19

I always wanted to write a book and finally after so many years I started writing one. But when I told my friend about the Idea of my story...he said that it sounds too similar to Harry Potter. I don't know what similarities he found.

My protagonist belongs to one of the three last magical kingdoms of world and is the descendant of a hero who once saved the World from the creatures of darkness. But the hero couldn't kill all the creatures and their leader. They somehow managed to escape.

I am trying to write that my protagonist is going to learn magic to a imaginary place where the most powerful wizards live. But the journey to that place isn't easy. And he will face alot of difficulties in that journey.

I never even read Harry Potter. I don't know what to do. Should I drop the idea and should start think from the beginning?

17
  • 37
    other than the learning magic at a sort of academy, this doesn't sound much like harry potter. – Ceramicmrno0b Jan 20 at 14:35
  • 17
    I would recommend actually reading Harry potter, so you can judge whether your story is similar to JK rowling's. – Joe Kerr Jan 20 at 15:38
  • 14
    First, you might consider interrogating your friend as to what, in specific makes your story sound too much like HP. Considering only what you wrote, I don't see any particular similarity. It's not like JKR invented schools of magic! Then, yeah, you might consider reading the HP story. It's actually a pretty good story. Lots of holes in the worldbuilding, but I suppose it was thought good enough for the kiddies! – elemtilas Jan 20 at 22:49
  • 34
    @F1Krazy I think a lot of it is that Harry Potter is the only fantasy series the average person reliably knows outside of Lord of the Rings. Therefore, any fantasy series is going to end up compared to Harry Potter in some way. Add in the fact that younger writers like to set stories in school settings and... – user2352714 Jan 21 at 2:53
  • 22
    IIRC, Terry Pratchett was once accused of ripping off Harry Potter with his Unseen University - but The Colour of Magic was published in 1983, whereas Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was first published fourteen years later in 1997. People will tend to compare to things they know and, for better or worse, Harry Potter is probably the (currently) best-known fantasy series involving wizards at some sort of educational establishment. – Richard Ward Jan 21 at 11:19

14 Answers 14

79

Harry Potter wasn't a particularly original story. For people who read a lot of fantasy, many of its themes, settings and characters were deeply familiar. But Rowling did a very good job bringing her own vision to it.

Your story doesn't sound --to me --at all like Harry Potter. But like most fantasy stories, including Harry Potter, it has some familiar archetypes in it. That is only to be expected. What matters isn't the idea, it's what you do with it. Writing is more about the execution than the concept.

To be honest, I wouldn't ever ask this friend for his opinion on your writing again. If you want, give him a signed copy when the book gets published :D I've learned painfully over the years, even the best of friends and the most treasured of family members are rarely good people to test ideas out on. More to the point, the initial idea phase isn't a good time to get feedback. It's scary enough to embark on the journey that is writing without having people throwing stones at your little baby idea. Plus, you can't write and judge at the same time. You have to turn off your inner critic in order to write, and talking to critical people --even well-intentioned ones --doesn't help that. Wait until you have a first draft done, and then ask some strangers for their opinions.

14
  • 18
    Bizarrely enough, JK Rowling doesn't even read fantasy in the first place. That's probably (one reason) why Harry Potter doesn't feel derivative of anything else - it wasn't written as a fantasy set in a boarding school, it was written as a boarding school story with magic. – Kevin Jan 20 at 22:45
  • 26
    @Kevin Nope - fantasy readers can easily spot a fair number of rather clunky tropes in there which Rowling has reused rather badly because of her unfamiliarity with fantasy and how to use them better. (Or because she wasn't aware that they sucked. The idea of setting simple puzzles for access to the Philosopher's Stone, for instance - it's a very old hook to base a computer game around, and it definitely doesn't work in fiction.) – Graham Jan 21 at 9:23
  • 9
    HP aside, when people DON'T frequently read a genre they often default to the most common, well-known tropes in it, because they don't know how unoriginal they are. I've seen this more than once from well-known authors dabbling in genre fiction. – Chris Sunami supports Monica Jan 21 at 14:12
  • 5
    @Kevin, Re, "Harry Potter doesn't feel derivative...It was written as a boarding school story..." Pretty sure it wasn't the first story about a young person who was abused at home, encounters more abuse at school, but also makes a few good friends, learns life lessons, etc. etc. Can't think of any particular examples just at the moment, but it's been some decades since I was the target audience for those things. – Solomon Slow Jan 21 at 14:57
  • 5
    Wow. +1 for this incredibly abstract and usually correct life-lesson: 'I've learned painfully over the years, even the best of friends and the most treasured of family members are rarely good people to test ideas out on.' – elrobis Jan 21 at 17:17
30
  1. Your friend is wrong. That's not nearly enough like Harry Potter to be a problem. My guess is that your friend has read Harry Potter but not any other urban fantasy; many, many urban fantasy stories start out with an old enemy resurfacing; a protagonist who didn't know about the magical world suddenly becoming aware of it; said protagonist ending up being "the chosen one"; etc. These elements are so common in urban fantasy that they are practically required. I can list three things I read fairly recently off the top of my head with all or part of these things. I won't, though, see part 2 :).

