A thought on plagiarism…

I was talking with Mary Elizabeth-one of the two fanfic authors involved in the Stahl mess (read about it here).  She made a comment that she wasn’t mad, more disappointed.

I felt the same way when I was plagiarized.  I only got mad when she started trying to throw guilt trips at me–she kept trying to find other places to sneak the works up, defending herself to those who would listen and when I told her that if the works weren’t all removed and if they didn’t stay down, I’d seek legal action–she laid a sob story at my feet about her kids and their deadbeat dad.

That is when I got mad.

Before that?  I was disappointed, irritated…bizarrely enough, I almost pitied her botched attempts at rewriting my Grimm books.  I had Greta & Rip-she changed them to Gretta and Ryp.  I had Will, she changed him to Wyll.  Ella (as in CINDERELLA…) became CINDY for pete’s sake.  And the writing, while the scenes, the stories, the layout, the set-up, the plot, all of it was mine… she couldn’t recreate my story.  I’m not trying to be unkind, but the writing, plain and simple, was a botched mess.  It was the efforts, in my opinion, of somebody who just can’t write… or create the idea… so she tried to take the short cut and steal somebody else’s.

It’s not the same.

Know how I first started writing?

It was in 3rd or 4th grade.  I had read a comic book.  I loved it.  But the ending? Not so much.

Below is the opening to a speech I gave at the Washington Area Romance Writers Retreat.

I have a confession to make.

One of the first stories I ever wrote…I think I plagiarized.  Now, you’ll have to give me a little bit of leeway here, because I was in third or fourth grade.  I’d been reading this really amazing comic book—I think it was the Fantastic Four, and it was just so awesome that I thought for sure, I could do something equally awesome.

The problem was, as cool as the story was, it had a lousy ending. I didn’t like it.  I don’t remember why.  I just know I was going to make it better.

I didn’t make it better, though, and for some reason, it wasn’t as awesome as I thought it would be.

I was writing a story, yeah.

But it wasn’t my story.  It’s not the same, when the words aren’t your own.  When the story isn’t your own. I don’t think I even finished it. The magic just wasn’t there.

Yep.  I started out by trying to recreate somebody else’s words.  Like I said, I was in 3rd or 4th grade, and I knew right away it wasn’t working out.  It’s been thirty years since that botched up mess of a story and I still remember my disappointment in it.

I don’t even know if I finished it.  It just…wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t really worth it until I found out that I had my own stories inside me.

Something some plagiarists will never understand is what it’s like to create those stories, purely on your own.

What’s really sad is when the plagiarist has writing talent and just doesn’t try to develop it, or in some cases, gets lazy or whatever else motivates them to steal words.  Janet Dailey was a talented writer, yet she stole from Nora Roberts.  It’s been twenty something years, but people still remember.  I don’t buy her, because of that.  I used to love her voice, but that voice has been…tainted.

If it’s isn’t your own magic, it isn’t just cheating the readers.  You’re cheating yourself.

3 Replies to “A thought on plagiarism…”

  1. I’ve found, with very few exceptions, it’s always the original author’s fault that the plagiarist did what they did. At least, according the the plagiarist! Because the burden is certainly never theirs. “It’s their own work,” changes to “I didn’t know,” to “but my family is starving, my dog died, my mother is in an institution for the criminally tattooed,” or any number of other reasons they did what they did. But few ever admit they stole. I have to admit, you have the patience of a saint compared to what I would have done had it been me.

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