Unintentional Plagiarism

I had never seen the movie E.T. when I started working on my manuscript of which the working title was “The Moon Girl”. In fact, I didn’t even know what it was about other than the friendship between a boy and an alien. It was something I never thought about until after I had already finished the manuscript. That was when I realised something horrible: my story, about an alien princess who had been send to Earth to retrieve her space ships power device, was eerily alike with Spielberg’s E.T. Of course there were differences. The most important was that my alien girl was a lot less innocent than the other extraterrestial being. In the end, she even admitted to having contemplated destroying the entire Earth. As far as I could tell from the summary, E.T. never came close to such ideas. Also, there was nothing cute about my alien girl with her big black eyes. She strongly disliked the main character, who in turn strongly disliked her – even though she only disliked him because of how horribly he treated her. If this is plagiarism, then it was completely unintentional. E.T. came out thirteen years before I was born. I wasn’t influenced by it. However, now I’m starting to feel bad. I should have known.
Another case of possible unintentional plagiarism can be found in the first manuscript in my series. I am not sure if a character’s looks can be plagiarised, though. Otherwise, the Face Stealer and Slenderman could very well be twins. Again, I didn’t intend to do this. All I was trying to do was create a faceless being with some human properties in order to make it fit in with the world. Of course I could have come up with many different kinds of faceless creatures, but a shadowy figure would stand out in a crowd. I couldn’t use that. Instead, I chose to give my demon the form of a tall, bald man with pale skin and no face (until it started stealing them). That is where the similarities ended. This creature didn’t kill or actually harm anyone. All it wanted was to find its perfect face. In the process, though, it swapped the faces of almost everyone in town. It was meant to be funny with just a little bit of scary. It wasn’t Slenderman, yet again I feel like I horribly wronged someone without even thinking about it.
Now I’m wondering if unintentional plagiarism even exists. I know you have to do something horribly wrong in order to be persecuted for it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t bad. Being unintentionally unoriginal is not something that should happen to a writer – yet it happens to all of us, as nothing is ever really original. All stories have already been told. All kinds of characters have already been made. We just have to decide how to use them in order to make them interesting again.

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