THE BOOGEYMAN

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Happy All Hallows Week, Y’all! The regular posters are covering things that go bump in the night and other scary phenomena in this week’s posts. As number four in the list, I’ve been beaten to the punch. Misty and I covered my personal terrors when I brought up centipedes on Tuesday. I hate those things with their long feathery legs and their quick, snakelike motions as they run toward me. (Girly squeal!) David covered most of my writerly fears on Monday. Edmund got in early salvos on Saturday. So, the good subjects taken, I intended to write something snarky and tongue-in-cheek and keep it light.

But then I remembered. I do have a fear not yet covered this week, a paralyzing, painful fear. So I decided to share that, even though it isn’t fun, even though it’s more headless horsemen and less carved pumpkins and trick-or-treat. I fear lots of things, but most don’t wake me up at night in a cold sweat, chased by nightmares.

My fear? I fear accidentally plagiarizing someone else’s work.

There are plagiarism checkers on the Internet, available for a subscription price, but they are mostly for professional papers and articles, undergrad and graduate school papers, that sort of thing. They are, by and large, non-fiction sites, not sites dedicated to the kind of stuff I write. So as a fiction writer, I am hanging out on a limb over a Class VI rapid, one named Writer’s Bloody-Bag-o-Bones, that will chunder me into a dead bag of broken limbs. And that worries me. (Chunder is a word used by hairhead paddlers to describe the beatings suffered in dangerous whitewater. And yes, dangerous rapids are awarded cool names like Soc-Em-Dog or Gorilla or Screaming Left hand Turn or Tennessee The Hard Way.)

In fact, I’ll make a Screaming Left Hand Turn now. Despite my horrid fear, I copied my AKA’s (Gwen’s) work once, on purpose. I did that deliberately and with aforethought. I wait for the few fans who read both Gwen’s work and my work to comment on the single scene and similar character intersecting the thrillers and the fantasies. When that happens, we have a lovely conversation about the trajectory of a writer’s life and work and the importance of being true to genre and fair to readers, and yet being willing to step out and follow a muse into new creative territory.

The accidental kind of plagiarism is, however, the terror that haunts me. It wakes me up at night, wondering if the great idea I wove into my work today was just like someone else’s and I simply don’t remember reading it in the past. Usually, when I wake up, it’s just a night-terror, not reality. But there was this one time when I woke up and the fear didn’t go away. I thought I had borrowed and reinterpreted another author’s work. I dream-remembered a plotline that I had admired. And I had unconsciously used it in my WIP.

I dove from the bed, found the other writer’s book, turned on the computer, and started comparing. And yes. It was there. That major plotline in one writer’s work had become a tiny spark of backstory subject matter in my own. The monster in my dreams had a basis in reality. It was four a.m.. I was in a panic and sick to my stomach, all alone in the dark with the fear. It stalked toward me with a butcher knife that would kill my career.

Of course, in the morning, that huge theft was not quite so menacing and angry and its claws and four inch killing teeth had dwindled down to little kitten claws and milk-teeth. But. It was still there.

After calls to my editor and to my agent, (who forgave my jangled nerves and panic) and several sleepless nights, I allowed myself to become convinced that the subject matter, while unusual, wasn’t absolutely unique to the other writer’s work. In my case, the similarity was mere backstory, not an elaborate plot line. It was not important in the great scheme of things. Yet, it took days (okay, weeks) for me to feel any sort of confidence in my own work and creative process again. It was a hard time.

Perhaps my fear of plagiarism is partly based in a serious accusation I once received. I’ve mentioned here before about the time I was accused of plagiarism, for real, by a writer I met at a con. This writer could write like a dream! I was trying to help her get published. I had introduced her to my thriller agent and he had read her WIP. He was waiting for her to complete it so he could send it on to pubs. I was waiting on her to finish it so I could blurb it and send it to writer friends who might blurb it. It was wonderful work. I just knew she was headed for bestsellerdom. We lived close enough to meet for lunches. I critiqued her work. We talked on the phone. We became friends.

And then she read my new book and went bonkers. She called my thriller agent and screamed plagiarism. She also screamed that I had put her mother in the book. (Say what?) The agent had read her work. He had read my work. And he heard her on the phone, highly emotional and sounding irrational, if not unstable. The *mother claim* was the clincher for him. He checked with me to make sure I hadn’t stolen something he hadn’t read. And he accepted that it was a crazy accusation. In the end, there was no evidence to support her claim, even in this day of electronic info stored forever. My agent didn’t believe her. But I never completely got over it.

