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Inspiration vs. Stealing a Story

Discussion in 'Writers' Room' started by eyez0nme, Jan 2, 2007.

  1. eyez0nme

    eyez0nme New Member

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    So where do you draw the line between being "inspired" by a story or by actually stealing an idea/concept/character?

    For example, I have a favorite author, Jim Butcher. Basically the main character is a "wizard" living in Chicago who interacts with demons, vampires, etc. A submain character is a female police consultant.

    If I were to take a similar plot - a wizard living in a big city with a female police consultant that deals with vampires, demons, werewolves, etc, would that be considered, in your opinion, inspiration or stealing? I mean, the concept isn't original, but the setting is. Perhaps a bit of the "character" of the character as well.

    Thoughts? Opinions?
     
  2. Rien

    Rien New Member

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    Well, I would figure that particular instance to be stealing. It's the same thing, without the specifics. Instead of Chicago, a big city. I wouldn't think that adjusting the setting would make it no longer theft. Perhaps if the roles were switched? A female "wizard" and a male police consultant? Give them different sorts of things to deal with? Take out the vampires completely, offer up your own sorts of demons, maybe?
     
  3. GreenKnight

    GreenKnight New Member

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    Best example I can think of here is Tom Stoppard's play "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead." For those that don't know it, it takes two minor characters from "Hamlet" and shows what happens to them during the course of "Hamlet" - in the wings, as it were. Bits of "Hamlet" cross the stage as and when R and G are involved in it; otherwise the action takes its own path.

    Technically, of course, Stoppard steals a lot from Shakespeare. In reality, it's one of the most original plays ever written (IMHO). Draw conclusions from that as you will.
     
  4. ValkyrieRaven88

    ValkyrieRaven88 New Member

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    I wouldn't think that was necessarily stealing, unless everything looked too much like something in another book. For example, both Harry Potter and the Bartimaeus Trilogy deal with a juvenile magician learning magic, facing danger, and going on adventures, are set in England, and aimed at the same audience. However, the settings are different, the magic is way different, and the characters have completely different personalities. I wouldn't call that stealing although they have the same concept.

    And I think stealing is permissable in some respects, such as the instance that GreenKnight cited. Another is Wicked, which I am reading, set in the land of Oz and using its characters. I'm sure we could go on forever, but the point is that if you have something interesting to add or a unique take on it, it's yours.
     
  5. mrkgnao

    mrkgnao New Member

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    Depends entirely on what you do with it, doesn't it? James Joyce and Eyvind Johnson stole completely and unashamedly from Homer, but did something all their own, just to take an example. "Talent borrows, genius steals." So you've got to ask yourself one question: punk, do ya feel like a genius? ;) Decide between being creative and jumping on convenient bandwagons, and I think you'll be alright...

    *mrkgnao*
     
  6. SevenWritez

    SevenWritez New Member

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    I'd say a good example of that is Eragon. I picked it up finally after listening to a few of my more fantasy-oriented friends telling me it didn't bite (even though I had tried the prologue before and disliked it), and actually found it a good read halfway through. Not good enough so to where I went out and picked up Eldest, but still a ncie sit down just the same. However, I couldn't help but find something stupidly deja vu...(ish?) about it. And then, it hit me. I'm not a Star Wars fan, only saw Episode I, III, and IV, but I noticed it right then and there. Watch the first Star Wars (IV, with the Luke guy), and read Erago. You'll see.

    Of course, that could just be me pointing fingers, but after I mentioned it to one of the reccomending pals of mine, who also was a sell-my-soul-to-the-devil-for-more Star Wars fan, he laughed and agreed with me. I hear Eldest is very different from the George Lucas story, though, but I can't say; haven't read it or seen the other movie.
     
  7. ValkyrieRaven88

    ValkyrieRaven88 New Member

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    Yes, I agree that Paolini stole a bit too much from other series. I didn't realize how much so until I discovered this site.

    http://www.anti-shurtugal.com/
     
  8. GreenKnight

    GreenKnight New Member

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    Interesting site - an anti-fan site, one might say.

    While I concede they have a point about Paolini, stones and glass houses spring to mind. I looked at their critiques of his (admittedly often very clunky) prose, and found to my amazement that many of their rewritings of his passages were considerably worse. IMO, anyway.

    Whatever the objective quality of Paolini's books, they are still impressive for someone so young. If he improves he could be amazing one day.
     
  9. beer good

    beer good Well-Known Member

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    Granted, I haven't read Paolini's work, but I did browse through the site Val posted and I thought they made a good point about the age thing:
    Is really 22 "so young"? A lot of writers have debuted younger than that without having to play the "yes, but think of how much better he will be when he improves" card...
     
  10. Stewart

    Stewart Active Member

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    Although a bit of an outdated example, Mary Shelley was nineteen when she wrote Frankenstein. Age shouldn't be an excuse, otherwise we'll be giving Dan Brown a break because he's only pushing fifty.
     
  11. beer good

    beer good Well-Known Member

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    Rimbaud retired when he was nineteen. Bret Easton Ellis was 21 when Less Than Zero was published. Or, to take a very recent example - Helen Oyeyemi's The Icarus Girl, which she wrote while still in her teens; while it may not be a masterpiece it's a quite accomplished novel, regardless of her age.

    Precisely. I don't listen to music made by inexperienced 13-year-olds because they may actually learn to play their instruments some day; I wait until they've done so. The proof, as always, is in the pudding.

    I guess we're drifting off-topic here, sorry about that.
     
  12. GreenKnight

    GreenKnight New Member

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    Exactly. The fault (if fault it be) is not with the immature artist, it is with the audience who buy their work by the million! You can't blame CP for his readership. If people want to read it, then that's their "problem", not his.

    I do think the examples of young authors quoted are exceptional cases. Mary Shelley was a prodigy. Most novelists are pretty lame until their mid-twenties at the earliest. Much as I'd love to pour scorn on CP, I look at what I was writing aged 19 and I fall strangely silent.

    Okay Chris, can I have that million you promised me now? :)
     
  13. ValkyrieRaven88

    ValkyrieRaven88 New Member

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    I like Paolini, but I do think he could been edited better. His writing's kind of dry and he borrows way too much. I didn't realize it so much because I am, to my immortal shame, not a LOTR fan. Anyway, he's not brilliant, but his books are fairly entertaining. I'll be buying the third book when it comes out, and I'll probably keep an eye out for his next works. I think he has the capabilites of improving.
     

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