To Avoid Plagiarism

There is a fine line between inspiration, similarities, and flat-out ripping off.

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I’ve had writers tell me that they are writing stories about a boy or a girl who turns into a dragon; or stories of a dragon trying to conquer evil. I understand that they are not trying to use my work and I wish the best for their stories to come forth.

I’ve talked about inspiration before. I believe it is a good thing. It’s how literature moves forward. But, as I have said, you must be careful. There is a fine line between inspiration, similarities, and flat-out ripping off. Stealing is not the same as aspiring. Ripping off is when when you intentionally take someone else’s ideas and make them your own.

Now if you are writing a particular story, it may end up similar to somebody else’s work. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Is it stealing if you have a story about cowboys in Nevada because that idea has been used before? No. It is not too big a deal to have similarities with other works, just as long as you keep your work as your own. And you may even create similarities by accident. When I first created the Guarded Forest in Rise of the Dragon, it was originally called the Forbidden Forest. Chapter 19 was even called “The Forbidden Forest”. At the time, I was unaware that that same chapter title was used before. One day I was in a library and I was flipping through the pages of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I came across a chapter titled “The Forbidden Forest”. I was a little frustrated at first, but I was soon glad that I spotted it. It had been years since I had read that book. Because I had noticed that, I changed the Forbidden Forest to the Guarded Forest. I did not mean to use the same name. But if I had not changed it, people may still say it’s ripping off, or worse… plagiarism.

You could say that you are paying homage to the original work. “Oh, I named this character, (famous fictional character), because I want to express my love of the original work.” It may make sense in your mind as the author, but that doesn’t mean all your readers will understand that. I believe it’s okay to show your respect for an aspiring author, but taking their work and presenting it as your own is not the best use of respect. A good example of homage that I can see is in Fablehaven by Brandon Mull. I don’t know if this was Mull’s intention or not, but I can see resemblance to RowlingTolkien, and even Riordan in a respectful manner. The book is still a fresh and unique story. I don’t see re-imaginings of other stories, I see it as it is.

If you try to retell someone’s story, your readers may see you as the person who tried to match yourself with that author. Ripping off other stories is not creative, and your story will not be creative.

Remember, it is okay to have similarities to other people’s works. It’s okay to be inspired. It’s okay to pay homage. But if you intentionally try to use other people’s work as your own, it will show. Your stories must be your own.

The Moral of a Story

Morals and themes are essential to a story. They are what make the story have meaning. Successful authors will try to teach their readers something, most often life lessons. Think of some classical works for a moment. There are many that are famous for their morals. Some obvious examples are Aesop’s fables or the use of symbolism in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. There are many other great works that have great morals, even if these works are not famous for having them. Authors like Tolkien and Lewis use many allegories that teach us valuable life lessons, and they are not the only ones who write to teach.

Stories that stand the test of time will always have some sort of moral or else they would be pointless. Our very literature in our world is used to teach lessons that will help us function as a society.

Some of my Favorite Authors…

This is a list of some of my favorite authors.

Here is a list of a few of my favorite authors. (This list is included at the beginning of Rise of the Dragon.)

  • Homer

Yes, the ancient poet. I first started reading his epic poems in my English classes over the Greek Mythology unit. I found The Odyssey very fun to read. This led me to read The Iliad.

If you have just little knowledge about the world of Elsov, you should have heard about nymphs. In an earlier blog, I have mentioned that Elsovian nymphs differ from those from Greek Mythology, but it was because of Homer and his poems that gave me the idea of nymphs. There are also other creatures I will later reveal that have Greek roots. (Have the Minotaur in mind.)

  • William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s work is loved and hated alike. Some people enjoy watching his plays while others cannot even manage to utter such foul language from the breath of thine heart. I am among those who enjoy Shakespeare’s work.

  • Edgar Allen Poe

Here is a name notorious for horror. As a matter of fact, I have mixed feelings for his work. I wouldn’t say The Black Cat and The Cask of Amontillado are scary, they are just disturbing and I wouldn’t say they are my favorite to read. So why is Poe on my grand list of influenced authors if I don’t really enjoy his stories? It’s the style of Poe’s writing that adds spice to the story. Just his choice of words create the eerie atmosphere.

  • Ted Geisel

This author is better known as Dr. Suess. These are wonderful stories that takes the reader to a new and odd world. And not only that, the reader loves this world. His stories flow with imagery and, of course, rhyme. What I like about Dr. Suess the most is the moral he has in each story. Not only do you cross a world of rhyme, you are taught a good lesson. You can find such morals in The SneetchesThe Butter Battle Book, and I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew. A great story is one that has a moral.

  • Brian Jacques

No other book series has brought me to writing more than the author of Redwall. This series centers around a Medieval abbey inhabited by mice, squirrels, badgers, and other animals. This abbey is called Redwall. I had a great time reading about Matthias or Martin the Warrior battling against rats and weasels. Redwall is a big series, but once you finish a book, you’ll want to read the next.

Honorable Mentions to J.R.R Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Richard Adams, and Daniel P. Mannix