That writer lost an agent that day, and I lost a friend. Even if health problem or meds had been the causative spark for such an accusation, I had no choice except to put her away from me and out of my life. She was toxic to me and to my profession. But that accusation fueled my fear of accidental plagiarism and turned it into something big and ugly and monstrous that invades my dreams.

It doesn’t take much to steal a writer’s muse. Fear, sickness, grief, and any other intense emotion can do it, can scorch the mind and chainsaw the creative process, killing off the lush foliage and rushing streams of inspiration, leaving only an empty wasteland, a desert covered with the bones of dead characters and devastated creativity. That kind of paralysis is not writer’s block, which, as I’ve said before, I do not believe in. It is a whole nother kind (as we say in these parts) of obstruction, like when a mountainside slides off and buries its mass in the gorge below, stopping the flow of water, backing it up into a lake that never existed before, and changing the shape of the land.

Plagiarism. That’s my fear, the boogeyman who haunts my dreams and wakes me in the night. And that is one reason why my own muse is so very ugly and unappealing. No one else would want him, so no evil imp (not you, David) will kidnap him. He is so ugly, he is likely to be overlooked by time and the slow destruction of aging. He is big and strong and troll-like enough to fight off any psychotic hallucination (or created character). He can say and do what ever it takes to keep me writing, even cracking that braided whip I gave him not long ago, on days I try to slip away without sufficient page count. He’s useful and helpful in his brutish, indelicate, unsophisticated, unlovely way. And he comes equipped with a .45 caliber, Dirty Harry gun, in the desk drawer. He can kill off my night terrors. Together, we can deal with my fear and carry on, trying hard to make sure I don’t copy. Anyone. Ever.
Faith
FaithHunter.Net
GwenHunter.Com

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33 comments to THE BOOGEYMAN

  • Screaming Left hand Turn
    I know that one! I portaged my raft around it one summer when I went rafting with my best friend!

    It doesn’t take much to steal a writer’s muse.
    We’re so fragile, aren’t we? I had a similar paralysis some time ago when I was working on Kestrel’s Dance. I’d introduced a new character, someone important to Kestrel’s growth as a magic user, and I’d carefully hunted language sites for her name. Most of the time characters walk into my head already named, but this woman’s name was important, and needed to mean something, even if I was the only one who knew the significance of it.

    Many chapters and plenty of character interaction later, I was reading another author’s book and noticed that he had a character with the same name. Oh no!!! It was spelled slightly differently, but pronounced the same. I panicked. He was a big-name, and I was still a newbie. People would think I stole the name, wouldn’t they?

    In the end I decided that our characters were different enough that it was okay. But it took me weeks to get there.

    *hugs*

  • Misty that is it exactly. Some fears can be so strong that a mistake appears more monstrous than it really is. I’m human. I make some whoppers. (Sounds as if I work at Burger King. I make mistakes. 🙂 )

    Editors and agents handle all sorts of things and not much surprises them after a few years in the biz, so I’ve learned that, when I find any mistake, especially one that carries a scent of theft, (shudder) to ask one or the other if it’s as bad as I think, and how I can deal with it. Most of the time I’m told that it’s not a problem, like the similarity of your character names. Of course, sometimes I can just change it or minimize it. But when in doubt, I go to the expert.

    As to the importance of names, and who the character becomes as a result of the perfct name, I totally get you! Jane Yellowrock and Thorn St. Croix were names so perfect for the characters that, if asked to change them, I’d rather not write the book. The names *are* the books, *are* the characters.

    Your FB page said you were coming down with something. Hope you are better today.

  • Faith, you got me thinking about personifying my Muse. Seriously. I don’t know what mine will look like, but to “know” that this thing is out there, pushing me onward, might be a mental help. Especially now, when I’m trying to revise this novel for the gazillionth time and I can only get through about ten pages before I’ve got to take a break. I love this novel, but man-o-man do I hate it right now. And it reminds me of a fear that all writers have at some point — the fear that after all this work, my novel probably sucks. My Muse tells me it’s not so, I just need to finish the revisions, and it’ll shine once again, but my fears say otherwise. That’s why, I hope, if I can actually picture my Muse, the darn thing might win the argument!! 🙂

  • I totally understand this concern, and it’s one of the major reasons a lot of authors simply won’t read unpublished material by anyone. It’s too easy to leave yourself open to this–sometimes sincere, sometimes cynically opportunist–attack.

