Thursday, February 3, 2011

Matched Plot Points

I finished reading Ally Condie's Matched over the weekend. Time constraints prevent me from writing a review, but I will eventually.

I can say I enjoyed the novel. Even with all the turmoil that's been swirling around in my personal and professional life, every time I picked it up, I was pulled back into the story.

And I love, love, lurv the cover. It's gorgeous.

It's also perfect, with the green dress under glass and the girl inside the shape of a seed pushing to break out--alluding to what Cassia's mother said about breaking the glass, what would happen, and what eventually does happen.

Touches on every major plot point. I want whoever did this cover to do mine. (Pretty please?)

Instead, I'm thinking today about similarities in books. I read a two-sentence review of Matched in Entertainment Weekly that said it echoed The Hunger Games and gave it a C+.

Some of my bleeps who also read the book disagreed with the Hunger Games comparison but thought the grade was correct. I disagree with the grade, but I do think if you strip The Hunger Games of all the blood and gore and simply focus on the love story and the social uprising, out would fall a little green copy of Matched.

So is it fair to use plot similarities between the two books as a strike against Condie's debut?

Anyone who knows anything about how the publishing process works will agree that it's impossible one influenced the other. Even if we put the process at a Stephenie Meyer's pace, it would take three months to write and polish it. Then say, give her another two months to land Jodi Reamer. Give Reamer a month to sell it, and then give it a year to be published.

That puts her starting the book, which was just released, in early 2009. The Hunger Games was released in Sept. 2008. (OK, it could have happened. But I'm willing to bet Condie had not read THG when she got the idea for Matched. Although she is/was an English teacher...)

It got me to thinking about my own little YA Sci-Fi Jackson, which is sitting on hold with lots of notes. In it the 17 year-old female MC has a part-time job assisting a large-animal vet, and she's taken as prisoner to a working farm run by aliens.

The aliens are in hiding on Earth, and they're not so much interested in hurting the humans as they are in keeping them quiet, unnoticeable to passing intergalactic hunters. I was thinking of the humans as being like a group of five year-olds in the aliens' eyes, and the aliens being desperate parents. (Must make these humans behave/be quiet!)

My point is, there were a few eerie similarities in Condie's debut and in the notes I've made for Jackson. But I just read her book!

I started Jackson last summer--seven months ago--before I'd even read either Matched or The Hunger Games. (Here's the link to my post about it from July.)

So what does this mean for me? Scrap my whole idea? Come up with another idea?

But my ideas fit perfectly with the experience and personality of my MC, and with the motives and goals of the aliens. My novel's not dystopian. There's no uprising against a seemingly perfect society or government...

What do you guys think? Is it inevitable in the literary world that plot points are going to cross at times? Is this grounds for ditching/changing a manuscript (MS)?

Have a great weekend, guys! Til Monday~ <3


Matthew MacNish said...

Well I don't think M is anything like THG. I mean there are some underlying thematic similarities, sure, but that kind of social commentary is almost required for any dystopian novel to truly be dystopian. 1984 and Brave New World never would have gone anywhere if they were utopian.

Anyway, you know how I feel about this book. It was good, but I could have used a few more sword fights.

DEZMOND said...

love the colours in that book cover!

Vicki Rocho said...

Nope, don't scrap anything. If you strip stories down to their most basic plot points, they all look alike.

Just like us. If you strip us down to our skeletons, we're all alike. It's everything that sits on top of the skeletons/plot points that make the person/story unique!

Tracy said...

I really like the cover of the book. I have a slighty different take not having read the two books but I find that it is always a distraction when you try to compare two books! Each and every book/author should be taken at face value with their own merits because as each one of us are individual and give different messages and tell different stories of the same experience, those are the thing sin life that just can not be compared.
...however..those are just my thoughts!

Old Kitty said...

I recently read a really lovely book and there was one scene in particular that read like my own (I wrote my first draft in 2006) and that completely shook me!! I thought, oh my goodness!! But then in retrospect I thought - well a person getting knocked over by a drunken lout is NOT unique to me and has probably been used countless of times in other stories!! Yet it didn't stop me from tweaking this particular scene to be as far removed from the one in the book I just read. I mean my wip is paranormal and the book I allude to here is comes under "women's litfic" but you can't help but think what if this writer reads my book (LOL - hey I can dream!!) in the future and reads this scene and thinks darker thoughts?!?!!?

Oh I am rambling!! I say you stay with what you wrote and make it more your own than ever!!!! Good luck!! Take care

vic caswell said...

i agree with the others! especially vicki's skeleton example!
the plot you've mentioned sounds very unique to me! :)

C. N. Nevets said...

I struggle with this one. I'm not in the YA scene, so I can't comment about the specific books in this example, but I know the phenomenon.

And I agree with other commenters that some similarities and comparisons are inevitable. I know a lit professor who builds his entire course around the fact that there are only three plots (or something like that).

But I also think that some of this, "there are only so many ideas when you get right down to it," concept can require an incredible amount of reductionism.

When people make those comparisons, though, they are not usually doing that.

If I say, "That actress looks just like that actress, except with red hair," I'm not talking about their skeletons. I'm saying, "Look, my impression as a viewer is, you're the same."

It's the same with books. Most people aren't talking about the skeletons. They're talking about their impressions. You, your early readers, your agent or editor - only you can really decide if the impression is similar or not.

