1. Eric Gonzalez-Payne
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    Eric Gonzalez-Payne New Member

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    Plagiarism?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Eric Gonzalez-Payne, Mar 2, 2013.

    If I copy prose, is it Plagiarism? I don't mean a whole paragraph, but a simple description.

    "The edge of a colossal jungle, so dark green as to be almost black, fringed with white surf, ran straight, like a ruled line, far, far away along a blue sea whose glitter was blurred by a creeping mist." -(Conrad, Heart Of Darkness)

    Or a random version I just typed
    -"The edge of a colossal jungle, so dark green as to be almost black, melted into fresh asphalt, enclosed the highway, and ran, far, far away into the distance were their darkness blurred."

    What do you think? Is their some room for such theft?
     
  2. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    I still think that's bad imo...and why would you want to do that anyway? There's one thing being inspired by a certain style of prose but actually copying it then altering it slightly...nah.

    It feels much better when you think of a brilliant sentence yourself, me thinks.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    It's definitely plagiarism. Don't do it.
     
  4. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I would stay far away from doing that sort of thing. Even if it turns out to be legal, it still makes you look like a thief to anyone familiar with the original, and readers will think you're a dishonest hack who steals his best lines from other writers.
     
  5. Eric Gonzalez-Payne
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    Eric Gonzalez-Payne New Member

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    Ok then what if I am reading a book, and I see a small description I like, something small like Steinbeck's "flies roared softly" and I think hey this is nice, I could use it to describe another flying insect - cockroaches - so the "cockroaches roared softly"...I quiver at this thought. Is that ok? Or must it come from my head?
     
  6. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't understand why you would want to do that. "Cockroaches roared softly" makes no sense.
     
  7. jwideman
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    jwideman Senior Member

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    If you copy a phrase, you turn it into a cliche.
     
  8. Eric Gonzalez-Payne
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    Eric Gonzalez-Payne New Member

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    The UV lights buzzed, sending out it's delicious signal. The Cockroaches lifted themselves from grasses and nearby trash piles. Cockroaches roared softly as they hovered to the light, and basked in it's bliss. The cockroaches clanked as they rammed the light. Again and again they tried to merge, be one with it. Something stopped them. Any brain, big or small will lose consciousnesses, if only temporarily, when a concussion occurs. The little boys smiled as the cockroaches tumbled into the bucket, half filled with water. They watched as they drowned, and tremored with excitement as they imagined frying them up for a later snack.

    -I used it. Inspired from living in Cambodia -
     
  9. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd still question "roar" as I've never heard cockroach noises described as such (more hisses or chirps, when they make noise at all). But, as I'm really only familiar with the American variety and not the Asian ones, I'll defer to your real life experience.

    As far as whether t would be plagiarism, I'd say no here. If "roar" describes what you want to convey, use it.

    Plagiarism and copyright issues deal with the expression of ideas. Common words and phrases are not protected. Otherwise no one could use phrases like "He ran home," or "she was scared," or "the house appeared haunted." In your first example, the first 13 words are identical and 'colossal' is a fairly unusual way to describe "jungle." Admittedly, sometimes these things come down to judgment calls, but you don't want to be copying other's words.
     
  10. jwideman
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    jwideman Senior Member

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    Don't write it the way you think Steinbeck would write it. He wasn't there, you were. Write it the way it was to you. If you heard the cockroaches roar, so be it. You're writing a travel memoir, right? It's going to be about your unique experiences, it should be written with your unique voice.
     
  11. Eric Gonzalez-Payne
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    Eric Gonzalez-Payne New Member

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    Yes the first 18 words are identical, and thus stolen. Although I do like to idea of "colossal jungle" I can find a use for it. I don't plan on plagiarizing only being inspired by :) And flies or cockroaches roar with their wings. In Asia roaches can be the size of birds, when you hear them coming, your hands go over your face.
     
  12. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    There is a reason you like this sentence. Someone wrote it already and published it. His name is Steinbeck. If your name is not Steinbeck then don't steal his work. Think of your own sentences. Or pay a ghost writer to think them for you. Don't plagiarize, it isn't nice.
     
  13. jwideman
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    jwideman Senior Member

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    See, now that's good imagery, and it's honestly you. Write honestly.
     
  14. Eric Gonzalez-Payne
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    Eric Gonzalez-Payne New Member

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    Steinbeck only wrote "roared softly" which is a brilliant description of the sounds insects can and do make. I dont find taking that description is plagiarism. Beyond that please relax, your tone is too aggressiveness for my simple question - I am trying to learn, not troll.

    PS. I live in a culture where showing any form of anger is self-humiliation. Perhaps I am over reacting, but if you spoke with such negativity at a meeting people would sit quietly and not look you in the eye for the rest of the day. When they went home your anger would be the joke of the night and bring soft laughs to the whole community.
     
  15. Eric Gonzalez-Payne
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    Eric Gonzalez-Payne New Member

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    Thank you, but even so, my prose is lacking, I am much more reading to do.
     
  16. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Read and and jot down the prose you love - when you see their technique, you'll learn to
    comprise prose the way the pro's do - alliteration, echoing sounds, strong verbs, repetition,
    bright precise words.

    Don't steal or mimic - just learn from them - use their words as inspiration.
    The best thing about the softly roaring - is the strong verb contrasted with it's opposite. soft + roar.
    Once you realize this you can take this idea and apply it to anything - a cold firey kiss,
    nervous courage etc.
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    a theft is a theft, is a theft [apoligies to the spirit of ms stein!] and what you're doing is stealing another writer's wording, instead of being ethical enough to come up with your own...

    you may not be able to be held legally culpbable for stealing 'only' a few words, but believe me, the agents and editors who read your mss may well recognize you for the lazy writer you will be if you do that and will not be likely to take you seriously... or accept your work for representation or publication...
     

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