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Trying to Avoid an Unintentional Expy:

While writing one of the main characters for my book, I recieved some feedback of people saying "Oh, he reminds me of CHARACTER" This wasn't intended to be an insult, but I worry that people will think of it has an inferior rip off.
  • Note: for the sake of now, I'm not going to say which character he has been likened to repeatedly, because I don't want to color your opinion. But PLEASE let me know if anything reminds you of any popular character.

  • Here's his character sheet so far

Name: Edwin
  • Age: 20
  • Personality: Edwin puts high value on logic and reason and also happens to be a somewhat cynical person. He doesn’t like having to deal with people who are uneducated or people who are overly emotional. Although he enjoys traveling to different places and exploring the different cultural norms and such of the area, in general, he doesn’t like socializing with large groups of people.

He shares much distaste for people who prefer to solve problems with physical strength than cleverness. He is capable of being very judgemental; if his initial impression of a person isn’t good, he usually will not like them in the slightest. He occasionally proves himself wrong and will eventually come around to the person.

He only has a few close friends and a couple acquaintances he speaks with occasionally. He doesn’t let himself get close to people. There’s a war going on, he’s terrified of losing his loved ones. He would never tell anyone this, he might not even been entirely conscious of it himself.

He is rarely physically affectionate, and he usually shows his care for people by simply speaking with them or spending time with them.
  • Abilities: He is a mage with a good control of his magical abilities and had been well educated from a young age. He is also quite fluent in a second language due to his father being an immigrant.
  • Weaknesses: As previously mentioned, he can be judgemental, which occasionally hurts/hinders his potential relationships with people. He also can have trouble empathizing with people when they have relationship issues.
  • Goals: To help his people to defeat the Evil Empire. And to gain more knowledge. (minor)
  • Motivation: Wants to ensure that his loved ones will be safe.
  • Role in the story: One of the main characters, he’s essentially The Smart Guy and the residential Deadpan Snarker. He also serves as Foil to a couple characters, his enthusiastic Keet-ish cousin/friend, the story’s cruel and calculating Evil Genius, and a optimistic Absent-Minded Professor he eventually befriends.
  • Backstory: His father and uncle were forced to flee their home when soldiers from the Evil Empire ransacked their town. After re establishing himself, his father married his mother and later, Edwin was born. He was a quiet child who prefered to keep to himself. He lived a relatively uneventful life until his village was attacked (He was about 12-ish(, which led to his parents being killed in front of him. He was taken in by his uncle and aunt and was raised alongside his (previously mentioned) cousin and their adopted daughter, who he lives with to this day.
  • Relevant Tropes:
  • Asexuality: Happens to be an aromantic-asexual. It isn’t really brought up much, due to the fact that he doesn’t mention it, put a label on it (because he wasn’t raised knowing that it is actually an orientation) and a majority of the characters in this setting probably wouldn’t know what it is.
  • A Man Is Always Eager: Averted.
  • A Man Is Not a Virgin: Downplayed. His free spirited, eros-loving cousin is often confused by his lack of sex drive. He eventually comes to accept Ed’s sexuality and stops trying to hook him up with other characters.
  • Chaste Hero: Mostly due to the tropes above.
  • Conveniently an Orphan: Deconstructed. His aunt and uncle are still parental figures he cares much for. The death of his parents led to him developing serious attachment issues.
  • Dead Little Sister: Watching his parents get murdered in front of him gives him some mental scarring that takes much of the story for him to get over.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Played straight in the beginning, but as the story goes on, it is Deconstructed somewhat in a manner resembling Stepford Snarker.
  • Happily Adopted: His aunt and uncle are decent people who raised him well, even though they sometimes think he’s quite eccentric.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Averted. He happens to be an agnostic-atheist, but doesn’t really talk about it. He lacked belief even before his parent’s death.
  • Insufferable Genius: He can be extremely rude to people he doesn’t like, but is usually very patient towards his friends.
  • Squishy Wizard: If you took away his magic powers and quick thinking, you’d quickly be able to kick his ass in a fight
  • Straw Nihlist: A subdued case. The combination of his lack of belief in an afterlife, his parent’s death and the fact there’s a war going on that is perfectly capable of killing the few loved ones he has often makes him think “What’s the point?”