And, by the by, as a physical anthropologist, I can tell you that if you strip us all down to our skeletons we're all very different, sometimes more different than we are on outward appearances.

The peril of analogies. ;)

Summer Ross said...

I vote for not cutting it out. As I'm in several literature classes at the moment, I think people do borrow some points from other people. They do it in movies, in music, and also in literature. The basic point through literature is to not plagiarize someone. Don't copy them, but an idea can be similar- look at all the vampires. Bram Stoker set the standards in "Dracula" for every vampire pretty much, well until recently. People ran away with that idea and made it their own. I think you should do the same. Make it your own. :)

LTM said...

Wow! What fantastic feedback, and I love Vicki's analogy. Then I LOL'd at CN's correction... So great to have actual scientists in the group--and you're right, C! Even skeletons are slightly different. And maybe therein lies the answer~ ;p

@Summer--great point about the vampires. I mean, look at Twilight and Dead Until Dark. The ability to read everyone's mind... but the one you love? I do believe that was coincidental, but still~ :o) <3

Colene Murphy said...

I love that cover too! You're going to have to fight me for that guy!!! ;)

I didn't see enough of M in THG but I can see where others do. The feel was just so different and the story was much softer and different sort of world.

Anyway, no idea is completely original. Everything comes from everywhere, ideas resemble other ideas. But the joy of it is that no one writes the same, no one dreams up the exact same story, and no one tells the same story! It's neat. Like fingerprints. We all have them, they are all swirly, liney things, but none are the same!

RosieC said...

I love the cover and I can't wait to read any/all of those books. I'm so behind with new fiction.

I agree with the general ideas of everyone else. There are only so many basic, stripped-down plots out there (I'm reminded of HS English: man v. man, man v. self, man v. nature). And, honestly, if writers were never influenced by other writers... well, that's just impossible and I can't even think of a witty way to phrase it since it's so beyond my scope.

I don't think you should scrap Jackson at all. Granted, I haven't read M or THG, but I think your idea sounds unique and interesting, and I love the idea of aliens as the parents. And having it in a completely different genre makes a world of difference, imho. Good luck!

Unknown said...

Didn't someone smart say there are only, like, five plot ideas on which every story is ultimately built. I wouldn't scrap anything in your MS. And, I'm interested in reading Matched. I've heard such mixed reviews -- gotta make my own mind up, I guess!

JE said...

I agree with Vicki! Don't scrap!

I just finished a wip and then my beta recommended the book PERSONAL DEMONS. I read it and was taken back at the similarities in PD and my story. Whoawhoawhoa.

But like Vicki said, strip it doen and all genre stories as the same. It's your spin that makese it different. ;-)


Unknown said...

I wouldn't scrap the whole idea, just make sure there's enough differences and it will be wonderful.

N. R. Williams said...

I'm sure that your voice is unique to you and therefore, your book will also have that freshness. It has been said, that all the plots have been reworked endlessly since Plato outlined two of them.

You have an award on my blog.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Myne said...

I wouldn't also scrap my MS if I were you. I've read several books that left similar impressions and some scenes have actually been the same. So make it your own, you'll be a better writer for it.

Hart Johnson said...

I think there are SO MANY influences floating around out there, that different works having some similar plot points is completely inevitable. Definitely DON'T scrap your book--keep going, work away at it. I love the premise of nice aliens trying to keep us quiet so the rotten aliens don't notice us (even if there DOES happen to be a side plot that is a romantic triangle--totally guessing this is the overlap).

Carolyn Abiad said...

Sorry I'm late to the party!
You know that all these authors are writing and thinking...I don't want my work to sound like X. But it's impossible not to be influenced by other literature. And at the same time, it's impossible to be exactly like other authors. Vicki's skeleton example is perfect. Don't change a thing! :)

Talli Roland said...

I haven't read either, but it's very possible that two authors can have similar plot lines. Still, the content won't be the same.

And I agree - don't change!

Julie Musil said...

Definitely NOT worth ditching the idea. I read many books that have similar plot lines, but are wildly different books. The writer's own voice and experiences make the books different, even if some of the plot points are similar. I've heard great things about Matched, and isn't it going to be a movie? Maybe I heard wrong.

Morgan said...

Don't change! Plot points are often similar, but it doesn't mean the books or stories themselves can't be different or successful.

Matched sounds really interesting. I'll have to check it out!

Theresa Milstein said...

I would never those two books as that similar. The Hunger Games is a different world with a different feel. As a matter of fact, Collins has been criticized for her book resembling Battle Royale:

Take a look and tell me if you agree.

LTM said...

@Morgan--I think you'll like Matched, and this has been a good exercise for me. I'm feeling better about the whole thing~ :o)

Jemi Fraser said...

I think it's okay to have some similarities as long as it's not similar... hope you know what I mean. Similarities & coincidences are bound to pop up - but our unique take on our stories will be obvious.

Natasha said...

Not read either book. But I do think there are only so many situations in the world, and it is more than likely that two books will share a couple of scenes. As long as you know it is your own, I would not worry too much if I were you.

Lisa Galek said...

Yes! Plus, as another wise author once told me if a book is popular, every publishing house is going to want to get a piece of it (how many books have vampire love triangles now?). It might make your book more marketable to be similar, but not the same as, a bestseller.

Kittie Howard said...

I think I read somewhere that eight basic plots exist.

Keep what you've got and write on!