Diary: Taking Inspiration
I'm working on my third fiction novel. For those of you that don't know I've got one I self published out in the world called Dave Woke Up. I have a second novel, currently titled A Witch in the Walls, which I'm still sending out to agents and publishers trying to find a home for outside of my own obscure amazon page. The third one, currently titled Lost Arms, is about 30,000 words long so far, and about a third finished.
I love Gundam. Do you guys know Gundam? Giant robots and the like. It's a whole genre on the other side of the planet. Over here, less so. So I wanted to do something in the vein of Gundam. I took the giant robot and distilled it down to a cybernetic prosthetic. I replaced and re-gendered characters. I borrowed broad themes about war and the nature of being a soldier. I borrowed the political moves of the broad Gundam archetype. Space colonies became floating islands. Gundanium became some other crazy science rock. I stayed far away from psychic space children.
I created a story I think is original but definitely owes it's inspiration to Gundam. Specifically the Gundam Wing series. I have had the inspiration for this story a while ago, and right up until I started putting words to page I was pretty excited about it.
About a third of the way in I realized a couple of things. The first being that taking inspiration from something has left me a little beholden to the original. I keep trying to follow the flow and pacing of the source and find that I'm cramming in scenes and ideas that I want to pay homage with, but that are probably just going to have be cut in the first round of edits. The second being that I keep second guessing the whole affair. I'm constantly concerned that someone is going to read this and write the whole novel off as fan-fiction. Not that I don't have an appreciation for fan-fiction, but that's not what I was trying to do.
Do you know Gundam Wing? I mean it's a classic in the world of anime, specifically if you grew up watching it in the 90s and early aughts. It's story is sparse to say the least, but the broad themes and introspective characters was a first for someone like me who grew up with cartoons like Scooby Doo and the like. Gundam was nothing short of a revelation about what a story, even a kind of bad one, could do.
Reading back through my outline I doubt that you would be able to see the inspiration I'm taking if I didn't point it out to you, but then I guess I can't be sure. It was always my intention to wait and let some beta readers take a crack at it but I'm finding that the no knowing is slowing down my productivity.
So I ask you Internet people, when is taking inspiration move you from fantasist to thief? How many changes do you need to make before you move from fan to author? Where's the line between loving something and loving it too much? What's the difference between using something modern like Gundam and something old like The Wizard of Oz? Why can't I just write this stupid thing and get on with it?