Author Topic: Plagiarism & Ideas  (Read 8477 times)

Offline audal

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Plagiarism & Ideas
« on: July 25, 2007, 08:01:56 PM »
So how many out there have ever been in the middle of writing a new project, only to find that your work unintentionally resembles another book you hadn't heard of 'til you oh-so-obsessively starting diggin' deep to make sure you were keeping it fresh?

Any takers?

OK, then... Did it make you feel like throwing your PC out the window? 

I have combed over dozens of articles & forums, and thus know that ideas themselves can not be copyrighted.  If I were to write a book (this is hypothetical but comparable) about a guy sentenced to coah a little league team as community service, I could still do so long as I don't lift passages verbatim, yes?

Let's take it a step further... Say both the published author and (sigh) me, both feature a final scene at the championship game versus a hated rival -- is this a problem?

What I'm getting at is this... Some of the notes are similar with respect to setting and event and the journey my characters undertake.  Carrying the hypothetical - My group and the published author's cast want the same thing, and they want it at the same place -- the championship game.  Yet my style, the path between page 1 and THE END, eveything else are wholly different.

It's the execution of the idea and not the idea itself that is called into question, right?

Please?

I suppose I'm just here to be reassured that I can go forward.  I'm sure many of you out there have had a similar disheartening revelation at some point, so you know how helpless you feel and how easily it is to convince yourself that the project is suddenly scrap paper.

Can anyone hook me up with the reassurance?

Thanks in advance for any wisdom...
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Offline Patrick

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Re: Plagiarism & Ideas
« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2007, 08:37:19 PM »
I think you're alright.  Somewhere in this forum (I can't find it just now) there is a thread along a similar line.  In it, they discuss how publishers don't really want something so original that it may not sell.  They want to play it safe and stick with the familiar, just told from a different angle or style.

Lotheus

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Re: Plagiarism & Ideas
« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2007, 08:46:12 PM »
Well, considering that log lines ask you to compare your work to other already established works, I would say that there is little problem.  I once had this great idea to write a story about David and Goliath from Goliath's perspective.  I did a bunch of research, including how much a shekel weighs (Goliath's spearhead weighed 600 shekels, or 15 pounds, in case you were wondering) and then found out that there was another story out there that was very similar.  Now, I still could have written it, but could I have sold it?  I wouldn't have felt as good about it, because the idea wouldn't have been very original, but could I have done it in a way so that the execution was original?  Probably, but I wasn't inspired anymore.  The truth is, you could write a book and title it War and Peace, as long as you didn't copy Tolstoy's story.  If you like what you have, finish it, even if it is similar to something else.  Look at Eragon.  It is very derivative.  Terry Brooks wrote a book called "The Sword of Shannara" that was VERY similar to the Lord of the Rings, but it got published and was very popular.  Does this help??

Offline audal

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Re: Plagiarism & Ideas
« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2007, 09:17:32 PM »
This does indeed help -- now tell me, am I just allowed to click the applaud thingy for your points, or do I need to be more than a part-time poster?

I'm not well-versed in the fantasy genre, so I can't accurately reply to your Eragon reference -- I'm just accepting it to be valid wisdom.  My field is commercial fiction -- which when you get right down to it, is possibly even more derivative.  Commercial is very basic - and it's true what Patrick said -- originality doesn't often equal saleable.  Formula works.  Look at how many chick-lit books have so many similar storylines & plot points.

And shoes.  I hear they often have the exact same shoes.



« Last Edit: July 25, 2007, 09:24:37 PM by audal »
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Lotheus

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Re: Plagiarism & Ideas
« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2007, 09:23:58 PM »
You can email it to me, Pat is a bit busy with new features right now, but I would be happy to take a look.  We are fortunate right now because we are small enough of a group to be able to do these sort of things.  I doubt it will continue this way, but for now, go for it. :up:

Offline audal

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Re: Plagiarism & Ideas
« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2007, 09:36:42 PM »
A-Ha!  I did it!  Dished out my first karma point!

And Lotheus, I took you up on your offer -- thanks.  Do let me know if more Karma points are due.
Quillkeepers' Tavern Management: Slingin' Cocktails & Wisecracks Since Mid-August.

