So I've got a huge list of futuristics on my TBR pile that I'm itching to read and am afraid to touch. Why? Because I'm afraid of undue influence.
It's not that I'll steal plots or plagiarise writing. It's the fear that some detail I read somewhere will be absorbed into my subconscious and appear in my writing without my knowing. So if my heroine is inexplicably being obstinate and rude, it might be because she's being influenced by Cherijo, the protagonist of StarDoc - who's alive and kicking in my imagination.
No-one's immune to a case of unconscious hijacking, but I'm usually hyper-aware of being unconsciously influenced and make a conscious effort to veer away. On the other hand, I'm also conscious of the old adage 'There's nothing new under the sun'. The same way that Star Wars may have influenced some of my scenes, it may have influenced a ton of other writers in different ways. Some may be writing works of breath-taking genius, whilst others are churning out the same old derivative pap.
I've read enough romance novels and science fiction and fantasy books to understand the conventions of each genre. But when does a 'convention' become copycatting?
While striving to avoid undue influence I've often developed a major cause of writer's block. I've often been frustrated by a story idea having to be thrown in the bin after a similar story being released by another author - who no doubt picked it up from the same idea store I raided in the nebulous ether.
So when does the striving for originality become an exercise in futility? And finally, does it really matter? Isn't the author's individual style and voice the only thing that really sets us apart?
Answers in a postcard to.... Just kidding! But I would really like to know what you think.