Forum: Originality and Authority in Fanfiction

Discussing: Plagiarism?!

Plagiarism?!

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."[1]

In the aftermath of the wrongful accusations of PV the Site Managers asked me to compile some background material about what constitutes plagiarism. Obviously it's not enough to say "If I see it, I know what it is." There are definitions for plagiarism in every dictionary of the English language, and the websites of schools and universities are full of guidelines about plagiarism and how to detect it and how to avoid it. Nevertheless - especially where fiction, and even more where fan fiction is concerned - there is a lot of confusion about what exactly constitutes plagiarism.

In the following I have tried to compile as briefly and clearly as possible what constitutes plagiarism and what doesn't, with an emphasis on plagiarism in (fan) fiction.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to jump in and join the discussion!

Cheers,

JunoMagic
 


What is Plagiarism?[2]

1. Definition

Plagiarizing means to steal and pass off a literary work of another author (or parts of it, its structure, ideas, metaphors or phrases) as one's own; to use another's intellectual work without crediting the source, to present an idea or a literary work derived from an existing source as new and original[3].

2. Examples

Examples of plagiarism[4] that may be relevant for fan fiction:

  • Complete sentences and phrases or even the whole story are lifted from the work of other authors and are used without quotation marks and source references.

  • Paragraphs, sentences and phrases are lifted from the literary work of another author and are only slightly paraphrased (i.e. only a few words are changed).

  • The complete plot or structure of a story[5] is lifted from the literary work of another author down to small details.
    The similarity between the two works has to be easily recognisable, merely writing about the same theme as the other author, does not constitute plagiarism. For example, a plagiarized multi-chapter story would have the same things happening in each chapter as the original story with only minor changes.

  • Specific turns of phrase or metaphors that are not generally used are lifted from the literary work of another author.
    However: Reusing an interesting turn of phrase or metaphor in a literary work is not always plagiarism. If a turn of phrase or metaphor is "generally used", then it can be freely used by everyone. For example, using the term "Tenth Walker Story" is not plagiarism. Quotes and phrases can also be used without references as textual echoes and allusions, if the author can and does expect the readers to recognize those unreferenced passages immediately. For example, if a fanfic author uses the Elvish song to Elbereth Gilthoniel without an additional reference to its original author (J.R.R. Tolkien), most everyone in fandom will recognize the hymn at once. However, with less widely known phrases the line between permissible unreferenced quoting and plagiarism can easily become blurred.

  • An idea from the literary work of another author that is not "common knowledge" or a "generally accepted fact or concept" or in the Public Domain is used without reference.
    However:
    Ideas as such cannot be copyrighted[6]. Not every idea is an idea that can be plagiarized. Many, if not most, themes and motifs in fiction and fan fiction are not new and original, but have been used time and again in many stories and poems. Using ideas (motifs or themes) that are "common knowledge" or that are based on "generally accepted concepts" does not constitute plagiarism. For example, Tenth Walker stories have been written so many times that this motif is without doubt "common knowledge"/"generally accepted" in fandom. An idea is only plagiarized in fiction if the details of the piece clearly mirror the main idea of the original work and if that idea is not a "generally accepted concept".

3. Exceptions

"Common knowledge", "generally accepted facts", "generally accepted concepts", "generally used phrases" do not have to be documented or credited[7] and using them does not constitute plagiarism.

Examples for "common knowledge" are: folklore, myths, legends, and historical events.

"Generally accepted facts or concepts" are not only facts and concepts accepted by "everyone", but also facts and concepts that are accepted within a particular discourse community, for example in LOTR or Silm fandom. Canon and fanon constitute such "generally accepted facts or concepts". For example, using the idea that an elf fades into death after being raped is not plagiarism.

To decide if something is "common knowledge" or "generally accepted" a rule of thumb may be used. If the same phrase, concept or fact is used undocumented in at least five different credible sources, it can be treated as "common knowledge"/"generally accepted" and does not have to be referenced.

