What is an Homage?

The picture above really does answer the question, but you would be surprised how often people don’t consider the possibility of an homage.  It might not be a common phrase, especially in these days of reboots where it’s more likely to be a copy.  Still, it is a thing and one that I’ve had to consider because of the following:

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On the left is the cover for the first ‘Castlevania’ video game.  On the left is the cover for my story Quest of the Brokenhearted.  I did research and talked with my cover artist about the concept of an homage.  The story is heavily inspired by those games and I wanted to do a tribute with the cover.  I asked what the limits were and we stuck to those, but I get someone calling me a copycat about twice a year.  People see the picture and jump right to the conclusion that I copied with the hope of not being found out.  It can be frustrating and frightening, especially when it’s a public call out.  You’re stuck deciding between responding, which is dangerous, or leaving it alone and coming off guilty.  I’ve yet to know exactly what to do, but I’m lucky that things have diffused.

So, what are some things to consider if you’re doing an homage?

  1. Check the limits of what you’re about to do.  Homage does come very close to plagiarism regardless of ‘imitation being the sincerest form of flattery’.  That really doesn’t save you from a lawsuit and Cease and Desist letters.  Research is important here and you may have to follow your instinct.  If you think something goes too far then don’t do it.
  2. Don’t hide that it’s an homage.  Dive into it and wear it as a badge.  I wouldn’t say it in the blurb, but mention it on social media.  If you do an interview to promote the book then slip that in there.  Talk about it before your creation is available.  Make sure it is out there that you were inspired by another work and this will make it easier to prove this is an homage.  As I said before, people are more inclined to jump to the plagiarism idea than consider an alternative.
  3. Do not confuse retelling with homage.  The latter is a work that acts as a tribute to a previous creation by way of nods and influence.  The former is taking that original creation and remaking it.  If you do this and try to say it is an homage then you have made a mistake.  People will hold you over the coals for it.
  4. If called out for plagiarism while you know it’s an homage and did your research, do not get nasty.  People make mistakes and they get defensive of stories and characters that they love.  They don’t want to see someone steal from their beloved tales.  You can ignore the comments, which may work.  It can also leave the accusation hanging for others to latch onto.  Responding may be easier if you’ve already done #2 because you can prove it is an homage.  Be polite even if facing insults.

What do you think of when you hear about an homage?  Have you ever done one or would you do one?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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24 Responses to What is an Homage?

  1. All good points. I’m sorry you’ve had negative repercussions.

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  2. L. Marie says:

    I agree with Chelsea. Great points. You brought up something I’ve only thought about because others were doing them. I just watched a recap of the trailer for the Sonic the Hedgehog movie. The YouTuber talked about the trailer as an homage to Sega games and pointed out all of the Easter eggs.

    I’ve seen so many scenes in movies that pay tribute to various other movies or famous directors I’ve also read books that pay tribute to other beloved books. The book I’m working on now is an homage to Lord of the Rings. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I hold there is nothing new under the sun. We regularly absorb what’s come before, then produce our own versions. Let’s face it, Tony Stark/Ironman is Bruce Wayne/Batman. This stuff has always gone on, and always will. We also live in an age of rage, where people cannot wait to be triggered by something. I have no answers, but applaud you for talking about it.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    Check out this post from Charles Yallowitz’s blog on the topic of homage.

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  5. You do have the option mention the original in various small ways. On the cover, you can usually include a subtitle like “homage to X”, although with a cover image that wouldn’t exactly apply. You also can put it into the description. “Character X does Y in this homage to Z.”

    If people confront you, I guess you can pleasantly congratulate them for spotting your homage. Then maybe share how much the source meant at a certain time in your life. But if they don’t seem to know what “homage” means, I guess you could call it a shout-out, instead. Maybe they’ll come around if they see you’re sincere in your appreciation.

    As long as it’s in e-mail, they won’t know you were grimacing and tearing your hair before you wrote back to them!

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    • The problem with putting it into the description is that you immediately take away from the story. Now, you’re made it nothing more than a copy that needs to be compared to the original. Keep in mind that this isn’t an adaptation or retelling, but a work with some level of nods towards the inspiration. So, you solve the one problem and create another that is harder to counteract.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Another great post, Charles. As to mentioning it in the blurb, I’d actually use it in a well-placed editorial review, if someone has been kind enough to leave one. Alternatively, I’d mention it in the “From the author” area. You can add a couple of lines as to why you enjoyed the original so much that you wanted to honor it this way.

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    • That last one becomes difficult if you don’t typically do a ‘from the author’ section. I only did that for my final Legends book. For Quest, I’d have it only be about the homage and that can still be misinterpreted. I’ve found that you’ll always have those who miss the disclaimers or see them as admittance of guilt.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Reblogged this on Nicholas C. Rossis and commented:
    Some great writing points on homage by Charles.

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  8. Does calling it fan fiction take care of the problem?

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