mercredi 1 octobre 2014

Writing under the Influence: Inspiration, Plagiarism and Homage

In this article I want to address some of the issues to consider when your writing is certainly inspired by another story. There are different types of inspiration. Some are considered admirable; others may lead to prosecution. This item is not the last word on legal issues, but hopefully make you aware of them.


There is nothing wrong with being inspired to write the story of another author; in fact, I think almost all writers start out as stories readers. Reading experiences can be so strong - so exciting - that readers want to continue the experience even after the end of the story. A person can read a book and think, I want to do that! If you do not like, or have never known, reading fiction, then you should ask yourself why you want to write. For fame and fortune? Of course, some authors handle this, but most do not. It is easier, more reliable ways to earn money and fame.

Many stories have similar elements. In fact, some people such as Christopher Booker argues that all stories are built on one of the seven basic plots (numbers and descriptions of the different plots). If this is true, it is not surprising that many stories are similar, sometimes obviously, sometimes less obvious. We will cover cases of obvious similarity - plagiarism and homage - then move on to examples that are a little less obvious.


Plagiarism is bad. There may be something to copy verbatim and put your name on it, something happened too often in schools and universities and is considered so great that violation may be grounds for dismissal . Sometimes it is not a copy, but a copy nonetheless ideas. Here's what Wikipedia says about plagiarism:

Plagiarism is "misappropriation" and "steal and publication" of another author's "language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions," and the representation of them as one's own original work. ... Plagiarism is not a crime in itself, but in academia and industry, it is a felony ethics and plagiarism may constitute copyright infringement.
Plagiarism occurs even among the well-known authors. There was a famous case in which the novel prolific writer Janet Dailey borrowed passages from the novel even more prolific writer Nora Roberts and published these passages in Aspen Gold (curiously, it is the only book "with" Janet Dailey I ever read - - and I guess that means I still have not read through it). A settlement was reached, but it seems to prove that plagiarism is tempting to everyone, even for successful writers. The reason is clear: it is getting credit and perhaps money for doing nothing.

My unequivocal advice: do not plagiarize. When quoting another author, give credit where credit is due. Check what are the limits on fair use.


In tribute, you are supposed to be show your respect and admiration for another writer or artist, referring to their work. The tribute may be direct, as when geeks in The Big Bang Theory refer to Star Wars and Star Trek. It may be oblique, as when the characters in a story behave like the characters in another story, perhaps by having a similar conversation or by a technique that echoes another.

The line between homage flatters the original artist and a level that the original artist considers the flight is not always clear. From the comments accompanying the DVD I learned that a particular episode of Deep Space Nine Star Trek, "Our Man Bashir" was honored, that is, to pay homage to the James Bond franchise. The episode was very similar to James Bond; eg James Bond, he is a "Dr. No, "while in the episode" Deep Space Nine "there is a" Dr. Noah. "Obviously, the creators of Deep Space Nine thought they were paying a compliment to the James Bond franchise, but the owners of the James Bond franchise are not happy. Deep Space Nine was told to give up. Next time Bashir visited the holodeck wear a tuxedo, the scene was very short. So tribute can be in the eye of the beholder.

Inspirations twists 

There are many famous stories inspired by other stories examples. West Side Story, musical by Leonard Bernstein, is based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Bernstein has made ​​many changes to the original: the setting is in New York, instead of Verona; Bernstein factions are the Jets and the Sharks from Puerto Rico, rather poor groups fighting for power in New York instead of the two houses of the rich Capulets and Montagues of Verona; Maria character who takes the role of Juliet does not die (which makes it kind of sad at the end). And of course, West Side Story is full of music and dance.

Bernstein does not have to worry about offending the original author, that Shakespeare had been dead for centuries before Bernstein wrote West Side Story. In addition, there are certainly plenty of originality in West Side Story. Even if you can see the outline of Romeo and Juliet inside, Bernstein has been well known to its own history.

Here are some ways to take familiar stories and develop differently:

Different Point of View. You might say Cinderella in terms of one of the ugly stepsisters.

Different average. You can take a story that is a play and make a novel like Alice Underwood and I did it with Jocasta: The Mother-Wife of Oedipus, which tells the story of Oedipus Rex by Sophocles (we have also changed the view). West Side Story took a play and made a musical.

Different time and. A recent and very popular example is Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games, which has much in common with the history of the ancient Greek hero Theseus and the youth groups and the Athenian maidens sent as offerings to the Minotaur of Crete.

Different keywords. You can take a story with a happy ending and make sad; or take a sad or depressing end and make him happy. Sometimes the version with the modified end becomes more popular than the original. For example, in the original version of "Little Red Riding Hood," the young girl dressed in scarlet was eaten by the wolf; history was used to warn children of the dangers of wandering in the woods. However, these days, and indeed, for many years, most people only know the version of "Little Red Riding Hood" in which the little girl survives, usually rescued by a woodsman or a hunter.

Different versions of the characters. Maybe you'll change genders or ages, or even species of original characters.

Various vibration. You can take a story that is usually serious and make it funny. An example of this is the parody of Lord of the Rings, known Bored of the Rings by the Harvard Lampoon.

Combining influences 

Another possibility is to let your writing is influenced by two or more different sources. When she started writing Harry Potter, JK Rowling must have been inspired by countless books Enid Blyton on residential schools. However, Rowling magic (and many other things), which makes the story itself. In his novels, although she paid tribute to others, as in calling the drink "butterbeer" favorite after a character in the Lord of the Rings, the innkeeper Butterbur.

Combining influences can lead to a whole new sub-genres. Romance was combined with fantasy and horror to create stories of love with vampires. Other examples of combined influences include novels of time travel, paranormal romances, mysteries featuring cats and historical mysteries. If you are a big fan of both genres or two particular stories, why not mix them together and see what comes out?


Creating stories do not occur in a vacuum. You can create something new and wonderful if you get inspired by other works; you can create a richer reading experience for your audience if you incorporate some of these influences.

In general, you should not plagiarize and you need to create your own story. However, there is an important exception. In the next article, we will examine some of the problems you encounter when writing fan fiction; that is, if you choose to write a work completely in a world created by another.

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