Last but not least, not every single borrowed phrase or textual echo in a work of (fan) fiction that is not referenced constitutes plagiarism. In many cases an author can and does expect that his/her audience - the relevant discourse community - will recognize certain unreferenced allusions. Contrary to the intention of a plagiarist who tries to pass off another's words as his/her own, the author wants the reader to recognize those allusions (that's the whole point of using such unreferenced quotes) - and the author definitely does not try to claim those lines as his/her own.



[1] Princess Bride" at IMDb. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093779/ (November 19, 2006).

[2] Fan fiction is sometimes labelled as "plagiarizing" original fiction. That is technically not correct. Fan fiction has something to do with infringement of copyright, which may or may not be covered by the concept of "Fair Use" according to American law. (For more information about this please see: Chilling Effects Clearinghouse > Fan Fiction, http://www.chillingeffects.org/fanfic/.) But writing fan fiction is not plagiarizing. Plagiarizing would mean that fan fiction writers copied e.g. from Tolkien without adding anything of their own to the story and claiming that their works were wholly original, giving no reference at all to Tolkien. Instead, fan fiction is the creation of derivative or transformative works based on Tolkien's writings. Actually, even if there's no formal disclaimer, the term "fan fiction" already implies the relevant reference to an original author and clarifies that the fanfic author in question does not claim originality the way a plagiarist does.

[3] Merriam-Webster OnLine. http://www.merriam-webster.org/dictionary/plagiarizing (November 19, 2006).

[4] C. Barnbaum, "Plagiarism - A Student's Guide to Recognizing it and Avoiding it". http://www.valdosta.edu/~cbarnbau/personal/teaching_MISC/plagiarism.htm (November 19,2006); Stopping Plagiarism, Community Info. http://community.livejournal.com/stop_plagiarism/profile (November 19, 2006).

[5] In a non-fiction piece that would be the line of reasoning, the way the argument of the essay is built up.

[6] Lee Masterson, "That Was My Idea!", Fiction Factor - The Online Magazine for Fiction Writers. http://www.fictionfactor.com/articles/plagiarism.html (November 19, 2006).

[7] The Owl at Purdue, "Avoiding Plagiarism". http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/589/01/#resourcenav (November 19, 2006).

 

 

Re: Plagiarism?!

Thank you so much, Juno, for the lovely, clear explanation!

Gwynnyd 

 

 

How I got in trouble (years ago)

It was Star Trek fanfiction (we didn't have to say "Classic ST" back then). We didn't have the internets, it was snail mail and phone calls and huddles at weekend events.

I was part of a small group of fanfic writers, circulating carbon copies of drafts & such. If we managed to finish a story (I didn't) there was a fanzine getting submissions from about 4 different groups of writers.

I got zinged for two instances of "stealing". The first problem was usage of something that was in a friend's fanon, not canon: It was a canon character (occurred in one episode), but I used a bit of backstory that she had developed, not something that was from the one episode. Granted, it was an obvious nickname, but my friend used it first. "Don't do that without asking!" Actually, I had forgotten that it wasn't part of the episode. If I had finished that story, I would have had to negotiate with my friend to use the nickname and had a credit in the acknowledgements.

On the other hand, there was another time when we both came up with the same, short, made-up name, and that was something to laugh about. (She knew I hadn't seen her notes.) Neither story got finished … but if they had, there would have been a footnote about the funny coincidence.

The more serious problem was, again, inadvertent. One of those "similar themes" problems. Back in the time that a year was a long time, I took a break from working on my basic timeline of short stories, to work out a what-if alternate branch that occurred to me, and I sent a couple scenes and an outline to my friends and they got very angry. My theme was the same emotional theme as one of the major plotlines in their timeline, and my working title was similar to a chapter title of an idea they had talked about to me several months back, when we were trading outlines and verbally describing scenes rather than trading finished chapters. That was a bit of a problem because I considered the situation rather generic -- not specific, like the nickname -- and I thought I was making a logical outcome rather than "stealing". Besides, it was fanfiction. We both started out with the same general background and characters. That tiff had a rather unsatisfying conclusion, as we had to agree to disagree. They thought it was a problem, I didn't. They kept writing their timeline & I read the stories & fragments and commented, etc. OtOH, they were my audience, and they weren't interested in the what-if, so it just stayed in outline. If I'd written it in full I think the difference would have been more apparent, but I went back to stuff they didn't have a problem with …