    I should add that a certain amount of echoing of other people’s stuff is unavoidable. I was just rereading Haryy Potter 6 with my son and found a moment late in the story when Dumbledore is trying to find a way into the horcrux cave through a solid cliff wall. The moment screamed Gandalf at the gates of Moria. Was this earlier literary moment in J.K. Rowling’s mind when she wrote the Harry sequence? Quite possibly. If it wans’t consciously there I’d say it was subconsciously ghosting her thought process. Is it plagiarism? Of course not. In fact, were it deliberate I’d call it an homage: the conscious acknowledgement of an analogous episode in a ground-breaking earlier book. There are only so many stories, so many archetypal ideas, fears etc. Sometimes the overlap is unavoidable, and soemtimes it’s a nice way of acknowledging your part in a tradition (as with Rowling, I think). That other people will call it theft and use it to try and strip your bank account is a real but different problem. I totally agree that this is something all writers should be alert to, conscious of, even anxious about, though I also think there are useful nuances in how we think about echoing material that don’t have to reduce the act to plagiarism.

  • Stuart, be careful. Muses can be demanding, violent creatures. They want what they want and they want it *now*. Also, if I may be so bold, be polite. Be sure to ask what form he or she wants. And what gender. Surprise from the deeps of the creative mind can have consequences that are … unexpected.

    When I asked my muse to take on a physical shape so we could communicate, I knew instantly to expect a boot-wearing pole-dancer type. With pasties. But I forgot to specify gender and body type. Oy. He took on those himself. And he has never said word. He communicates via body language and facial expressions — oh, and the brand of liquor and type of cigar he is enjoying. And that whip. (shudder)

    But yes, since my muse took on a physical form, my writing has taken on a tempo missing before. It kinda matches the boom-ba-da-boom of pole dance music.

  • AJ, you are so right. And with that in mind, I’ll plagiarize and reuse this:

    >>an homage: the conscious acknowledgement of an analogous episode in a ground-breaking earlier book. >>

    Yeah. that’s the ticket. 🙂

    But seriously, yes, 99% of the stuff swimming in the deep subconscious mind is just a mishmash of stuff we’ve encountered already, and are likely to regurgitate onto paper.

    And then there is the universal mind, like the rats in the maze. Create two mazes exact in every particular, in two parts of the world. Put food at one end and rats into the other in one part of the world. Time how long it takes them to find the food. Then let the rats free on the other side of the world. They’ll find it in much less time. Not smarter rats. Just the workings of the world’s great deeps. The parallel is two writers coming up with the same name or idea at the same time, having never seen the other’s work. It happens. But it would be a pain to try to in prove in court.

    As to reading other writer’s work, I’ll read if it comes to me through my agent or editor. Or if I discover a great writer at a con, and if his work is very different from my own, I’ll help. But if it is similar, then no. I’ll not do it.

  • Faith, That scares me, too. Or even being accused of “being derivative” of another writer’s work.

    There are times when I discover what a certain book is about. I will avoid reading that book if there are any major similarities.

    I’m sorry to hear you had such a bad experience with a protégé. Scary stuff, indeed. I understand some authors don’t read the work of aspiring authors just for that reason (avoiding being accused of plagiarism) but I don’t know if that’s the answer, either. You guys are awesome mentors, but stuff like this is harmful to those of us who just want to learn. Especially with the horrors raised in the film industry last year (Google “SciFi Writer David Gerrold Reacts to Olson’s “I Will Not Read …” if you want a really scary take on it).

  • Faith> I totally understand this fear! I’m careful what I read when I’m writing so I don’t steal stuff. I also have this fear in my academic work… it’s what drives academics to try to find every single piece of material that even mentions their subject matter. It freaks me out to a huge degree.

    I do believe in “homage,” too. And there’s a lot of that in literature. Influences are all over the place, and tracing influences is interesting. I deliberately name some things in one WIP because my MC ends up at a Con, where she deals with people assuming she’s dressed up like a tv show character. In reality, the little-big-bad-ugly made a successful tv show loosly based on her real life. (She gets very peeved.)
    But the things I mention are explicit, and no such show like hers exists on tv (yet, anyway).

