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Creativity or plagiarism? 
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 Creativity or plagiarism?
Hi guys,

I am writing my first fiction book right now, you know... And after five years of experience in web writing with its plagiarism issues (I mean, we all know that online texts are copypasted all the time, and bloggers struggle for copyrights every now and then), I wonder how does it work in fiction writing? Well, how do I know that my writing style or the plot of my story haven't been copied by others? Or, how do I know that I am not a plagiarist myself? In web writing, academia, and journalism, specific tools a la PlagiarismCheck exist to scan articles for duplications; but I suppose it won't work for books :x

Shall I read - or at least know the plots - all the bestselling books in my genre? :hmm:

I've heard about some cases of idea plagiarism among world-famous writers. Not sure if it's true, but the Internet can't lie :mrgreen:

1) William Shakespeare stole Othello and Romeo and Juliet

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2) George Orwell stole Nineteen Eighty-Four (oh please, no... I can't believe this! My favorite book!)

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3) Benjamin Franklin with his quips

4) Jack London rewrote The Call of the Wild

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5) Alexandre Dumas stole the characters of The Three Musketeers ??

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Does it mean we should follow their steps to get popular? :no: :kap:



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Robert Tulip
Tue Oct 17, 2017 2:51 am
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Post Re: Creativity or plagiarism?
I see this as a non-issue for fiction-writing. If a writer wants to update Huckleberry Finn to the present day, by all means go for it. The execution will determine whether the book succeeds, but people won't care that the plot is derivative. It's an artistic risk for the writer and a big challenge to live up to a classic book. I guess the quote attributed to Pablo Picasso applies here: "Good artists copy, great artists steal." I'm not that clear on what the aphorism is supposed to mean, though.



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Post Re: Creativity or plagiarism?
Plagiarism is the willful act of passing another's writing off as your own. That is why we have copyright laws. But if similarity in plot is plagiarism, almost all of the authors of pot-boiler western and detective fiction are guilty of this "sin." Back to copyright laws - some things can't be copyrighted. A title, a theme, a geographical setting (unless it is a fictional setting, such as Westeros in "Game of Thrones." Example: Anyone writing a civil war novel (other than Stephen Crane or Margaret Mitchell) would be guilty of plagiarism. Or writing a science fiction novel set on Mars - unless you are Ray Bradbury. So don't get overworried (is that a word?).


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Post Re: Creativity or plagiarism?
Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl.

Been done a thousand times but it's not plagiarism.


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Post Re: Creativity or plagiarism?
The term "stole" here is not warranted. The book Hamlet's Mill documents the epic sources for Hamlet, but does not imply Shakespeare "stole" it. Same with Noah and Gilgamesh, Jesus and Horus, or Orwell and Zamyatin, as discussed at https://ofexceptionalpromise.wordpress. ... re-orwell/

Such reuse of plot, theme and character is a legitimate literary method. Indeed, Orwell published a review of We, which shows that calling his use of it 'plagiarism' is unfair.


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Post Re: Creativity or plagiarism?
Moby Dick could be regarded as just another fish story, and pretty tame compared to some of the ones I've heard bloviated at family gatherings.


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Post Re: Creativity or plagiarism?
Robert Tulip wrote:
The term "stole" here is not warranted. The book Hamlet's Mill documents the epic sources for Hamlet, but does not imply Shakespeare "stole" it. Same with Noah and Gilgamesh, Jesus and Horus, or Orwell and Zamyatin, as discussed at https://ofexceptionalpromise.wordpress. ... re-orwell/

Such reuse of plot, theme and character is a legitimate literary method. Indeed, Orwell published a review of We, which shows that calling his use of it 'plagiarism' is unfair.

We was one cool book, wasn't it? At least I thought so when I read it as a teen. I should go back to it and see how it impresses me now.

Plagiarism applies to use of another writer's words without attribution. Not crediting a writer for ideas that aren't one's own isn't as clearly plagiaristic, but it's very dishonest. As for content such as plot, I agree there's really no problem there. As students, we were told that if we lifted more than 3 consecutive words from a source, we were plagiarizing.



