Similarities in Writing

Have you ever gone to a critiquing session and someone in the group says the following  about your work: “This piece really reminds me of…”? Sometimes it can be flattering, sometimes downright insulting (if you don’t like the author/story being referred to, for example) and I even know  some writers who find it irritating. (“What do I care what it reminds you of? Don’t talk about that piece but just focus on my work!” I heard one irritated writer comment after his work was compared to a published story.)

I usually find it intriguing, especially since the few times that I’ve had such a comment, it’s been a book that I’ve never read (or even heard of). The YA novel I’m writing at the moment was compared by someone in the group to “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle. I have to admit that the name only vaguely rang a bell. I’d definitely never read it and didn’t know in the slightest what it was about.

I looked up the book online and couldn’t help myself but to buy the 50th anniversary edition, which included the first three books in the series. I’m only a few chapters in and I can already see where the comment came from, as there are some similarities in the plot. Luckily though, there are more than enough differences between the two that I need not throw my chapters away in the trash.

But how do I explain the similarities? Have I somehow or other come into contact with it when I was young but can’t remember, or an animated film perhaps, or was it read to me in  elementary school? …Or is it really just coincidence?



5 thoughts on “Similarities in Writing

  1. There is nothing new under the sun. Some people might find that an unfortunate concept, but I love it. Maybe you did come into contact with A Wrinkle in Time when you were young and have forgotten it, or maybe your human mind just latched onto a similar idea as Madeleine L’Engle’s did long ago? It’s probably that you two are not the only two with similar plot lines, right? The universe works in mysterious ways, doesn’t it? 🙂

    1. I agree. It is becoming more and more difficult to come up with truly unique plots and approachs. Which is one reason we celebrate singular novels like Hugo.

  2. I think it’s a coincidence in that the themes might well be the same, but no two authors will write a similar theme in the same way.

  3. I had to smile at the mention of A Wrinkle in Time, one of my favorite childhood reads. When I was in grad school, a prof said a chapter I handed in had a great “Jane Austen moment,” which launched a series of horrible efforts on my part to write more Jane Austen moments. After way too long, I realized I would never be able to write like her, who could?, and that I needed to allow my own style to emerge. It took a lot more years before I felt like I started to find my own voice, and I have to say that now and again when someone mentions my work reminds them of another writer, particularly if I like the writer, I love hearing it as I take it to mean that the reader has encountered something relateable on the page. Thanks for a post that prompted me to think about my stories and others.

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