1. Beth
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    Beth Member

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    Is it ethically wrong to do this?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Beth, Feb 28, 2008.

    A few days ago I was doing the dishes, and the TV was on. There was a man who was telling his sad story, of how he was abandoned by his natural mother and spent half his life looking for her. Then, when he finally knew where she was, he thought that meeting her would fill in the aching hole he had in his heart ever since he knew he was adopted. The man then said he was disappointed because the woman was not his mother, but a stranger.
    He said: "I spent all my life looking for something I already had". But unfortunately, his foster mother had died years before and the moment he realized she was his REAL mother, it was too late to tell her.

    __________________________________

    This story was so touching to me, cause it's pretty close to what I write about (difficult family situations, wasted time, expectations).
    I'm wondering if it would be unethical to build a plot over it. Would I be stealing if I did?

    :rolleyes:
     
  2. (Mark)
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    (Mark) Contributing Member

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    No, I don't think you would be stealing it. You'd have to change the names around, but plenty of good, solid writing has come from things that people see with their own two eyes.
     
  3. Beth
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    Beth Member

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    Yeah, I guess that's how many writers find their stories. I have this strange idea that everything must come from inside you.
     
  4. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Beth,

    It depends. Are you going to re-tell his story? Or are you planning to use it for inspiration and a few ideas, and then going to creat a story of your own?

    Terry
     
  5. Beth
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    Beth Member

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    His story was much longer I guess, but I was distracted and only caught the outline. So I wouldn't be able to use his facts even if I wanted to.

    But I liked a couple of his sentences, and I'd like to use them (but changing them a little bit).
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Using someone else's wording, without acknowledging the actual source, is a different matter. In most cases, that constitutes plagiarism. Even if you take the sentences and alter them, it's a copyright violation if the original form of expression is copyrightable.

    A sequence of events, such as a plot, is not copyrightable, but a prepared speech (for example) would be. An impromptu statement may or may not be, but you are safest to paraphrase the substance rather than beginning with the actual wording.
     
  7. EyezForYou
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    EyezForYou Active Member

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    Yes, I agree with Cogito.

    It is ethically wrong. Create your own plot; use your imagination.
     
  8. Kit
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    Kit Contributing Member Contributor

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    Cogito didn't say that using the plot was ethically wrong, just using the guy's sentences. I have to agree with that. The idea of spending your life searching for your biological mother like that, just to be dissapointed is fine... but when you start using somebody else's words then you're plagiarising and that is wrong.
     
  9. EyezForYou
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    EyezForYou Active Member

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    Find a plot no one has used.

    Abandon this one.
     
  10. Daniel
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    Daniel I'm sure you've heard the rumors. Founder Staff Contributor

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    From what you've described, I don't see a problem with building a story around a similar circumstance.
     
  11. Milady
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    Milady Contributing Member

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    Like MOST of the above posters, I say go for it. Use the old man's story as your inspiration, but build plots and subplots around it that are your very own.

    I would suggest not using the poor guy's actual phrasings, though. Wouldn't you think he's had enough to deal with without plagiarism? :p
     
  12. barryj1
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    barryj1 New Member

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    I wrote a story based on an annecdote my wife told me twenty years ago! At the time I said, "That would make a fantastic story, if someone took the time to sit down and write it."
    Probably eight to ten years later, I did just that - sat down and wrote the story. Then a few years later I took the short story and reworked it into a novella of about 150 pages. Not bad for a true story my wife shared with me about a coworker back in her high school days!

    What was the Story? My wife knew a janitor at the public school in Rhode Island where she worked who was well-educated (possibly an engineer?") and, for God-only-knows what reason, had thrown his college degrees out the window and opted to work in a blue collar position.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the situation is so common, it's cliche, so there's no problem with using the 'plot' if you can think of some new twist, so your story/novel would be marketable... as noted above, however, you can't legally use the man's actual words verbatim, without his permission, or at least citing the source... for the official rules 'n regs on such use, go here: www.copyright.gov

    love and hugs, maia
     

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