Inspiration vs plagiarism

Discussion in 'Insights & Inspiration' started by jazzabel, May 11, 2014.

  1. Link the Writer

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    True, I just wanted to make sure I'm not stepping on any toes in case Marvel was the first to create the ‘blind mentor trains the blind pupil’ thing. :D One time I made a character I thought was pretty cool and unique...only to realize I was basically re-creating Gohan if he were a ninja instead of a Saiyan. xD
     
  2. GuardianWynn

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    LOL

    Well the issue there is we all get moments like that. Where we are looking too closely at similarities instead of differences.

    I mean take any two movies off your shelf and it likely that a character from each share something. Maybe it is the fact both boys. Maybe there are a lot of similarities but the point is what makes both nice and both were watching is not how they are the same but how they are different.

    You puting him in a fantasy is already a huge difference right off the bat. Right?
     
  3. Link the Writer

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Well yeah, he's got a different backstory than Stick. He's pleasant (not a complete ass and he actually sees my MC as the daughter he never had) and he's not the only blind fighter in my universe. He and others like him can 'see' with magic. Still working out precisely how, but it's common knowledge.

    Really, the only common thing he's got with Stick are that he's born blind, he mentored a blind kid, and he's a fighter. Y'know what, what I was I worried about? :p
     
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  4. GuardianWynn

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wait! I just realized! I have a blind fighter too! Did I rip you off? lol

    Just joking. Actually it can be really easy to get worried. Which is why I was trying to say not to. ;)

    Someone once mentioned to me. That Dr. Doom. Lex Luthor and Magneto technically all have the same core characteristics. They are all people who wish to create a better world and believe the acts they are doing will make the world better. Anyone can look very similar if you only look at there similiarities. I mean look at us. Why are both writers? :D

    Now I suddenly want to send you a note to compare our blind warriors! :D lol
     
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  5. Link the Writer

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    You can if you want. :p :D

    True, I suppose what matters is how you make sure your character doesn't fit another character to a T. Anyone can do a blind warrior/mentor figure. Stick wasn't the first, and he clearly isn't going to be the last. So long as our blind badass mentor figures are unique in his/her own way, we should all be safe. :D
     
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  6. cutecat22

    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Pay more attention to the differences instead of any similarities.

    You could probably take any character in literature and liken them to one from another author. Harry Potter is not the only character who was ever a wizard/went to boarding school. Superman is not the only comic book hero who can fly.
     
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  7. daemon

    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Exactly.

    Whenever I have seen someone argue that _____ is a ripoff of _____, their argument is supported by cherry-picked examples of similarities. The list of differences would be infinitely longer. Unless the person making the argument is upfront about their intent, it is always hard for me to tell if they are being serious or if they are trying to write a humor piece in the style of a Cracked article ("5 reasons why _____ is basically the same story as _____").
     
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  8. SethLoki

    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

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    It's a tough one I'd say calling out someone for ripping off. On one hand a writer might be unequivocally unaware that the heart of their work exists in another guise yet on the other there'll be a shyster cursing themselves for not being discreet enough with their plagiarism. Both works I guess would be tainted equally despite any protestations.
    With the former, the honest and unaware writer, I'd say that once a story starts to well and the urge to write comes;as eager as they are they, should stay themselves a moment, hit Google, sound out some well-read friends and drill into their own subconscious too for the ideation. There's a form of de facto prudence nowadays with inventors (the less naive ones at least); they avoid needless perspiration by deft and stealthy investigation (no rhyme intended), ensuring their ideas are novel. The rise of the internet has greatly simplified this challenge. They are aware of their creativity and value it more than their skills with the more mundane process of realisation. A leaf from their books to be taken?

    A third thing to consider, or more a point of observation: quite often an environment/event/trend sparks a story and more than one will be influenced by it—that's when two or more similar works seem to appear simultaneously. Here the critics then cast their aspersions on the unwitting. Other than being borgishly in the mind of everyone, there's not much I reckon anyone could do about that.

    Lastly, seven billion people knocking about here on earth and a lot of folks too who've had the prior privilege. They say everyone's got a book in them, that's a lot of books for originality to sidestep.

    If you can't get niche get nuance—and do it well.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2015
  9. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    My go-to advice for writers who are worried about plagiarizing:

    If you feel tempted to copy something in a story - a character detail, plot detail, setting detail... - then that means that you like that detail of the story, and now you should look for details to dislike about the same story (no matter how much it feels like you're making a big deal about "problems" that don't actually matter).

    If you can't come up with ways of fixing the parts of the story that you don't like, then those parts will leave a bad taste in your brain and you won't want to copy the good parts as much. If you do come up with ways of fixing the parts of the story that you didn't originally like, then you're still not "copying" the good parts that you already liked, you are making them even better than they were in the original.
     
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  10. KhalieLa

    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    I'm going to disagree, you don't need to find items you don't like in order to justify borrowing items you do like.

