make balloon animals. This could be a funny unknown talent.
So it’s not bad to copy in order to find your style. If you steal you get the entire package and can alter it to your liking. You like a certain world? Use it to your advantage! Steampunk? Design your own mechanical devices to fill it with.
Always remember to put your own touches in. I don’t mean like the remake of Psyco, more like using the story and creating new characters to fill it. You use the setting of Romeo and Juliet for characters from Teen Titans.
Have a good one!