  • Moira, the reply to rant is great, but the rant itself is priceless. Both funny and agonizing, assuming you can get past the four-letter language. If you are a kid and your parents would object, or if you have problems with F-bombs, do not go here. Otherwise, it is worth the time.

    http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2009/09/i_will_not_read.php

  • Pea-Emily, >> and no such show like hers exists on tv (yet, anyway)>>
    But it will, as soon as you sell your your book for a cool mil and it gets seen by Hollywood. (grins)

    But yes, it’s scary.

  • Faith, I fear this, too. And I had my own minor encounter with the fear a few weeks back right here at MW when my post hewed closely to one that a dear friend had written a couple of years ago. It wasn’t malicious on my part, it certainly wasn’t intended. But sometimes, as with your 4 am plot point example, things we have read previously insinuate themselves into our consciousness. A friend of mine came out with a series a few years back that reminded me a great deal of my own work. It wasn’t plagiarism at all, but there were similarities.

    The bottom line for me is something that my grad school adviser told me many years ago when I was worried about my dissertation idea being “scooped.” He said “If you think your idea can be scooped, you’re thinking too narrowly.” And he was right. In history terms he meant that as soon as I began to deal with broad concepts rather than narrow ones, my own intellect was going to assert itself and make the project my own. Not that my intellect was necessarily better or worse than anyone else’s; it was simply mine, and therefore unique. Same with creativity: There might be plot point similarities between two books, but each one of us has a unique creative process, a singular vision. And as soon as those plot points are fleshed out and turned into stories, our visions assert themselves and take the stories in directions no one else would think of. I understand this fear, but I have read your work. You have a special voice unlike any other that I’ve read. Plagiarism is, I believe, a haven for those who lack creativity; it will never, ever be a problem for you.

  • David, first off, I remember your reaction to that incident. It stimulated my own fear-demon and I didn’t sleep well for a few days after. You handled it beautifully, BTW. Totally professional and classy, classic David.

    I like what your advisor said. It was right on target. It is similar to what I tell people when they say they are afraid someone will steal their ideas. *Ideas are dime a dozen. What matters is what you do with them. Give ten writers the same idea and each one will come up with a unique work.* But believing that at 4 a.m. is hard!

    As to the rest — You are far too kind!

  • Hepseba ALHH

    This IS a hard topic, because on one hand, I think it’s important for writers to be ABLE to take ideas they’ve come across and love and use them to create their own story, and the key really is that they make it their OWN. Holly Lisle has a post somewhere on her site about successfully stealing others’ ideas by first finding out what really is the ESSENTIAL thing about the idea that you find so appealing and then letting your own creativity branch out from that kernel. This is a good thing. Imagine, for example, what the state of vampire fiction would be if everyone steered clear of emulating Bram Stoker. Dracula has some excellent, interesting concepts that SHOULD be carried forward by other people. On the other hand, I once read a book that really was more of a rip-off of Lord of the Rings than in homage of it. The plot of passing through Moria was almost point-for-point, all the way from scary-monster-in-the-lake through to Balrog. It was not a good thing.

  • Hepseba, yes, it’s scary. I’ve been to Holly’s blog and she covers really good points for writers. As to Stoker, I’ve been reading some urban fanatasy work with him in it. In all but one book, the writers took him and made him their own. In the work where Bram was just Bram, the entire book was derivative, which goes back to several comments made here. If the writer had been truly creative, everything would have stood on its own two feet. And nothing did.

  • Faith, I completely understand where you’re coming from. Before I started editing IGMS, I used to read other writers’ published works and sometimes think to myself, That’s an interesting premise, but I think it would be more interesting if we went in a different direction with it. Then I would do just that; start with the premise and write my own story. How many times have we all said and/or heard that you can start ten writers off with the same basic idea and you’ll end up with ten completely different stories.

    Now that I’m editing, I read and reject stories that I thought had interesting premises but were mishandled. If I think the writer is strong enough, I’ll lob my spin on the idea back at them and see if they want to try it. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. It’s their decision. But frequently I see material from writers who I know don’t have the skills to do it well no matter which way they run with it, and there’s a tiny piece (well, not so tiny, really) that years from now I’ll be writing something of my own that flirts with using one of those concepts and it will come back to haunt me; that some writer I’ve rejected will come screaming at me with a charge of plagarism similar to the one you dealt with. I try to stay as far away as possible from concepts I read in the slush pile, but still, it’s hard to write and not worry when you’ve seen as much stuff as I have.

