The difference between inspiration and plagiarism.

Hey everyone! Sorry for the long lapse between posts. Once again real life has a way of interrupting things. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to post a little more regularly from now on.

So, this has always been a heated subject for writers. When does inspiration stop and plagiarism begin? One of the discussions that comes to mind as I write this took place on Goodreads. I don’t remember if they began the discussion with this intent, but what it turned into was a flame-fest aimed at Christopher Paolini. Personally, I have nothing against him. I didn’t care for his writing style, but that’s just me. However, there were many people on there who claimed he had ‘plagiarized’ most of his material for Eragon. They cited references to Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, among others. When I looked over the ‘examples’ that were given I could only laugh. There were a lot of similarities between Mr. Paolini’s work and the other, more well known stories. But I saw no evidence of outright plagiarism. The only thing I could see him guilty of was lack of originality.

In a broad sense of the word, plagiarism is a verbatim copying of someone else’s work. But I have to wonder if an author would catch more criticism for lack of imagination and poor writing, than they would for actual plagiarism.

“Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.”

Whether or not you wish to believe that aged adage, imitation does exist. I don’t believe that every idea has been used up, but it’s easy to draw inspiration from the creative works we see on a daily basis. That’s not really a bad thing, nor does it mean we lack imagination. If you see something, put your own spin on it, add character to it, give it a different history and breathe your own kind of life into it, then it’s yours and no one else’s. I actually have an example I can use.

6 years ago I had the barest of ideas for a sci-fi story. At the time I was playing Halo : Combat Evolved and Star Wars : Knights of the Old Republic. I played the two of them so much that I began to add elements from both games into the story. Soon, I had super soldiers that were using lightsaber-like weapons. The story went through enough rewrites that it’s no longer the same story. About the only thing I kept from the rough draft were the names of the two main characters. And there is nothing even close to a lightsaber in it.

My point is this: Who really cares if what you write is somewhat similar to something else? It is next to impossible to write something completely and 100% original. Whatever you write, in whatever genre you prefer, will have elements in it that people will draw similarities to other works, like Mr. Paolini’s novels.

The other thing to watch out for is generalizations. You and you alone know what your story is and what genre it fits into. Don’t let someone tell you that your story is one thing, when you know it to be something else. Don’t let other people’s assumptions about your work bother you. Until they’ve read it, they don’t know squat. When writing, you will find many obstacles in the way, some of which could include people in your life. Don’t get frustrated, don’t let people tell you that you shouldn’t write something just because it’s a little bit like something else and don’t let an idea get away.

Oh, and don’t plagiarize. Always be yourself, because everyone else is already taken.

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