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I hope that this question follows the rules.

One of my characters has a kalimba that, when played, allows the player to hear the thoughts of everyone around them, and everyone around them can hear the player's thoughts. These thoughts can also control each other, so everyone involved can make each other do anything they want by telling them to do it through their thoughts, like mind control.

It's kind of like an addiction, though, and the more that you play it, the deeper you get in said "addiction". The idea of an addictive magical item sounds kinda familiar, though... (cough One Ring cough)... at least, to me, it does. (Note: All magic is addictive, and the higher magic something has, the more addictive it is.)

It only works if the correct three moons are in the sky (this world has multiple moons); otherwise, it's a completely normal kalimba.

Is this too cliche, or should I keep it as it is?

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    Doesn't seem cliche at all. What part do you think is at risk of being cliche?
    – Nai45
    Mar 9 at 21:06
  • I don't really know specifically, something in my mind just keeps telling me that it's cliche. I'm gonna guess that it's the whole addictive thing, though.
    – Guest
    Mar 9 at 21:08
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    I don't think the addictive magic part would be cliche. I mean, yes, it has been used before, but so has any good idea. It has not been overused enough to be considered a cliche (to my knowledge), so you should be fine.
    – Nai45
    Mar 9 at 21:10
  • You also have situations like the depiction of dark magic in "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" which is depicted as addictive and it's addicts are typically depicted like actual addicts of illicit substances (with similar unkempt dress and spacy dialog as well as cagy behavior for new people to searching for a dealer, as well as the lack of loyalty to anything other than the subject of addiction). That said, Buffy frequently used supernatural elements as metaphor for real teen behavior.
    – hszmv
    Mar 15 at 18:18
  • This question (and similar) are being discussed on Meta.
    – Nai45
    Mar 19 at 20:42
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It is not cliche:

Like I mentioned in comments, every good idea has been used before. Just by using a vague idea (an addictive magical item) and it happens that a different book with a different plot has also used a similar thing doesn't make your idea cliche.

When you say "addictive magical item" cliche doesn't come to mind, at all.

So, as long as you research books with similar items to make sure your item is not too similar (which I doubt it will be) and then you make any necessary changes, you should be fine.

For example, just because a book has a superhero character doesn't mean that no other book can have one.

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enter image description here

Dog: You want to give me a belly rub. Bard: You don't want to bite the mailman.

Who will win?

The One Ring wasn't addictive, like how opium or tobacco induce a positive experience that repeated use turns into a dependence with diminishing returns.

The invisibility the Ring gave the wearer was addictive since it conferred a sense of power to the user. Repeated use of the ring let the will of Sauron try to corrupt you -- worked on Smeagol, but no so much on Bilbo, two characters that used the ring a lot, and did a number on Frodo despite only wearing the ring once.

I don't think your notion of an addictive magical item is cliche. But, it's hard for me to imagine how the Kamilba would be addictive. Because you lose control of yourself when you gain control over others. That doesn't give me a sense of good times or euphoric bliss that would make someone want to repeat the experience. You make your audience give you all their money and one of them makes you stick your head in the deep fat fryer.

The notion that it only works when 3 moons are in the sky seems like a convenient story mechanic used to explain away how someone gets addicted to playing the instrument without experiencing the cost of being mentally dominated by their audience.

If playing the kalimba gave the musician an empathic sense of the audience, then performance could be tuned to evoke the maximum experience in everyone listening to the music, creating a deep sense of connection between the performer and the audience. The audience would see the musician as the greatest of all time, and I could see the performer getting hooked on both the adulation and deep intimacy.

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  • I don't quite get the purpose of the picture and first sentence. What do they mean?
    – Nai45
    Mar 9 at 22:32
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    The musician's audience is a dog. The instrument gives the audience control over the musician and vice versa. They are both trying to get what they want. As in the musician doesn't want the dog to bite the mailman and the dog wants a belly rub. The instrument is a Kalimba.
    – EDL
    Mar 9 at 22:39
  • Aha, thank you.
    – Nai45
    Mar 9 at 22:47
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Your magical item is distinct from the One Ring because it simultaneously takes control of others and grants those others control over you.

One Kalimba to rule (and be ruled) by all...

Sounds like a lot of new territory to explore in that one. Definitely not cliche'.

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What seems the underlying mechanism of the Kalimba is to bring multiple people together into a singular hive mind, regardless of who's actually playing. (The way you've described this the person playing isn't conferred any particular "power" over the others in earshot.)

On that note, what you have is something that's addictive not because it bestows power, but togetherness. For example for characters who are stoic and difficult to open up, it could be this thought-sharing would be enticing since thoughts are more abstract than words.

I wouldn't consider this is a cliché simply because the addictive mechanism is different.

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