How Much Inspiration Is Too Much? – Eragon vs. Star Wars

Sometimes authors draw inspiration from existing novels, games, or movies.  To a new author, drawing inspiration from the creativity of others can lend a much-needed element of coolness to the new work, but how much drawing of inspiration can be defined as too much?

For example:  I recently read (well, listened to the audiobook of) Eragon for the first time.  The story was interesting enough, but some points of the storyline troubled me. Being somewhat of a Star Wars fan, I noticed these similarities:

  • Book intro started with a rebel lady getting captured
  • Scene shifted to a farm-boy living with his uncle in an evil empire headed by a powerful good-guy-gone-bad
  • Evil came to the farm, killed uncle, boy left with old man
  • Old man reveals past as mystic warrior (Jedi, Dragon Rider, what’s the difference?)
  • Old man dies protecting boy, helpful new hero comes
  • Boy and hero rescue lady, flee to rebel base
  • Epic battle ensues, where boy is the savior

That’s the basic storyline right there.  No joke, and I’m sure there are some finer points I’m forgetting.  So what’s the real problem here?

Now, don’t get me wrong, Eragon was still fairly enjoyable.  Parts of the story seemed original enough to me, so I listened to the whole thing.  But there’s a deeper issue here than Christopher Paolini’s apparent Star Wars clone (pardon the pun).  I’m not going to hate on the guy, but I will admit that I’m somewhat disappointed.  Now, I’ll be the first to admit that my own story has some Star Wars influences, but those have mainly to do with equipment and not the storyline itself.  I may be somewhat biased, but I think there’s a significant difference there.

Sometimes another person’s ideas are just too inspirational to resist, so you take the idea, tweak it a little, and then integrate it into your own works.  In some instances, the idea may become an important part of your work (why am I using the term ‘work’?  Because this topic doesn’t only apply to writing or film).  Sometimes it doesn’t really matter, especially if it’s a comparatively small similarity and you aren’t the only one using it.  But when your storyline seems to be matching another, it gets hard to honestly call it original.

These are my thoughts on the matter, and I’m very interested in hearing what you think.  If you’ve got an opinion, please leave a comment on the post and we can further the discussion from there!

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