If It Walks Like Twilight And Quacks Like Twilight… It Might Be Something Different

There is a conversation I’m getting tired of hearing ’round these parts. “These parts” being my place of work, of course. And that conversation goes something like this:

Girl A: Oh, you’re reading a new book? What is it?

Girl B: [shows cover] It’s good, but it’s just like Twilight.

Girl A: Really? Is it about vampires?

Girl B: No, there aren’t any vampires.

Girl A: Oh. Are there werewolves?

Girl B: No. It’s more like [fills in the blank with “zombies” or something similar].

Girl A: Oh. So what about it reminds you of Twilight?

Girl B: Well, it’s about a girl who [does something that never happens in Twilight] and then she meets this guy, and some weird stuff happens, and eventually they start liking each other.

Girl A: *snort* You’re right. That is TOTALLY a Twilight rip-off.

Okay, so here’s why this drives me up the wall: Just because a YA novel happens to A) involve something paranormal and B) include a love story of some kind DOES NOT MEAN it is a rip-off of Twilight.

Sure, maybe the author of the novel was inspired by Twilight. Maybe they read the series and loved it so much that they wanted to create their own world, their own paranormal monsters, their own love story.

But unless their book is about a high school girl who moves to Seattle, lives with her dad, meets a family of good vampires, is subsequently hunted by evil vampires, falls in love with a vamp-boy, goes through severe depression when vamp-boy leaves her, starts to develop a thing for her Native American werewolf friend, goes to Italy to rescue vamp-boy, marries vamp-boy and births vamp-baby, then becomes  a vampire herself, well, IT’S NOT A RIP-OFF.

(And if I just threw out so many spoilers that the series is ruined for you forever, well, I’m sorry. But if you were going to read it, you probably would have by now.)

Just because Kiersten White’s Paranormalcy includes vampires doesn’t make it Twilight.

Just because Amy Plum’s Die For Me involves a family of paranormals doesn’t make it Twilight.

And just because Anne Riley’s The Clearing includes a quasi-love triangle doesn’t make it Twilight. (No, nobody has said that. I just wanted to see my name up there with Kiersten and Amy.)

Now, I did recently get an ARC that smacks of Twilight a bit too much for me; so obviously there are some cases in which the “inspiration” of a book turns into borderline plagiarism.

But what they say is true: There are no completely original plotlines left. All we can do is try to make an original twist, an original character, an original motive, an original conflict.

And that, my friends, is much easier said than done.

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22 thoughts on “If It Walks Like Twilight And Quacks Like Twilight… It Might Be Something Different

  1. Jen Stayrook says:

    I’ve been saying this for FOREVER. I even blogged about it. I think people just pick a popular book, like Twilight or Harry Potter or a Dan Brown novel and use it for all other references to literature, just because they think it makes them sound better. But you’re right, I hear it the most with Twilight. I even heard someone once try to compare I Am Legend to Twilight. Uhm, think again guys.

    1. Anne Riley says:

      Ha! I mean, if you think about it long enough, you can probably say anything is “just like Twilight.” Man. I Am Legend? Puh-leeeze.

  2. Sara McClung says:

    Sometimes I don’t think people compare books to twilight to say they’re ripoffs of Meyer’s work. It’s more like… It’s like Twilight because of the genre. Maybe?

    1. Anne Riley says:

      Yeah, that could be true. But it still irks me. I don’t like for all YA to be compared to one book that was really successful. You know what I mean?

  3. Tara says:

    I agree, it’s really hard to find an original plot line right now. That’s why it’s so difficult for me to try and break in the genre without trying too much to copy what other people have done. Because I want to be completely original, it’s almost harder that way. I have found a few vampire novels that aren’t like Twilight at all. At the same time, it’s really hard not to compare things to Twilight or Harry Potter, because they are so popular.

    But if someone compared Paranormalcy to Twilight, i’d be like…um, hello? it is absolutely NOTHING like Twilight. In fact, I loved Paranormalcy because of its originality.

    Twilight, to me, is now a numb series to me. There are so many other books that are…Better. 🙂

  4. Kristie Cook says:

    Totally agree! Totally. EVERYTHING is compared to Twilight these days and it’s so aggravating. I came across one blog that even includes in her ratings a “Bella Factor” – comparing and contrasting the MC to Bella. Ugh. It’s not like Twilight was the first book out with a paranormal romance, vampires, werewolves, love triangle, etc. And how many times has Twilight been compared to many other books before it (and often called a rip-off)? If you’re going to mix paranormal in the human world and add in some romance, there’s going to be similarities. But you’re right, it doesn’t mean it’s a rip-off. Thanks for writing this!

