Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Overcoming The Fear of Plagiarism

Can a writer ever feel a sense of peace that their work will never be stolen?  Recently I've read articles which seem to make light of new inexperienced writers concerned about their work being plagiarized. Some even marvel at the very thought of how new writers could be so naive as to think that they've brought forth and created some new original idea noting that multiple numbers of scripts come across their desks which are similar. What's the truth concerning this issue?  Are upstart writers being extreme walking in paranoia in regard to sharing their ideas with the concerns of its being stolen? You could say that I'm writing this to myself as well by asking all many various questions to get a sense of what course of action should be taken--to withhold creative work or not to withhold---that is the question. 

Quite frankly I've heard interesting arguments from both sides and see no valid reason to suggest that there isn't.  First, is it true that there are many ideas in coming up with a story line which is similar? Most certainly. Is it presumptuous to consider that one has come up with an original concept whether it be a novel or screenplay? Somewhat, but we must define what's meant. To say there are only so many story lines one can write about is true. Various genre may include drama, mystery, romance, or science-fiction---the list can go on and on. Within each genre it could be said you're going to have the continual mix of the same protagonist verses the antagonist. To say however there doesn't involve a certain sense of uniqueness in the playing out of the details I'd say is not valid.

To illustrate there might very well be many stories using the doomed ship, 'Titanic' as it's theme. To release a novel prior to the movie release with the characters of Rose DeWitt Bukater, Jack Dawson and Cal Hockley and with the precise dialogue each one of them speak would in my opinion be pure plagiarism. Writing a story however about the doomed ship Titanic, with even a little romance mixed in, as seen in the Cameron, Titanic could never be said to be the theft, at least not in my court. Once again plagiarism needs defined. What some consider as having been stolen  may not be theft at all. Consider the film classic, "The Wizard Of Oz." It's been suggested by some that George Lucas stole it to create, "Star Wars."

There are interesting similarities between Dorothy's and Princess Leia. You had Dorothy's little dog, To To, and Princess Leia had R2DT. You had the Tin Man and you had C3P0. You had the Lion and you had Chewbacca. You had Dorothy  locked up in the witches castle and you had Princess Leia needing rescued from the Death Star war ship. You had the witch and in Star Wars you had Darth Vader. You had various similarities but their characters are played out in slightly different ways. A story that was stolen? I'd say not and I'd hardly say one could claim plagiarism. With a considerable amount of exact dialogue and names being the same a clear argument could however be made  that certain things have been lifted from other authors.

Some writers ask the question why does it really matter if a work is stolen. The reasoning here would be a writer needs to get their talent out there and at least you're being recognized  by the ones with power.  One never knows,  perhaps a day would come where they give you a call desiring you on their team.  Some might resign themselves to the pros of accepting such .  The thought would be not to seek to capitalize  on any one particular piece of work but to rather to get one's writing style out there receiving exposure. If another however would find such a unpalatable  approach  then to publish screen play ideas through novels or short stories and selling the download as an ebook; one might find that the best way to ensure they'll sleep at night, and find the elusive sense of  peace.


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  1. I'm with you Bob. Writer's can start with the same basic facts, but end with varied, original stories.
    Oz and star wars? Pfft. Now Tic Toc in Oz ...

  2. Absolutely GPD! And there must be a thousand and one ways to tell a story! : )