 

 

Re: How I got in trouble (years ago)

Interesting post, Julie. I don't personally see any of those things as plagiarism. In the first instance in using the nickname, I see that as a tangle of canon and fanon, which happens all of the time. I have frequently gotten my canon mixed in with my fanon; somewhere out there is an author who invented the fanon detail that I am swearing is in the books, and I am not crediting. But I am not intentionally stealing either; I believe that it is a legitimate part of the canon and would gladly correct my error if shown that I was wrong.

I've had people write stories based off of my novel AMC, and I wrote a novella this spring based off of a good friend's AUverse, and I've never seen it to be a problem. In every instance where people have used AMC, they have contacted me and credited me. Even if they didn't, it's possible to come up with the same ideas. I had something like your experience happen as well. My AMC Rumil (of Tirion, not Lothlorien) is notable for having once been a captive of Morgoth and quite horribly mutilated as a result. After the story was written and "published" in my LiveJournal, I discovered that Tyellas had written pretty much the same thing about the same character. I'd never read her story, even a summary; she read my chapter, and we had a chuckle about it. That was that. It seems logical that it would happen, especially in fan fiction, where our plot threads are generally springing from the same source and using the same characters.

For me, plagiarism comes down to intent. Do you intend to use your friend's idea and pass if off as your own? If not, I would view it as a mistake, perhaps, but not plagiarism, and something that can be easily remedied with an author's note. In my circle of fellow Silmarillion weirdos fans, we often come up with the same ideas, plotlines, and characters independently of each other. It has always been laughed off and appended with a "GMTA!" and left at that. It seems a pretty common phenomenon in fan fiction. (For example, I giggled over the idea of Frodo/Sam for months after the movies without ever knowing that slash existed, much less Frodo/Sam. And darn, I thought I was being original! :^P)

 

 

Re: Plagiarism?!

The recent incident was an anamolous case in the history of plagiairism complaints on HASA because of the number of people named, the suspect background of the accuser, and the lack of substantiating evidence.  In the past, other cases have been more difficult to judge because they were stronger cases. Only one of them was judged to have merit, but all were brought with a great deal of sincerity - an author was on the level that she believed she had been inappropriately copied, borrowed, lifted, etc.

In the last few years, mostly as a response to the massive amount of fake term papers for sale online, various sites and tools have become available to try to do algorithmic analysis of blocks of text to locate and diagram patterns of similarity.  While mostly used to try to track down the presence of plagiarism (or, in the academic cases, buying someone else's work to submit as your own), these tools can be used in the opposite manner, to demonstrate that there are few or no similarities between two samples of text.

Gwynnyd has been doing fascinating research into this topic over the last week, and I hope will soon publish her findings and links here in this forum.  She has suggested that HASA could try using some of these text analyzers as preliminary screening tools for any case of suspected plagiarism. For example, if Author A suspects her story "The Big Tale" has been plagiarized, she would be instucted to run the stories through one of these tools and check the report. We haven't had time to evaulate one with some control materials yet, so don't have any evidence threshold levels established. A program can't replace human judgment, but it can act as a reality check.

In the end, however, the real bar to plagiairism is a responsible community that conscientiously reads each others' work, is familiar with the writers out there, encourages good writing habits in new members, and refuses to tolerate unauthorized borrowing and copying.

Anglachel 

 

 

Re: How I got in trouble (years ago)

I think you mention a very important point here, Dawn.

For me, plagiarism comes down to intent. Do you intend to use your friend's idea and pass if off as your own?

Exactly! If you look at the definition of plagiarism, you'll find that it has two parts:

  • copying something in some manner and

  • passing this something off as your very own and original work

Mistakes happen all the time.