    1. Anne Riley says:

      Bella Factor?! OMG that is crazy! Ha! Yes, there are similarities in everything. Thanks for commenting!

  5. hal lilburn says:

    I happen to really like Twilight. It’s been rehashed, milked, chewed and spat out because it was intensely popular and for good reason. The timing was right. It is a good series with unfortunate media over-kill. Authors have written fan fiction, but none of them are equal in popularity. Same goes for Harry Potter. Whether other authors copy or not doesn’t matter. If the author is good, their book will be good. It’s the wanna-be’s looking for a cheap buck that bother me, but they never make it very far. The book has to appeal to readers. For example: Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side. I would compare this to Twilight. It’s got many of the same elements BUT it also holds its own and I still like it. In fact, if Lauren Kate, Suzanne Collins or Becca Fitzpatrick rewrote their own version of Twilight I would probably still like it.

    1. Anne Riley says:

      Hal, you’re totally right – and just to be clear, I wasn’t trying to rag on Twilight. It’s not my favorite series ever, and I have some serious issues with the way it ended, but I wasn’t trying to say Twilight sucks. I’m just ill about the way it overshadows every other YA paranormal book – I feel like everyone’s goal has now become “don’t be a Twilight wannabe.” And to me, that is exhausting. We shouldn’t have to worry that everyone is going to compare our MC to Bella or our love triangle to Edward-Bella-Jacob.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Raquel Byrnes says:

    Well, on the inspy side of the aisle, we have sort of the same problem. We’ve had a ton of Amish books come through and they’re all compared to the first breakout novel in that genre….even if they’re in a different era, area, or genre (womens, romance, etc.) So I totally get your frustration.
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

    1. Anne Riley says:

      You know, you make a good point – this doesn’t just happen in YA! It happens everywhere, in every genre. Ugh! It’s so tough to get past!

  7. Kelley Fulmer says:

    Then you won’t mind that, when asked to describe “The Clearing” while I was reading it, I said “It’s like Harry Potter, only with a girl, and instead of wizards, they’re Druids, and it takes place in the U.S., not the U.K>, and she doesn’t know she’s a Druid until she’s 16, and ….. In other words, not AT ALL like Harry Potter! LOL But I was very impressed with “The Clearing” and wish you would do a sequel 🙂

    1. Anne Riley says:

      Aw, thanks Kelley! And yes, that is an excellent way to describe The Clearing. Ha!

  8. douglas esper says:

    it sure is a slippery slope when people start comparing art of any form to other art. I am finding out the hard way that releasing a novel about a love triangle between a girl and two baseball players is almost impossible unless i compare it to “successful” baseball books and movies from the past. While I am flattered when people make these comparisons and I hope they lead to representation I also am leery of my book being labeled as “The next field of dreams” or worse, “A field of dreams rip-off”.

    Sure, common ground is good to have to help sell someone on giving our books a chance is a good thing, but at what point can it hinder our work from standing on its own?

    1. Anne Riley says:

      Exactly. It’s like, you have to compare yourself to other well-known works so that people have an idea of what to expect, but then you don’t want them comparing you TOO much or else it might go south! Tricky, tricky…

  9. Dana Elmendorf says:

    Amen Sista’! Whoa to the non-writer readers of the world who classify all paranormal love stories as “Twilight like” I have a few non-writer friends who are readers that ask me, what am I reading and if I dare say anything paranormal/romance they immediately respond with some Twilightish parallel “Oh, there’s a sub character named Edward, total Twilight rip off.” (Because that’s the ONLY time that name has EVER been used in a book.)

    Great post!

    1. Anne Riley says:

      Thanks Dana – and yeah, beware using ANY of the same names as a well-known work of fiction, right? So hard to walk that line!

  10. Alexandra Shostak says:

    People say this kind of thing a lot about high fantasy, too. Apparently every high fantasy book is a Tolkien ripoff, even if there are no elves, dwarves, hobbits, orcs, rings, shires, mount dooms, gollums, etc. etc.

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