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:
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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?