I don't really see the problem. A lot of the character depends on the execution. There's no way you could unintentional execute the character the same way.

In any case, it might help if you tell us what character he is compared to.

Or how about we guess....twenty questions-style. Is he from an anime?
 
No. He happens to be from fiction. He's been interpreted in many different ways in adaptations. I'm trying to avoid comparisions with this character because he happens to be a literature icon and also my character serves a very different purpose. (But yeah, I don't think anyine in the english speaking world could hear his name and have no idea who he is)

edited 24th Feb '13 7:16:28 PM by TheMuse

Terracotta Soldier Man
You're never going to completely avoid comparisons to other fictional characters; it's human nature to want to compare and contrast two similar things to get a better sense of what they are. The best you can do is create a well-rounded character and give him his own voice. Stay on the bus, no matter how tempted you are to get off.

 5 JHM, Sun, 24th Feb '13 7:25:18 PM from Neither Here Nor There Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
Dude, chill out. If you didn't rip off the other character, then they aren't an expy, and anyone that accuses you of him being one will, by definition, be wrong. Personally, he doesn't sound much like any characters I know aside from some very generic similarities that any number of protagonists might have.
 6 Morwen Edhelwen, Mon, 25th Feb '13 10:45:07 PM from Sydney, Australia
Tolkien freak
Which character is it that he's being compared to?

edited 25th Feb '13 10:45:41 PM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
Sherlock Holmes. I had actually noted the similarity before myself, but forgot about it. This could be a big problem, considering I actually enjoy the character quite a bit and there is a chance it's influencing my writing too much.

 8 Oh So Into Cats, Tue, 26th Feb '13 7:28:37 AM from The Sand Wastes Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
There are so many characters based on or based in part on Sherlock Holmes that I don't think it matters.

Honestly like 90% of my characters are expeies or mashups of existing characters and nobody's caught on. That's why I don't draw comics, because if I did, who they were based off of would be too obvious.

So, just keep writing tongue
"Beware of the wolves. They were raised by wolves."

Eidolonomics: ~60.4k/100,000 words
Sherlock? Really? I don't see it. Besides, Sherlock is such an influential character that I don't think anyone will call plagiarism if your character and Sherlock have some similarities. In fact, these days Sherlock's more of an archetype than a character.
 
 10 Wolf 1066, Tue, 26th Feb '13 10:20:23 AM from New Zealand Relationship Status: In my bunk
Wolf1066
I didn't see the character as a "Sherlock Holmes" expy.

I was under the impression that an expy is generally done deliberately and is usually very obvious - for example, the bloke in the tricked-out Aston Marton with the hidden PPK and the very visible attractive woman who turned up in the The Man From Uncle movie and made comments about always liking to help fellow agents.

At the very least, I thought an expy was supposed to at least fill the same function as the character of whom it's an expy - like, in the case of Sherlock, having the character fill the role of a brilliant detective who just needs to examine the crime scene to know what happened.

Your guy's a mage. He may well have some personality traits in common with Holmes and a number of other literary creations.

But creating an orphan who takes life overly seriously does not make someon the Goddamned Batman

edited 26th Feb '13 10:27:35 AM by Wolf1066

Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
 11 Salmon Punch, Tue, 26th Feb '13 12:35:35 PM from Connecticutt, USA
I never asked for this
Though he is not an expy, your character fits too many conventions to be called completely original. Please note if I sound brash, I'm not insulting your work or you and I'd feel terrible if you interpreted it that way. Its constructive criticism.

His motivation is to stop the empire and protect is loved ones, but why? Why does he stay and fight? What stops him from gathering up his loved ones and simply leaving? You said in the character sheet he was a nihilist, so why does he risk so much for what he sees as a hopeless cause? the only answer I could think of is a Hero Complex, which is almost never played straight anymore, so unless you plan on deconstructing it then I'd suggest you ensure that out of Fight or Flight only fight is left.