  2. Nevertheless, do not read Harry Potter until you are done with your book. Now that someone has claimed to you that there are similarities, if you read Harry Potter, you will constantly be trying to change plot points because you'll think "but people will think this next part is like that part in Harry Potter" and it will become a huge distraction. Just don't read it until after you're done, and if anyone else makes the same claim you will have that defense and you can tell this story and explain why you specifically avoided reading it.

1
  • 16
    +1 for your second point – elrobis Jan 21 at 17:21
16

I'm sure that Todd J. Greenwald's friends might have told him that his idea for what later became the Disney Channel TV series Wizards of Waverly Place was too similar to Harry Potter, but apparently it was different enough to produce four seasons of episodes without being shut down for plagiarism.

And the friends of the creators of the Upside-Down Magic books may have told them that their idea was too similar to Harry Potter, but apparently it wasn't.

And maybe the writers of the twitches book series from 2001 to 2004 were told it was too simliar to Harry Potter.

And possibly the creators of the Canadian children's series The Ultimate Book of Spells, 2001-2002, were warned that it was too much like Harry Potter. It has been described as very like Harry Potter in a comment by Chronocidal.

And I think that possibly J.K. Rowling's friends thought that her idea sounded too much like Jill Murphy's The Worst Witch series of 8 books so far published between 1974 and 2018, which have been adapted to various media.

See the answers to this question for more examples.

Here is a link to an article discussing claims that J.K. Rowling stole ideas from other stories.

And I remember contributing an answer to a similar discussion where I mentioned the Romanian legened of the scolomance that was briefly mentioned in Dracula, as well as some other examples of fictional boarding schools teaching magic.

And maybe I should menton the chldren's fantasy classic A Wizard of Earthsea, 1968, by Ursula K. Le Guin, which I have never read but have often read praise of.

From your description of the plot of your story idea, I think that many fantasy readers could think of many famous stories that your idea resembles more than it does Harry Potter, which might be the only fantasy your friend knows about.

For example, Fantasy readers might think that your plot resembles The Knights of Zarn or The Last Wizard, or Spell Caster, which are all imaginary titles which I just made up, as far as I know, since I don't read a lot of fantasy to compare your idea to.

7
  • 1
    Waverly place is, of course, largely parodical of Harry Potter. The similarities aren't accidental, they're deliberate. – Valorum Jan 20 at 22:27
  • The Last Wizard is a 1995 fantasy novel by Tony Shillitoe. It follows the story of Tamesan who lives in a land where Wizards have been outlawed. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Wizard – chasly - supports Monica Jan 21 at 13:31
  • Spellcaster by Claudia Gray is an amazing fantasy novel that will satisfy its readers, yet leave them hungry for more. goodreads.com/book/show/12700790-spellcaster – chasly - supports Monica Jan 21 at 13:34
  • 1
    Those three comments are not intended as criticism. They are intended to demonstrate to the OP that complete originality in the world of fantasy is all but impossible. – chasly - supports Monica Jan 21 at 13:42
  • 1
    @chasly That's great! I make up titles for three fantasy books and it turns that they, or very similar titles, have already be used. That shows how many fantasy novels have been published. – M. A. Golding Jan 21 at 18:34
4

In 1990, DC Comics launched a series titled "The Books of Magic", written by Neil Gaiman.

Cover image from "Books of Magic": a spectacled boy in a school uniform, holding a book

The protagonist, Tim Hunter, is a bespectacled twelve-year-old English boy who is told by a mysterious stranger that he has the potential to become one of the world's greatest wizards. He gets a pet owl and eventually goes to a school of magic.

Seven years later, J.K. Rowling published a story about a bespectacled eleven-year-old English boy named Harry Potter who is told by a mysterious stranger that he's a wizard with great potential. He gets a pet owl and goes to a school of magic.

