1. Annaberru
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    Annaberru Member

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    How do you keep yourself (and your brain) from accidentally plagiarizing?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Annaberru, Jun 30, 2013.

    I keep coming up with all these great ideas for things to write or draw, and I keep finding out later that my brain stole it from somewhere else.
    Every time I try to write a story, I go really into detail with the plot and think to myself that 'this is a great idea', but when I sum up the idea, I realize it sounds like the plot from somewhere else, or like the main character might as well be a person I've seen on TV.

    It seems like every time I think I'm coming up with something new, it's already been used, and I've seen it before.

    Why does my brain do this? Do I have no imagination? Is there a way to un-train this tendency?
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I'm pretty sure most stories have some elements from past stories. After all, we learned the thing somewhere. It's how you give it your own twist that matters.

    Hunger Games follows the Greek myth about the Minotaur, and someone else wrote a Japanese version of abducted school kids battling to the death that had some similar themes. All three versions have been successful and aren't really plagiarized.
     
  3. Shinji26
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    Shinji26 New Member

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    Once it's published you could say it was an accident and see if you get away with it :p

    There's never any truly original stories, try to put your own spin on what you're writing, what you could do is plough on with your idea you'd thought was yours but was really plagiarizing and as you write it you might come up with ways to twist it into your own shape :)
     
  4. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    I believe the last one GingerCoffee is referring to is Battle Royale by Koushan Takami.


    GingerCoffee is right. Nothing is entirely original. Everything we create is somehow based on things we have already learned. David Hume has a fantastic theory about how ideas are created, if you fancy reading up on philosophy.

    When you summarise an idea it's just a basic concept: and when ideas are expressed in their simplest forms it's safe to say that everything has been done before. Some people even go as far as to say as every story ever written follows one of seven patterns (you can learn more about this by looking up the seven story archetypes).


    Find an idea you like and go with it, regardless of whether or not you think it's been done before. As long as you enjoy the writing process then does it really matter?
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Ideas are not copyrightable, and cannot be plagiarized. The expression of an idea is what is protected.

    The biggest risk is particularly memorable expressions that you may have forgotten having read. An occasional lapse is probably not actionable, but if your piece of writing is full of such tidbits from a single source, you could be in trouble.

    Your best defense if to read a broad variety of works. Also, if you read a truly memorable sentence, description, or metaphor, make a effort to remember where you read it. Then avoid using it in your own writing, b from all those accumuated tidbits, allow them to inspire you to come up with some gems of your own.

    And don't live in fear.
     
  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    That would be the one, thanks, I couldn't recall.
     
  7. blackstar21595
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    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

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    ^What Cogito said.
     
  8. Wynn
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    Wynn New Member

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    "Good writers borrow; great writers steal." I think that's T. S. Elliot speaking. Meaning, of course, that ideas, per se, are there for the taking, and as long as you add your own stamp, your own spin, etc. - it's yours! I think he was speaking from the given that all creativity springs from something we already know. So, does it matter that we consciously come to *know* where we got the thing already known? Or must our creations spring from an idea buried in the subconscious, be caught in a goblet and served before you by the Muse? No - it doesn't matter! Don't ever, ever, ever take someone else's words - don't take their creation and claim it is yours. He was not condoning plagiarism; rather, he was suggesting, for example, that if you like how some writer makes an abstract emotion seem almost tangible, there's no harm in creating your own rendered emotion, using that same basic technique. And, as mentioned above, there are no new plots or "dramatic situations." Our art, as writers, is to delight and enlighten our readers by the telling. It isn't the story, it's the telling of the story. (Or "showing" for writing book fans.) :)

    Wynn
     
  9. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    A certain amount of resonance is a good thing. Just don't go overboard, and still make it your own.
     
  10. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    I agree with Cogito - you can't accidentally plagiarise. It requires the deliberate copying of large chunks of text. To my mind having I assume seen Star Wars, you could sit down and write that story in your own words and sell it as your own and be safe from any accusation of plagiarism. Readers would still point out the obvious, especially if you used the same names and terms, and there might be a back lash, but it wouldn't be plagiarism. There might be a trade mark issue if you used the title "Star Wars", you'd have to check that out with the USPTO. There might also be a franchise issue, don't know.

    My advice is tell the story you want to tell and don't worry about it. As Cogito said ideas aren't copyrighted. It's the expression of them that is. So "Dances with Wolves" became "Avatar" with a few scene and name changes, and no one's complaining.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  11. jennym123
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    jennym123 Member

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    When you're saying 'plagiarizing' I assume you mean copying someone else's idea; like a story of a young boy with glasses who goes to a school to become a wizard and call it 'Parry Hotter'.
    I try to avoid using common themes but there is only so much you can do. Sooner or later you're going to have a common story element pop in in a story. Your best bet is to go along with it but try to keep things fresh.
     
  12. maskedhero
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    maskedhero Active Member

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    As long as you make things unique, they can be shaded in a similar fashion. If I make a villain who is a clown, people will bring up examples of clown villains. If I make a villain who is X, people may compare them to Y...just making sure that it is a unique story is important. The greater your defining touch, and twist, the less like other works it will be.
     

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