You also mentioned his minor motivation is knowledge. But why? This is the same motive almost every mage in fiction has. But why does he collect knowledge? No one just collects it for the heck of it, or we wouldn't need truancy laws in school systems smile. Does he simply enjoy the topics he likes reading about, are they a passion or a hobby? Does he see career possibilities? Some examples of how to go deeper: Edward Elric collects knowledge on alchemy because its a chance to bring his mother back to life. Rincewind collects knowledge on "cruel and unusual geography" because it fills the hole formed by his lack of actual magic. Snape threw all his effort into potions because it was the only thing he thought he was good at after years of bullying.

Your characters hatred of strong, but less intelligent people is somewhat of a cliche now. I'm going into tons of detail here because I like to derail every author away from "dumb jock" before they get entrenched in it (its usefully in some contexts, but its overused). What kinds of dumb people does he hate? Do they have to be dumb at magic, or just dumb in general? Does he hate all stupid people? or just ignorant rude ones? What if he meets a stupid but friendly person? Or a smart person who prefers brute forcing things out of laziness? There is almost no such thing as a person who is dumb at everything. Old man Nakata from Kafka on the Shore was borderline retarded in terms of IQ, he couldn't even read. But he had his life figured out and was apparently a skilled craftsman when it came to making artisan furniture, and he had an attention span other people would kill for.

As for his weaknesses, you should be more specific. Rather than just "smart but weak", how is he weak? Does he run out of breath easily? Does he lack proper coordination? Is it easy to catch up with him and pin him down? This makes conflicts go from predictable to interesting. If he can outrun anyone the big bad sends at him, what if they eventually send a veritable marathon runner? If he instead lacks endurance, wont he struggle with all his will to end the fight quickly before he can tire out?

Overall, if you want to avoid expies or cliche archetypes here is my advice: Form the character first. When he is completely done and sorted out you can break him down into tropes if you wish to start considering deconstruction and aversion and whatnot. But if you force yourself to a template of tropes, then you will never get out of the template. Tropes are indeed tools, you should choose the job before you choose the tools.

PS:This post was way longer than the one I thought I was going to write.
"You like Castlevania, don't you?"
Yeah, I actually have planned on fleshing him out so much more. I just wanted to ensure that there weren't any GLARING hints of anything like Copy Cat Sue. But I appreciate the areas you told me to work on, that's actually really helpful :)

edited 26th Feb '13 6:09:21 PM by TheMuse

 13 nrjxll, Tue, 26th Feb '13 6:12:55 PM Relationship Status: Not war
This is not an unintentional expy of any incarnation of Sherlock Holmes that I know of.

 14 tsstevens, Wed, 27th Feb '13 5:10:08 AM from Internet, Tasmania Relationship Status: She's holding a very large knife
Researcher
I'll use my Jessie Evan character as an example.

I have three basic rules in regards to expy characters. The first is to see what character I might have based it off or I got the idea from. In this case Jessie began from the Jedi Exile in Knights of the Old Republic, of all things. Now any relation is virtually gone.

The second is is there characters who could be related to yours either by accident or design? There's a bit of Jo Parish from Blue Heelers in Jessie, Karen Harding {Destiny from the Australian Gladiators) or Cammy from Street Fighter might be more recognizable, Sheva in Resident Evil. Were these deliberate influences on your character?

The third is if it matters what can you change while still remaining true to your character? Jessie wouldn't have that killer instinct or the eagerness for a fight who she resembles would. Jessie's niceness is not a trait of a light side Exile, that's just who she is, the fact that's where the idea for her first came from has nothing to do with it.

Hopefully that will be of some help.
The mark of a good story means not feeling like The Angry Video Game Nerd hearing it.
He vaguely - and I mean vaguely - reminded me of Miles Edgeworth, but not enough to be called an expy. I don't think you have anything to be worried about.

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Total posts: 15
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