Based on the resemblances between the two stories, some people accused Rowling of plagiarising TBoM, but Gaiman took a different view:

Back in November I was tracked down by a Scotsman journalist who had noticed the similarities between my Tim Hunter character and Harry Potter, and wanted a story. And I think I rather disappointed him by explaining that, no, I certainly didn't believe that Rowling had ripped off Books of Magic, that I doubted she'd read it and that it wouldn't matter if she had: I wasn't the first writer to create a young magician with potential, nor was Rowling the first to send one to school. It's not the ideas, it's what you do with them that matters.

Genre fiction, as Terry Pratchett has pointed out, is a stew. You take stuff out of the pot, you put stuff back. The stew bubbles on.

It sounds from the outline as if your story has no more in common with Harry Potter than Harry Potter does with TBoM. I wouldn't worry about it.

3

I read Harry Potter but your idea is different. I don't remember all the details of HP but... from reading your summary of your idea it sounds different. If your friend is referring to the magic, well, that's common in Fantasy. If they're referring to your protag is the child of a hero, that's something that more than one story uses. I think your idea should be perfectly fine :)

2

Contains Harry Potter spoilers

Based on what you've given us, I can see why your friend may confuse it with Harry Potter, but I'm pretty sure you're good.

Let's start by taking a look at your world/setting. You say it's a world with three magical kingdoms. Harry Potter has no magical kingdoms, just magical people hiding in the shadows, so you're good there. Then you say the MC is descended from a monster slayer type person. Based on solely what is written here, I can see why it may be confused with Harry's backstory(trying to kill evil guys, failed, few left, got to take care of the rest) but once you read it over again it's fairly clear this isn't Harry Potter. That and Harry's dad doesn't appear much and didn't really do a whole lot besides die.

Now the plot seems to be the most similar thing to Harry Potter, but ONLY because of the magical academy, which is a large part of Harry Potter. It sounds like you'll also be doing the journey to the academy, which was skimmed over a bit in Harry Potter and is different than what you have here.

So overall, I don't think you have to change anything and should be just fine. I have read the Harry Potter series before but am not the most knowledgeable person on the subject, but know enough to tell you're fine.

I'd recommend reading the first Harry Potter book, it's good and will help settle your conscious. It's free from amazon on audible or as a kindle ebook. I'm also pretty certain you can find some sort of pirated pdf somewhere but don't have the link on me right now. If you're more of a movie person you could watch that as well, and for your purposes the movie is close enough to the book it would help just as much.

2

So reading what you say, this is specifically what I think your friend is getting at with similarities to Harry Potter:

But the hero couldn't kill all the creatures and their leader. They somehow managed to escape.

This plus "magic school" is probably what is making them think Harry Potter. The overall plot of Harry Potter is "once there was this big bad wizard who terrified the magical world. He died in a freak accident while trying to kill Harry and his faction was forced underground. But his minions are notably in hiding, not dead, and are still infesting the dark corners of the magical world waiting for their opportunity to return. Not to mention the big bad evil guy himself isn't quite dead and is trying to come back to life."

My protagonist belongs to one of the three last magical kingdoms of world and is the descendant of a hero who once saved the World from the creatures of darkness.

This is different from Harry Potter. In Harry Potter there are no openly magical states, merely subcultures hidden from muggle eyes. Harry also is the "chosen one" but there's no distinct heroic lineage present (there is the question of descent from Godric Griffindor, but it's never played up as a "lost rightful heir" or something similar, the books outright state that anyone who stands for Godric's ideals is an "heir of Griffindor").

I am trying to write that my protagonist is going to learn magic to a imaginary place where the most powerful wizards live. But the journey to that place isn't easy. And he will face a lot of difficulties in that journey.

This is completely different from Harry Potter. The actual journey to Hogwarts is never very difficult in the Harry Potter novels, and is rarely a major component of the story. There is typically some pre-school kerfuffle or minor threshold guardian to delay Harry from attending Hogwarts, but it's never treated as a serious impediment and is usually resolved within the first hundred pages of the story (e.g., Dobby, the flying car, the dementor attack in Book 5, etc.).

I think the biggest thing is going to be that even bringing up the word "magic school" is going to immediately make the reader draw parallels to Harry Potter. Shameless self-plug, but the answer I gave to this question talks about the same thing: Harry Potter has become such a landmark of pop culture that any attempt to write a magic school setting is going to draw comparisons to Harry Potter, even if the plot is something otherwise unrelated like "Animal House with wizards" rather than "British boarding school for wizards" (Will people always compare a magic school idea to Harry Potter?). This is despite the fact that magic school settings aren't even uncommon, as The Magicians, House of Night, or Little Witch Academia will attest.

