1. Daniel
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    Daniel I'm sure you've heard the rumors. Founder Staff Contributor

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    Inspiration vrs. Stealing a Story

    Discussion in 'Insights & Inspiration' started by Daniel, Dec 21, 2006.

    So where do you draw the line between being "inspired" by a story or by actually stealing an idea/concept/character?

    For example, I have a favorite author, Jim Butcher. Basically the main character is a "wizard" living in Chicago who interacts with demons, vampires, etc. A submain character is a female police consultant.

    If I were to take a similar plot - a wizard living in a big city with a female police consultant that deals with vampires, demons, werewolves, etc, would that be considered, in your opinion, inspiration or stealing? I mean, the concept isn't original, but the setting is. Perhaps a bit of the "character" of the character as well.

    Thoughts? Opinions?
     
  2. Maniacal Writer
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    Maniacal Writer Member

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    it really depends on HOW different the characters are and how different the plots are. if it seems like stealing to you, well, then you're stealing.
     
  3. IndianaJoan
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    IndianaJoan Contributing Member

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    There is nothing in the writing world that hasnt been written about somewhere else.

    My advice is, as long as you arent stealing the plot or the story, names or character traits, you're good to go.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the line between 'being inspired by' or 'paying homage to' and 'plagiarism' or 'infringement of copyright' is often too fine to determine with common sense [which is an oxymoron, anyway!]...

    never take opinions given in posts as gospel, unless it's what i'm now going to say:

    go to the source and get the official info on such stuff at www.copyright.gov [in the us]...

    if in the uk, go to www.bl.uk

    if you still have doubts after reading up on the laws, consult a literary attorney...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  5. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you're concerned, there might be and very well could be an issue. Take a careful look at the story, characters, plot line etc. that you have in mind. Is there a difference?

    Consider: If you have ever read any of the Anita Blake series by Hamilton, it is similar to your plot...modern times, with vampires, demons, zombies, witches, lycanthropes etc.

    Anita Blake is an animiator (raises zombies, who also happens to be a vampire hunter--kills rogue vampires who are killing humans). Early in the series, she has a male connection (Sgt. Dolph...or something like that, I cannot recall).

    Setting is St. Louis. Thus, much of the same basic characters (except gender of the two mains are different...and the sgt was not main consistently and faded away in later books)

    So, as has been stated, there is very little actually new out there. It's what you do with it. But, if your work is too close to another writer's, besides the infringement issues (characters for example), and that author does a good job writing and is relatively prolific, will a publisher be interested in something that is that close to what is already out there?

    What will make yours different? Maybe that is the question to ask?

    Just one opinion.

    Terry
     
  6. Spherical Time
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    Spherical Time Contributing Member

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    Sorry, this is a slightly off topic, but the other replies have pretty much covered all of the suggestions I could have given you.

    I've found that a few of my ideas about the way the universe works are not as unique as I would like to imagine.

    I recently got a book from an old sci-fi collection, and found that it contained a machine that did something very similar to a machine in my book. Aaaarrrg. Do you have any idea how annoying it is to change a part of your work that was in place long before you found someone already thought of it?

    And it's happened more than once. About three times in total now I've had to change facets of my book due to unintentional similarities between previously written works and ideas that I've developed. Thankfully the three forms of space travel are so common that they no longer fall into the realm of exclusive ideas.
     
  7. Avrilkiller
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    Avrilkiller Member

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    urgh

    I know how that can be...

    I wrote a cute little (and rather decent) song called "All I Want (For Christmas Is You)", long before I heard a song with that same title and idea that got so famous. Had to give up the song because people though I'd copied.

    **rages silently**
     
  8. Fiesty Kel
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    Fiesty Kel Member

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    This discourages me as well. Every idea I have I cna think of something similar, but thats a given.

    I found that if I just ignored it and decided to write it for myself and not worry too much about it, it would often take its own path anyway, and end up unique and surprisingly dissimilar.

    It is frustrating though, I find it a real block.
     
  9. Crazy Ivan
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    Crazy Ivan Contributing Member

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    Not to be harsh, but you just swapped "Chicago" with "big city" (They're synonyms, anyway) and added one word (werewolves) and you want to know if it isn't stealing?

    Sorry mate, but if you can't figure it out yourself, I'm just not gonna say anything.
     