Lotheus

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Re: Plagiarism & Ideas
« Reply #6 on: July 25, 2007, 09:59:36 PM »
I'll take a look at it as soon as I can and will email you.  And I love the comment about the shoes in chick-lit.  Funny!

Offline audal

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Re: Plagiarism & Ideas
« Reply #7 on: July 25, 2007, 11:50:13 PM »
Thanks & thanks!  Please print up & cut out --> [***coupon good for one free favor***]
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Offline Chelc

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Re: Plagiarism & Ideas
« Reply #8 on: August 09, 2007, 11:40:23 AM »
Well, audal, at least you haven't met someone in real life who was the exact replica of one of your beloved characters. We're talking same hair, same height, same eyes, same name (only first, if it was the same last name too that would be really scary)
It was like my character had crawled out of my computer!
So my dilemma is that I'm not changing my character (because he has been in my mind for the past 5 years), but I've become good friends with the real-life version, and I don't want to be accused of basing my character off of him!  :(

Offline audal

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Re: Plagiarism & Ideas
« Reply #9 on: August 09, 2007, 12:23:51 PM »
It was like my character had crawled out of my computer!

Funny.  If that happened to me, my main characters would probably slap me around and demand I work a litter harder on their development!

Ultimately, I think you have less of a dilemma than you may believe.  Personalities themselves cannot be copyrighted.  Sure, if you write a novel about a main character named Angelina Jolie and it's the story of a celeb on a crusade to adopt children worldwide, you may have some issues.  But you're not lifting your friend's life story and putting it on the page, right?  And hey, if you get to spend time with someone who is an apparent embodiment of your character, chances are you'll have ample opportunities for continued inspiration.

Have you told him about your situation?  Because ideally, you'll write him with such flair that he can't help but be flattered, no?

Bottom line... Whether we realize it or not, we are regularly inspired by those around us and often internalize their essence, only to translate them, give them new names & slap 'em down on the page.  If you're truly worried, just don't be attached too much to your character's name.  It's the actions of the character that matters.
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Offline justwrite

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Re: Plagiarism & Ideas
« Reply #10 on: August 09, 2007, 05:55:47 PM »
It happened to me, too. With my new WIP. After I had already began, a student who physically and in many ways emotionally seemed exactly like my new mc. Since the character dies in the FIRST chapter, I started to worry about this kid an awful lot. I even went so far as to change my mc's nationality to comfort myself. The similarities continued disturbingly until the end of the semester. I don't know a whole lot about the real kid except he was an immigrant (like my mc) and totally brilliant (like my mc) and painfully shy with a sweet smile (like my mc). Hopefully he is alive and well (unlike my mc). It really, really spooked me. I never told the kid. He might have fainted, that's how delicate a soul he seemed to be. shiver...

Offline Diowe

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Re: Plagiarism & Ideas
« Reply #11 on: August 09, 2007, 08:26:13 PM »
justwrite, that whole situation has to be swelling in your mind, creating/spinning/becoming your NEXT WIP.... reminds me a bit of Stephen King's Misery...  :naughty:

Offline Chelc

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Re: Plagiarism & Ideas
« Reply #12 on: August 10, 2007, 10:14:42 AM »
Yeah, he does know about it. I don't think he cares, but the first time I met him and he told me his name I kind of laughed at him ;D
I'm way too partial to the name to change it now. Not gonna happen :no:

Offline audal

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Re: Plagiarism & Ideas
« Reply #13 on: August 10, 2007, 12:06:17 PM »
'Atta girl, Chelc!   :clap:

Hold firm to your convictions, and if your friend doesn't like it, just tell him to go change his name!
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Offline Cole Gibsen

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Re: Plagiarism & Ideas
« Reply #14 on: August 10, 2007, 02:04:18 PM »
This is crazy because it just happened to me! I was wondering around the YA section in Borders because I wanted to find out what all the fuss was about. I also have an idea in my head for my next book which was going to be fantasy, but everyone I talk to says it should be YA. So I grabbed a book at complete random just to read and get a feel for the style. It was Jeff Mariotte's "Witch Season" and the first chapter is a diary entry, just like my MS and I swear the first paragraphs could be interchangeable.  :rant:
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