    So, in a very Hypatia moment my MC flings a bloody rag at the male lead. Whoop-de-doo. She's not Greek or a mathematician or remaining single thanks to the good graces of her father. Who cares if I like or dislike Hypatia's story?
    I also have a Madame Defarge moment (but I will admit to hating a Tale of Two Cities, though I generally like Dickens.) Why bothering wondering if there are parts of that story that could be fixed when my characters are not in the middle of the French Revolution (or even a political uprising)?

    If something inspires you, go for it. When writing, who wants to stop in the midst of an inspiring moment to go pull a book of the shelf and look to see if there is anything in that story you don't like? If you are well read, you will recognize similarities in works all the time. After all, there is nothing new under the sun. In fact you can even re-write Hypatia's story and tell the whole thing again if you like. It's no longer copyrighted! ;) How many versions of Romeo & Juliette are out there? Beauty & the Beast?

    Cutting & Pasting is another problem altogether. Unless it's research material, you shouldn't even have a book in your hand while you write. Even if you rephrase something it needs to be cited and citations look silly in novels. :)
     
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  11. AlexJames

    AlexJames Member

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    Hey we're all influenced by one thing or another. Where it technically counts as plagiarism is when content is literally lifted and dumped into your own work.

    My take is that it's damn hard to think of a plot idea that hasn't already been done in some way that resembles it.

    Characters, however, are all reflections of ourselves and thus are all unique (If they're written well). I've always thought that true originality comes from writing great characters, not great plots.

    Just my two cents
     
  12. cutecat22

    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    There's an author out there fighting for this. She writes heterosexual M/F fiction. Some "author" has taken all her books and quite literally, re-written them but changed the characters to gay males.

    She obviously thought anyone reading M/F love stories, wouldn't be interested in M/M love stories. She was wrong.
     
  13. Indarican

    Indarican Member

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    I was actually thinking about this just today! I am in the middle of a WIP, but I am dying to read a good book. Problem is I don't even want to start a book if it means that I may get "inspired" by what is written already especially if its in the same genre. I mean I understand being unique and new but it is very hard in my opinion to find new ways to describe something old or that has been talked about to death in literature.
     
  14. KhalieLa

    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    A lot of my inspiration came from outside my genera, so it doesn't matter what you read. Just relax and enjoy yourself.
     
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  15. TJ Dailey

    TJ Dailey New Member

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    I find that the best way to "steal inspiration" is to spend ten minutes or so literally copying some of your favorite text to learn the way they write and think and feel. It's a great solution to writer's block and it's a great solution for imitating professional content.
     
  16. IlaridaArch

    IlaridaArch Active Member

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    Guess for me the fear of being a plagiarist is smaller, as my main inspiration comes from music and the feeling it creates. I've never found the need to take my favourite book, and draw a bit from it.
     
  17. Mr DC

    Mr DC Member

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    I can't really say I ripped any writing off but I always find inspiration of various books, movies, games...
    As a matter of fact, the first story I have ever written was heavily inspired by a certain animated series. Over time, I altered it and it is now the bedrock of my very own universe.

    I guess what I'm saying is that the difference is quantity. Depends on how you use and what you use. A small bit which you build off of shouldn't be considered plagiarism but inspiration.
     
  18. Stephen1974

    Stephen1974 Member

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    I wouldn'r ever think about copying closely from someone elses work, as in trying to reword specific things they have said, unless its a comment on some sort of real worl universal concept perhaps but I have always wondered where the line is regarding other peoples concepts and ideas.

    At what point does something become available for everyone to write about ? Lets take a simple example. Light Sabres.
    I don't know if Light Sabres came before other versions of a sword blade that uses energy as a blade, but there are multiple examples out there of such a weapon. Someone had to come up with the idea first - so what allows other people to use that idea? Surely it cant just be changing the name or I could go out and write the Lord of the Rings and replace Froddo, Bilbo and Gandalf with Rod, Jane and Freddy.

    And how much needs to change in regards to general concepts? Take the Lord of the Rings and the Belgariad series and play spot the plot similarities.

    At some point I want to write a fantasy novel, but so many concepts have already been used. I dont want to be doing a re-write.
     
  19. ExpiredAspiration

    ExpiredAspiration Member

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    When an entire novel or even a sentence is heavily inspired by another pre-existing piece of literature and still considered original it's usually because the scene borrows thematic elements rather than circumstantial ones.

    In fact, if we were to boil down the majority of fictional narratives we'd end up with only 7 distinct categories. These categories being;
    • Overcoming the monster.
    • Rags to Riches.
    • The Quest.
    • Voyage and Return.
    • Comedy.
    • Tragedy.
    • Rebirth.
    The reason so many original pieces of literature can be found in each category is because of circumstantial variation. Circumstantial variation is why No Longer Human and Macbeth differ so much, both are tragedies which detail the protagonist's downward spiral and yet both are so drastically different. The same variation can be found in individual genres and right down to parodies of other works.

    There may be finite amount of stories but there's an infinite amount of applicable spices.
     
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