  10. Naomi Star
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    Naomi Star Member

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    One of the most disappointing feelings (I find) is when you come up with this elaborate, wonderful idea, and when you spell it out to someone, they say: "Oh yeah...sounds just like *enter popular movie here*"

    And then you think..."Oh...I guess I subconsciously picked out that storyline/character. Bummer."
     
  11. Daniel
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    Daniel I'm sure you've heard the rumors. Founder Staff Contributor

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    Eh, this wasn't an actual scenario. I'm just using this as an example.
     
  12. Max Vantage
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    Max Vantage Banned

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    LPspider, what you have to understand is that stories (in any format) are metaphors for the life as lived.

    In other words, there is nothing that one human being has experienced in life that others haven't (within reason). What we as writers do everytime we put pen to paper is offer a slice of life and hold it up to the world and say, "This is what I believe life to be like," and get ourselves ready for the oncoming scrutiny of other players in this party we all call life.

    Your best bet if you want to write is not to find some pre-written story with typical genre conventions just to reheat and re-serve to people.

    You need to find subject matter on what you feel passionate about and simply write it.
    If you can do this with all of your heart you will avoid the cliches that lesser amateur writers feel motivated to follow like sheep, and create an original work deemed worthy of praise by both people who like your work and the same for those who criticise.
    This is something that others just don't seem to understand. Just because they can spot certain typical story archetypes or plots then there is no such thing as originality. BOLLOCKS! Keep yourself away from such people. They know nothing.

    What do you feel passionate about in life that inspires you?

    Answer this question the best you can.
    The only other thing you need is technique.

    Fuse the two, then you're immortal.
     
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  13. Daniel
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    Daniel I'm sure you've heard the rumors. Founder Staff Contributor

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    Max Vantage, I think you've given some very wise and accurate advise here.

    Writing on what we know is certainly the best way to write.
     
  14. Bluemouth
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    Bluemouth Contributing Member Contributor

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    I constantly find that when I've finished a great book I think "Wow, that was excellent. I feel like writing a story just like that." So I go through all these different scenarios of how it can be the same but ... not be the same. In the end I realise I'm just excited because of the book and that I really shouldn't try and do what others have already done.
     
  15. Axis
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    Axis Member

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    Bing! Seconded.
     
  16. aftermath
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    aftermath New Member

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    Ive read several authors who used song titles or phrases referencing to other peoples work....

    How do you know your stealing or referencing?

    Heres an example(from wikipedia)

    Stephen King....

    King has also openly declared his admiration for another, far less prolific author: Shirley Jackson. Tony, an imaginary playmate from The Shining, bears a striking resemblance to another imaginary playmate with the same name from Jackson's Hangsaman.

    A pivotal scene in Storm of the Century is based on Jackson's The Lottery.

    King makes references in several of his books to characters and events in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

    Robert A. Heinlein's book The Door Into Summer is repeatedly mentioned in King's Wolves of the Calla, the fifth book of The Dark Tower.

    Edgar Allan Poe, one of the fathers to the contemporary literary horror genre, exerts a noticeable influence over King's writing as well. In The Shining, the phrase "And the red death held sway over all" hearkens back to Poe's "And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all" from "The Masque of the Red Death."


    Is this considered stealing? would you just say he was paying homage? When I write how do I know if Im stealing or doing exactly this?!?!?
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that bit in 'the shining' is just paraphrasing... and, since poe's work is in the public domain, even using the exact line might have been ok, as it's a recognizable one and wouldn't necessarily have to have the source cited...

    you're stealing [or 'plagiarizing' which is what it's called in the publishing industry] when you lift whole sentences or passages from someone else's work and use them without citing the author, as if you wrote them...

    and/or if you use the recognizable setting, characters, plot of a copyrighted work... such as writing about a bespectacled boy who goes to a wizard academy and has adventures too close for comfort to jkr's brain children...

    for the official skinny on plagiarism, go here:
    www.copyright.gov

    in the uk, it's:
    www.bl.uk
     
  18. xArix
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    xArix Member

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    Well how would you feel if you wrote a really good book and someone used the base idea of it? I'd feel pretty mad.:( Sorry, but I'd think it would be pretty obvious to the author of the inspiring book that you copied his plot.:cool: I suggest you go back to the drawingboard, lol.
     
