A Word in Time

Earlier this week I ranted a bit on my personal blog about being trolled in a livestream chat room. (And before the innuendo starts flying, it was a perfectly harmless chat/livestream belonging to an artist that I like. (Livestreams are great to get a bird's eye view into a talent that I'll never have, anyway.)

The chatting portion became a little strange at one point when one of the other chatters essentially accused me of being a liar. That I couldn't possibly have written a book. (Part of the discussion was about what we were working on at the moment  - pretty harmless stuff.)

I have no idea why. No idea who this person is or why they decided I couldn't be trusted. In the end I suppose it doesn't really matter. I know what I've done and that's what counts.

However, the whole thing did get me to thinking  more about voice and style overall. Plagiarism happens all the time - of writing, of art, of any number of things. There's a fine line between taking inspiration from something and outright copying. (And this sort of goes back to an email I'd received a few weeks ago asking me where I got my inspiration from...and the answer is pretty much everyone and everything is fair game.)

But still, how can an author "prove" they wrote something? Is it a matter of certain words? Of plot? Style? Artists copy from the masters all the time - not to try to fool anyone, but because technique often has to be experienced to understand...and what better way than to try to replicate that than to actually pick up a paint brush or a pencil and go through the motions?

As writers, I suspect the best teacher is reading other authors. And I'll admit I don't have as much time as I used to, but I still gravitate toward my favorites - though sometimes my motivation is different now. Whereas before, reading was something I simply did for pleasure, now I tend to keep an eye toward craft as well. Hard not to, especially when I'm in revision mode on my own writing.

Still.  Though I would never dream of copying from someone else, I take a fair amount of pleasure in coming across phrases or words or descriptions that make me think of developing my own scenes a little differently. Sometimes I write them down in a scrap folder and sometimes I don't, but I'm grateful for the opportunity to study someone else's craft in the hopes of making my own better.

Comments

Mario said…
What a coincidence. I'm teaching a class today on plagiarizing...from your life. Great post, BTW.

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