On various sites I’ve seen posts where aspiring authors cringe when someone
else compares their work to an established author/icon.
How the Scenario unfolds(fictitious): Roger has been working
on a novel. He explains that it’s a sci-fi piece that focuses on a group of
freedom fighters trying to overthrow a tyrannical regime.
Sarah naturally responds, “Oh…so it’s like Star Wars?
So now Roger is really miffed that his countless hours of hard work can be
summarized into, “So it’s like Star Wars?” The monkey on my back seems
to be a relevant concern among aspiring authors. When I’ve seen these posts,
I’ve tried to emphasize that such a comparison is not an intentional insult.
(unless maliciously orchestrated that way)
For the most part, when anyone pitches a book idea in conversation, you will
generally receive a broad comparison to something else. This is simple
identification. It’s the listener’s way of validating that he/she heard what you
said. Putting a label on it is just a way of showing that he/she understands your topic. It’s more of a unconscious defense mechanism to save face than anything else. Afterall, the person you’re talking to doesn’t want you to think he/she is indifferent, stupid, or wasn’t listening. And if they have perused some of your pages, the identification mechanism is still in place.
I’m a new author and whenever I get “What’s your book about?” I generally
offer a condensed back-of-book blurb. So far, the feedback I’ve received differs
between male and female, and can be categorized into two responses.
Women: “Is it like Lord of the Rings?”
And my answer: “Sure, something like that, but a little more gritty.”
Let’s face it. Tolkien is the Grandfather of contemporary fantasy. If
you play with this genre, his name will always come up. And that’s
Men: Kinda like Harry Potter, with magic n’ stuff?
And my answer: Not exactly. It has magic, epic battles, kingdoms, and is more
Women: oh…so it’s like Game of Thrones?
And my answer: Will you marry me and have my children?
Marten is the reigning King of gritty, medieval fantasy. His work is
technically dark fantasy, but’s he’s so popular no one dares label him anything other than fantasy. (as if dark fantasy is a bad word)
Men: So it’s like King Arthur?
And my answer: It definitely has a medieval feel, but much different.
As much as I’ve tried to encourage other authors, the angst is still out there.
Unfortunately, you are going up against years of conditioning that begun with
simple identification exercises when you were a child. My take is to have such
occurrences inspire you instead of feeling insulted or frustrated. Just write,
My outlook is from a new author’s perspective. Am I off the mark? Do any of you seasoned authors get frustrated when compared to others?