I never even read Harry Potter.

Read Harry Potter. Not just because of its popularity and because reading it is a good way to figure out what people will and will not see as original within the context of your story, but because it will be useful to help stimulate the construction of your world. The books can be somewhat long, but they're not hard reading and should be really easy to get. If the ideas really are as similar as you are concerned about (which I doubt), then reading Harry Potter might stimulate new ideas and new directions you can take the plot. Reading in general is the best way to get new ideas.

3
  • 2
    For sure, read Harry Potter. But for something more like the OP's concept, they should also read the Belgariad (David Eddings), Earthsea (Ursula LeGuin), The Name of the Wind (Patrick Rothfuss), and Magician (Raymond Feist). All potential readers will also have read them, and you need to be consciously aware of where your book is going to say something new. – Graham Jan 21 at 9:34
  • "The actual journey to Hogwarts is never very difficult" Sure... YOU try to drive a flying car and say it's not very difficult... – WernerCD Jan 22 at 3:28
  • Thank you so much..it was really helpful.❤️ – Hasan Askari Jan 22 at 16:31
2

Vince Gilligan had this idea of a middle-class teacher who became a drug dealer. When he pitched the idea, they told him: "That is exactly the plot of Weeds". And they were right: Weeds and Breaking Bad share the same original idea, but cannot be more different stories, because a story is about the details. If your story doesn't share the same details as Harry Potter, he can be something ABSOLUTELY different and original.

1

I think you'd only be heading into troublesome territory if you have people storing bits of their soul inside things for safe keeping. Even that is not an original idea, but it is a central part of the Harry Potter plot. Other than that, it's hard to accuse someone of copying a story about magicians.

1

You should be fine. If you haven't read Harry Potter, you cannot possibly have known that you had some similarities to it. No matter what you say, some people aren't going to believe you. HP has a storyline that's used in a lot of books, as the storyline is a good one, and it is up to other authors to give their story that "oomph" that makes it different from HP.

While HP is not the first nor only of its kind, it is probably the most well known. I would suggest you read HP, that way you can make your own opinion. You should at least look up a summary of each HP book.

To sum up the answer in a quick sentence, you should be perfectly fine. :)

1

If for some reason you're accused of plagiarism, point them to this thread.
You're fine.

Check out the movie Troll sometime.

It's about a young boy named Harry Potter that travels to a far off land to learn magic in order to defeat an evil wizard. It came out in 1986.

Rowling's the one who should be concerned about plagiarism, not you.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_(film)

0

If you didn't even read Harry Potter, it cannot possibly be plagiarism.

The fact that your story has similarities is to be expected. There are only so many themes in any given genre. What makes a book great, in my opinion, is not being ultra innovative and avoiding everything that's ever been written, but have great characters, good story arch and first and foremost a great delivery (tempo, wording, accessibility etc.). After that, I couldn't care less whether your content has been there before or not.

1
  • There's a writing saying I learned from other writers: "it doesn't matter if you came up with an idea completely independently, other people won't believe you that way even if it's true". The sad fact is when it comes to plagiarism plausible deniability doesn't matter – user2352714 Jan 21 at 18:23
0

I doubt you plagiarized Harry Potter for these two reasons:

  • You have never read Harry Potter.
  • Harry Potter was never that original in the first place.

Think about it, how could you copy off something you've never even looked at?

Also, Harry Potter is only one series in a long line of Fantasy books with young wizards and witches being trained in the art of magic.

Don't believe me? Check out the Worst Witch stories.

After you finish your book, I would recommend reading the Harry Potter series and giving yourself a fair review of how similar your books are.

I doubt they will be similar, and if you think they are after reading harry potter - just make some plot revisions to differentiate your book.

0

So I found a show on netflix that has the plot of magical teens learn magic at a magical boarding school. It's still Harry Potter. Basically I'm saying don't worry about it.

You said your plot is magical person goes on journey to meet the Elders/travel to the school to learn magic, that's also a part of Skyrim.

My book: A magical person & a non magical person go to another planet in order to save both their worlds = nearly every portal anime out there that I've never seen & read the series summery on.

The Last of Us: Man has to take child to other people in another location in the US to stop a zombie virus. That's also the basic plot of The Girl With All The Gifts but she has multiple people trying to solve the problem. It's not The Road as everyone says because that plot is man travels with child to flee their bad situation to potentially fall into a worse one which is also the base plot of Life Is Strange 2 but it's elder teen and child.

It's a face value thing don't worry.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.