  • Hep,
    I agree. The Lord of the Rings has to be one of the most thoroughly ripped off books in history. For many years it seemed that a lot of fantasy authors were simply rehashing Tolkien without his flair for language or depth of world building. Most of it wasn’t so much plagiarism as tired, soul-sapping immitation and some authors who will remain nameless made a lot of money doing it. I will now shut up before I start getting indiscreet.

  • Edmund, the possibility of accidental plagiarism is a beastie that haunts us all. Reading the comments here has given me ammo to use agaisnt my fear. And that’s a good thing.

    Awwww, AJ, we love it when you’re indiscreet!

  • Alternate meaning for ‘Chunder,

    When Jolly old England overfilled her prisons with child-pickpockets, ladies of dubious reputation, miscreants and downright ne’er-do-wells, she decided to ship them off to the colonies, namely Australia.

    The accommodations aboard the nasty crowded ships were abominable, as was the food, likewise the treatment of the convicts. But nothing was as bad as when the ships ran into storms that made them pitch and roll in all sorts of uncomfortable directions.

    The convicts, when laying in their miserable berths, hammocks, pallets, and feeling the contents of their stomachs begin to rise, would shout, “Watch under.” So that any other unfortunate in the line of fire would have the chance to avoid any unpleasantness.

    The words condensed, and in the modern Australian vernacular, to ‘chunder’ means to vomit…. usually when referring to post adolescent males who have been convivially celebrating some sports score or another with their mates

  • The word I should have used of work that retreads well-known territory without actually plagiarising it is ‘derivative’ and it’s hard to avoid. To dodge the charge of being derivative your writing, story and characters have to feel fresh, not overly familiar. Being derivative just means being an unoriginal writer, which is another word for mediocre, whereas being a plagiarist–a true plagiarist, not the object of someone’e jealousy or delusion, means you’re a criminal.

  • Already read it, Faith. I just wasn’t going to post the links directly because of said four-letter language. 😉 Both posts are worth the read.

    Now, to complicate things further, there are “Transformative Works”, the argument in support of fanfiction…

  • Widdershins — O. M. Gosh. Well, I doubt few hairhead paddlers are so well versed in history, but yes, that is an apt description of what happens to some paddlers following being worked in a rapid. And I imagine that whoever introduced the term to paddlers knew his history. It’s Perfect!

    AJ — yes, indeed. Criminal. That boogeyman is what scares me no end!

    Moira — >>“Transformative Works”…fanfiction>> (sticks fingers in ears and sings) Lalalalalalalalala! As long as I don’t know it happens, I don’t have to care. But if I know, then I have to get a lawyer. Which would totally suck.

  • Sarah

    Excellent post Faith. I think I fear being derivative more than being a plagiarist. I know I wouldn’t deliberately steal, but my gosh, what if I’m just a hack who can’t come up with her own ideas? I do struggle with the problem of just how far I have to get from my sources and influences to have truly made the work my own. I think Emily mentioned on an earlier thread that our co-written work was once labeled a bad Harry Potter rip off – which I still think was unfair and inaccurate. (It has been razed and rewritten since so if it was, it isn’t anymore.) At the same time the Harry Potter books should be instantly recognizable to a certain segment of readers as Rowling’s own innovation on the standard boarding school novel. It’s one of the things that I think makes her work fun – she’s actually merging two genres. I think her work acknowledges its sources without copying them or ripping them off. If it’s not a faux pas for me to comment on an MW author’s own work, I’d say Act of Will does the same thing. The climactic battle scene really reminded me of the battle descriptions in Shakespeare’s Henry V, but seen through Will Hawthorne’s own eyes and voice. It didn’t diminish the creativity of the moment, it enhanced the moment and made the scene richer and more enjoyable.

  • Sarah, >>A bad Harry Potter ripoff???>> That was MEAN!

    And yes, Rowling did nothing new … except brilliantly combine two genres with such a deft hand and flair that she brought an entire generation back to reading. Yes, it was part luck, but success always is. (Didn’t we talk about this and agree on it at ConCarolinas last year??? It feels familiar.)

    And this fantasy writer gives Rowling kudos and thanks!

