The other day, my fellow Second Wind author JJ Dare wrote an interesting post on ideas that really got me thinking. Entitled “Steal This“, the post tackled the issue of authors (or one, at least) blatantly stealing ideas from other authors and writing their own stories from them. Now this is a little different than coming up with a story based upon a similar premise. That happens all of the time – how else do you explain the plethora of vampire and shapeshifter books out there? The difference there, however, is that each author has taken the initial premise and made it their own, developing whole worlds that are far different than their peers’. This is also different than having someone say that you or your story inspired them to write their own and then to discover (happily, as I did) that their concept in no way mirrored your own. I have no problem with that. In fact, I revel in the experience of being the inspiration for others to write. What I have a problem with is people blatantly stealing from other people.
I wish I could say that this was an isolated incident, but sadly, it is becoming far too common. With stunning frequency, accounts are coming forward about one author lifting material from another and trying to pass it off as their own, as “original.” How they can do this with a clear conscience is a mystery to me. I labor every day to make my stories as unique as I possibly can. I won’t even read anything with a similar theme until long after my book is done because I don’t want it to influence me in any way or give anyone a reason to accuse me of pilfering. Sadly, it seems that too many people are jumping on the bandwagon of accusing (mostly famous) authors of stealing their ideas – and some are actually doing it. How did we ever come to this? Whatever happened to professional courtesy and respecting our peers?
After reading JJ’s story, I will be even more careful about sharing any ideas with others – until the ideas are 300-page books, that is. What about you? What do you think of the outbreak of plagiarism that has struck the book world lately? Will it make you more reluctant to share your ideas with others, or will you still participate in workshops and critique groups, trusting that no one will hijack your idea? And if you have any suggestions on how I can calm my fears of idea/story theft, please feel free to share them. All comments are greatly appreciated.
Author's Note: This post was originally published on the Second Wind blog at http://secondwindpub.wordpress.com/2009/07/07/whose-idea-is-it-anyway/ but I believe, in light of some more famous cases of idea theft (or plagiarism, if you will), that it deserves more attention. Please read JJ's post, Steal This, to see what got me so fired up. It might make you think a little differently in the future. Thank you, Margay