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  1. Lucas

    Lucas Member

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    Is imitating a writing device plagiarism?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Lucas, Sep 23, 2013.

    Hi,
    I recently read A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. Throughout the book Marra tells readers what will happen to the characters in the future. Here is a quote as an example, "In twenty-eight years and seven months, at a limnology conference in Cologne, the girl would meet the man she was to marry nine years later."
    These are my questions:
    1) Can I use this general format in my writing? By general format I mean: In (fill in a number) years (fill in character name) would (fill in what happens) .
    2) Have you come across novels or short stories that use this type of "device"?
     
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  2. idle

    idle Active Member

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    I've seen it before. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (a great book, by the way) used a lot of these "spoilers", although I can't recall if any of them were phrased like your example. But it was done in a similar way. And I'm pretty sure it wasn't the only one.

    Using the same devices isn't plagiarism, you can do it too.
     
  3. erebh

    erebh Contributor Contributor

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    Is this just some sort of template where you fill in the blanks? If so, I'm wondering why you would want to...
     
  4. jazzabel

    jazzabel Contributor Contributor

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    Writing is sometimes cheating and stealing. All art is that way and many (most) great artists stated as much. You just have to be clever about it. Do whatever you have to to make your story work. It's only the verbatim passages that are numerous in one's work, and very specifically recognisable in their content, that are likely to get you in trouble. Find things that inspire you, make them your own, disguise them from the original so you don't get caught. It's as simple as that. Obviously, if you want to create good, memorable art, most of the content will be your own, because derivative works are not very interesting.

    I often take chapters or passages or descriptions that I like from my favourite novels, and use them as templates when I'm stuck. By the time I write my version, it looks nothing like the original. I technically 'stole' but nobody knows except for me. That's the trick.

    In short, no, I don't think your proposal would be recognised as plagiarism. That particular type of sentence is seen all over fiction, as long as you make it your own, you're ok.
     
  5. shadowwalker

    shadowwalker Contributor Contributor

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    You can't plagiarize a style.
     
  6. Mr.upperhill

    Mr.upperhill New Member

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    If it has the writer's plots, and characters, would that be copyright infringement bounds? I have had one specific place copy the setting, very specifically of a story in terms of ideas (that was my personality and was the inspiration). Not names, or concepts. I submitted it to that same place. It irritated me. However, maybe it will be a fad, and could die-out.
     
  7. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    As noted above, techniques and devices are re-used all the time - flashbacks, scene shifts, POV shifts, cliffhangers, foreshadowing...I could go on, but you get the idea.

    I'm not familiar with Mr. Marra's work, and from the OP I can't tell if it's fiction or nonfiction. I can see the utility of this method of presentation in a nonfiction work in which the ultimate outcomes are assumed to be known and the writer is seeking to show the reader how everything and everyone came together. But I would be surprised to see it used other than very sparingly in a work of fiction, since it tends to dispel tension rather then produce it. I have never used it myself.
     
  8. idle

    idle Active Member

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    Not necessarily. If done right, it can do the opposite, make the reader wonder how the story would get there. But I guess it isn't easy to make it work.
     
  9. shadowwalker

    shadowwalker Contributor Contributor

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    If it uses the same characters then there could be a problem. Plots, however, are like ideas, and unless the complete details are followed, I doubt there's anything one could do. Settings - well, can only one author write about New York in 1852? One must be careful not to confuse similarities with plagiarism.
     
  10. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    always pay heed to shadowwalker on issues of legality... he knows!
     
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