As Cory Doctorow says, everyone copies everyone else. We can't help it. But how much is too much?
In 6th grade, I made my first attempt at writing a novel (it was Ishaera). It was terrible. And not just the writing. The plot was basically a mash-up between Ranger's Apprentice and The Cry of the Icemark, and certain bits of dialogue were taken directly from certain sci-fi movies.
As I said, it was terrible. And it was far too much. That's why I'm re-writing it in November.
But what about Eragon?
It clearly draws roots from Lord of the Rings and Star Wars plot-wise. It's obvious. It's painfully obvious, at some points. Honestly- Arya writing a poem about Doctor Who? Really? (And yes- it says so in the letter to the reader at the end.)
Yes, he was only 15 when he started writing the book...but we're better than that, aren't we? His writing's good. Very good. And I'll admit, I suck at plots. It was only with enormous help from you guys that Clockwork got to where it is today. I still shudder when I think of the original. It wasn't a mash-up...but it was bad.
So I suppose I can't give Mr. Paolini too hard of a time. And maybe he didn't have a tank full of sharks tearing at his manuscript once every two weeks (hyperbole, guys- don't worry), so all right.
But is Eragon too much?
Yes, there's archetypes, and standard plotlines, and such. Yes, there's loads of terribly cliche stuff on the market.
And yes, I enjoy some of those, and so do many others.
But where do we draw the line?