  19. Domoviye
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    Domoviye Contributing Member

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    All of my zombie stories, are posted on Fanfiction.net. Technically my zombies stories are fanfiction of 'Dawn of the Dead'. The stories have fast zombies, a collapse of civilization, etc.
    But I don't really consider it fanfiction. The only similarities are the ones I just listed. All of my characters are original, no one has ever been trapped in a mall, farmhouse, or secret military base. I don't try to make any social commentary. And most people are either insane, or have at least a few braincells working.

    Now should Romero, or James Gunn get upset with me? Should all the writers of zombie fiction be upset with me? Really the only original things I've done involve my characters, and how they react to the collapse of civilization and the constant danger. When you get right down to it, thats not much of a change.

    But thats like saying all fantasy quests for the McGuffin are just cheap remakes of Lord of the Ring, and other early fantasy. Some are cheap rip offs, others take the ideas mold them to their will, and put out something worth reading. Should we be upset that Elizabeth Moons' series, "Deeds of Paksonarion" has been compared to Middle Earth? Its an excellent series, it also took quite a few of the world ideas found in Lord of the Rings and remade them to suit her story.

    If I actually get published, and I see someone has taken one of my ideas, making a really good story, I'll be the first to congratulate them. As long as they didn't just copy my story. If they bend my original plot to their will, more power to them.
     
  20. Evelyn
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    Evelyn Senior Member

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    So -

    On the one hand, I'm working on a story (about some hardcore drug dealers making their way around the deserts of the southwestern US) in which a black guy named Othello, who happens to be having some serious trouble with at least one of his immediate subordinates, gives the love of his life a handkerchief patterned with strawberries.

    I'm pretty sure that's homage.


    On the other hand, I've been doing something that may be derivative at best, plagarisim at worst, and fan fiction at the most mediocre, based on the TV show "House, MD" -
    A woman who is suprisingly like me in all respects (except for her striking physical resemblance to Elle MacPherson :) turns out to be the intellectual and emotional equal that Dr. Craig Grouse has been unconsciously seeking. They fall in love, swap innummerable witty wisecracks, have great sex, and live blissfully ever after.
    (Yickety yick yick! This really should be on the "Confessions" thread - either that or in the bit-bucket :)


    But, the more I write it, the more it becomes my own: "Craig Grouse" is a lousy name - maybe it should be "Craig Gilmore" instead? And I can't really write the "Greg House" character, because I'm not one of the writers who created and developed that character, so the character that I am writing keeps veering away into his own, original, territory.

    And I either have to do lot of resarch about New Jersey, which I know next to nothing about; or set my story somewhere on the West Coast of the US where I've actually lived.

    And if she meets him at the clinic, what's she seeing him for? Should I maybe tie it in with that other story I wrote way back when, about going to a fertility doc for a painful infertility problem that the doc really can't do much of anything about?

    If I do that, it'll evolve towards being a story about a doctor who suffers from chronic pain he can't do anything about having a relationship with a woman who suffers from chronic pain he can't do anything about - and that could be a really interesting story.

    If the primary resemblances are the MD, the leg pain, and a strong tendency towards cracking wise - is that still derivative?


    - Evelyn, who probably ought to be working on something else anyway :)
     
  21. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    If the primary resemblances are the MD, the leg pain, and a strong tendency towards cracking wise - is that still derivative?

    ...sure, it is... perhaps even bordering on plagiarism... why don't you think up your own stuff?...
     
  22. Ferret
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    Ferret Contributing Member

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    I think it's okay to take the angle of a story. I like the idea of teenagers with problems and power that marvel uses with its Runaways series, but I changed a few things . Like, they have powers, but they aren't running from parents in the begging. Replace superpowers with magic and you have a good idea for a book, just fill in a few gaps-i.e. what is the conflict.
     
  23. onyxprop
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    onyxprop Member

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    I wrote this little zorro story because I loved the old novels and thought I'd carry on the legacy, but when the movie came out a few years later Mask of zorro or whatever the first one is called, i just gave up because ppl would think Antonio and Zeta inspired me. *sticks out tongue!*

    All I have to say about the very first post is

    you can copyright/trademark a written piece but you can't copyright an idea.
     
  24. Neo
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    Neo Member

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    "lesser artists borrow, greater artists steal,"
    Some guy, CSI: New York
     

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