  • Plagiarism doesn’t really concern me that much. Maybe because I don’t understand it. I understand that if I open up another person’s book, in e-book format for ease of discussion, and literally highlight a section then copy and paste it into my book, that’s plagiarism quite obviously. I think that is pretty wrong, you shouldn’t go around directly taking credit (and money?) from people like that without their permission.
    But there was a case recently about Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire supposedly being a copy of Willy the Wizard or some such. I think that for starters the names are different, the writing style was different and indeed there were no two sentences between the two books in common. However a big stink was raised.
    I don’t understand that.
    We’d all be in a world of trouble if all you had to do was have a similar plot or similar character to be sued. Christopher Paolini would have been eaten by Robert Jordan, who would have been eaten by David Eddings who would have been eaten by Tolkien who would have been… you get the idea.
    I copy stuff constantly, names change, my style goes in, set up is different, backstory is different, mood changes, words are obviously different and so on. At what point does it stop being plagiarism and start being original? Is there a defining line?
    PS: I’m just trying to get you ready for my debut novel about a woman name Jill Redstone and her adventures in French Canada 🙂

  • Unicorn

    I’m also absolutely terrified of stealing someone else’s idea, but as Scion points out, great writers have used the same ideas in different ways for a long time. Gandalf and Dumbledore are, in principle, quite similar, but Rowling and Tolkien portrayed them in completely different ways; Dumbledore’s similarity to Gandalf gave him another dimension and made him, for me, more enjoyable. I think the point is that Dumbledore is not Gandalf. He’s Dumbledore, though he happens to be a little bit Gandalf-like. That’s my opinion, anyway.
    Widdershins, thank you for sharing the origin of ‘chunder’. I love stumbling across those fascinating little pecularities in language. Here is the etymology of “feisty”, which gave me a completely new attitude for the word: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=feisty&searchmode=none … you might find it interesting.
    Unicorn

  • Um, didn’t Tolkien just rip a bunch of Welsh, Celtic, and Norse myths and throw them all together with his own characters?

    I love the stuff, but the more I learn about mythology, the less I find LotR original.

    BTW, Scion, I think George Lucas would want to feast on Paolini. Loved the cannibalism reference.

  • Oh damn, I wanted to comment on the post. Faith, thanks for sharing. It’s not always easy to let people know your fears or your boogeyman that keeps you up at night.

    I’m afraid I don’t have a writing boogeyman, I just fear rejection. For the longest time I would not submit stories even though I knew they were done. Even my querying has suffered from this. I’ve revamped my query letter more than I’ve sent it out. Things are getting better though, I currently have four short stories out on submission and signed up for Backspace Agent-Author Seminar in NYC.

  • Scion, you are correct in your literal (hehe) understanding of plagiarism, but it’s also when works follow too many parellels.

    In music, when the melody line is too similar and the subject matter of the song is too simmilar, if the lyrics folow too closely on another’s, a musician can be charged with plagiarism. Imagine a sexy woman in a short skirt (great legs) singing
    E-S-T-E-E-M
    Self esteam mean a lot to me
    E-S-T-E-E-M
    Take heed, TCB
    Uh (hit it to her, hit it to her)

    Yes, I am being a bit silly there, but musicians sue each other for similar things all the time.

    With writing, if the parallel is too similar, even with changes, charges can be laid, and charges, even if proven fallacious later, cause damage. Agents watch for work that is too similar, and carefully steer such clients out the door. That said, I look forward to the escapades of Jill Redstone in French Canada! (Be sure to give her red hair and different color eyes. And no Beast. That part might be considered too derivative, plagiaristic … whatever.) 🙂

  • Unicorn, I had never been to the Online Etymology Dict., but I’ve marked for returns. You know, on those days when my brain needs an escape from writing! And yes, there are no new ideas, just old ones rebuilt for today’s world.

    NGDave, I totally agree that LotR was taken from existing mythology. And frankly I go there myself (mythology) to see what twists I can given ancient lore to make it my own. It’s that *making it my own* that is so important!

    And — WHOOWHOO! Fingers crossed on the submissions!

  • I’ll probably get a better feeling for it either the first time I’m accused and I have trouble with agents / editors or when I see someone else publishing a book really similar to my own (and I have reason to believe that had access to my work). At that point I’ll probably have a very clear understanding.
    🙂

  • Scion, I have a friend who grew up in Africa. She wrote a book about the experiences and sent it to her agent. A month later the Poisonwood Bible came out. It was her story (idea and basic plotline). But there was no way the author could have taken it from her. Weird, yes? But true.

  • Young_Writer

    That’s in the back of my head, too. Once– as dorky as I’ll sound– I almosted copied Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the opera. So I switched around plot, genders of my characters, time period, ect. Reading over it now, you can’t tell where I got the idea form.

  • Young W — Now, *that* is making the *very* best of a situation!