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Post Re: Creativity or plagiarism?
Why don’t you want to shift on this issues to other shoulders? That's how professionals work. I think proofreader and editor will do it better than you. If it was a small essay than ok you can manage it, but if you plan to write a fiction book it would be better to ask for an expert help


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Post Re: Creativity or plagiarism?
They say there are really only seven basic plots used in literature and every story is an attempt to take one or more of them and tell them in a new and interesting way. Christopher Booker wrote a book on this, and I'm not sure if he was the first to theorize it or not. It is impossible to tell a story now that is completely unique. It is practically impossible for an author, especially a young author, to write without a hint of someone else's style. It is human to be influenced by the things we are exposed to. Over time an author will settle into their own style, which is often a touch of several influences tied together by the author's individual voice.

There is a big difference between influence and plagiarism though. Plagiarism is willfully stealing the thoughts and/or words of another, without giving credit. Influence is allowing the inspiration or impression of someone else's work to impact or better your own. Depending on the level of usage credit is given when needed. Influence can be done without us even realizing it. It can be found in a plot point or genre. I love Lord of the Rings, Ender's Game, and The Hunger Games and so I am influenced to write in the sci-fi/fantasy genres. I may even tie in a reference or nod to something in those books in my own stories to show respect. Influence can be found in word choice or the flow of tone of a book. I often notice this when I write after reading my Bible (I work in ministry) and I find myself using old fashioned language. It can be more subtle though.

Intent definitely matters in plagiarism and we don't want to be so "influenced" we practically rewrite a book, but we also can't read every book ever written to be sure. It has happened that People write similar books without knowledge of the other's work. Proofreaders and scans of genres can help you try and check if there is some like yours out there, but if you don't know then you probably aren't guilty of plagiarism.



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Sat May 12, 2018 3:27 pm
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Post Re: Creativity or plagiarism?
I'm moving this discussion from the Arts, Entertainment & Fun Stuff forum to the Author's Lounge forum. :)



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Post Re: Creativity or plagiarism?
This often worries me whether I'm writing a scientific article or a fictional story. It's probably impossible for me to find something that has never been done before at this age. I'm trying to accept it and write in my own style because that's all I can do for now.



Fri Nov 09, 2018 1:12 am
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Post Re: Creativity or plagiarism?
Okay, I'm going to come clean here and confess I am working on a novel. I have written five "short" stories (only one remotely qualifies) from a projected cycle of six, and gotten good feedback from friends and family, but unfortunately need to rewrite all of them (the one I re-wrote to submit for publication is passable but still needs polish.) But my wife, ever the practical one, urged me to do an end-run around the market difficulties of short stories by thinking about a novel And I am really liking where it is going after my sporadic but determined efforts for six months.

To me the "plagiarism" question is not too relevant. The whole purpose of working on it is not to become a best-seller and earn a lot of money. We are comfortable already. So I have already built in a few nods to similar themes in other works that influenced me, but the whole process is at cross-purposes to stealing the work of others. When I work on what to say and what choices my characters make, the guiding principle is to find the most realistic possible set of words and deeds that still illustrate the principles motivating the writing.

Recently finished Annie Dillard's "The Writing Life." In the penultimate section she engages what that looks like in process. I found myself overcome with emotion when she finished elucidating the way the work gets away from the author, as a series of choices for realism take it farther and farther from the original principles. In the end, she writes, the work "steals your heart." And that is so.



Fri Nov 09, 2018 5:28 am
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Post Re: Creativity or plagiarism?
Several Booktalkers now have "confessed" to having a novel in the works, and good for you all. It must be kind of a hard thing to announce, going public and feeling that increase in pressure, like when you've announced a resolution. What you say about the greater commercial potential of novels is interesting, in that one would think that shorter forms would be welcome in these days of short attention. I guess if that were true, poetry would be king instead of almost moribund. Maybe what modern living makes people want most to avoid is having to concentrate.



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