If you forget to reference something properly, if you credit something not accurately or correctly, if you use an allusion that you think everyone will recognize at once without any credit or reference being necessary, then it's a mistake. It's not plagiarism.

Cheers,
Juno

 

 

Re: Plagiarism?!

"Sir, I very much doubt that anyone would wish to steal your intellectual property." (Me, landing a zinger on another nut member in need of psychological help, in a forum, long ago and far away.)

Chutzpah.  (The definition of a fanwriter who uses Tolkien's characters, world, and plot for inspiration, without asking, obviously, and then gets her knickers in a twist when others 'steal' from her.)

We all write in the same shared universe.  It would be very strange if the same themes and ideas did not pop up frequently.

That said, I'm glad this subject is finally being addressed.  After the huge kerfuffle about plagiarism concerning a BNF who shall remain nameless, with subsequent (alleged) death threats, plagiarism has been too hot to handle on many serious discussion boards. Some people have a misconception about what plagiarism actually is, resulting in the sort of nonsense we've just seen.

In my book, plagiarism is large scale copy/pasting -- letting another writer do the work and then trying to pass the copy off as one's own.  Similarity in plot and themes may be cnsidered a coincidence or even 'paying tribute.'  Goodness knows, George Lucas got away with that enough.

There is one other exception to the rule against following someone else's plot closely -- the parody.  Those fall within Fair Use -- although they may not be allowed here.

 

 

Test

 

 

Fanon vs canon

I've been reading everyone's posts with much interest and delighted in learning more about my friends here.

One thing that I tripped up on was something I thought was canon - a story by Linaewen, '100 Days,' (I think) had a scene with a landslide on Caradhras.... now, I swear that I read it in LOTR - but she gently told me it was from her tale... she was kind and let me keep it in wherever I had written it (I did put a thank you up) and blushed to think that something she wrote was considered canon. Written so well I thought it was JRRT's.

So fanon can be a problem when the writing is so good and the incident/scene/whatever is so appropriate to Tolkien.

 

 

Re: How I got in trouble (years ago)

The more serious problem was, again, inadvertent. One of those "similar themes" problems. Back in the time that a year was a long time, I took a break from working on my basic timeline of short stories, to work out a what-if alternate branch that occurred to me, and I sent a couple scenes and an outline to my friends and they got very angry. My theme was the same emotional theme as one of the major plotlines in their timeline, and my working title was similar to a chapter title of an idea they had talked about to me several months back, when we were trading outlines and verbally describing scenes rather than trading finished chapters.

The sad thing about this is that your friend's protest cut off one of trhe best things about writing in a community: the possibility to feed off each other's ideas and explore different views and aspects of a theme. There is little as exiting as sharing a story and then see the different angles and ideas another writer can come up with regarding a similar situation or plot. Some of my best story ideas have been inspired by stories of other writers, and luckily, in two cases, when I asked the writer in question if they would allow me to write a story using their setting or a similar plot bunny, they agreed. So far, I have written one of my stories based on the plot bunny of another writer with that writers generous permission.

The story that was born out of this is so different from the inspiring one, that you would not see the similarities at first glance, except of course for the fact that I am giving credit to the original writer in every chapter. Subsequently, I have been asked by two other writers who wanted to write a story based on my setting, and apart from the fact that I was very flattered, the visions they came up with were enriching, very different from mine, and breathtaking, too.

It is a sad thing if we cut off each other from such possibilities because of the fear of plagiarism and 'stealing'. I agree that the polite thing is to ask another writer before using their ideas, and giving credit afterwards is, of course, a no-brainer; but regarding the fact that technically, we *all* steal from Tolkien (or in your quoted case, Gene Roddenberry and Paramount) while we write in his universe, and for obvious reasons never asked permission, to get all huffy if another fan dares to thrive on an idea I came up with and use it in a slightly similar way seems somewhat odd to me. Unfortunately, this seems the case with quite a few authors.

Then again, if someone would just take someone's story, change a few things and plastered their own name above it, that would be a different thing, entirely. I have seen that a few ttimes at fanfiction net, and of course the offender was hunted down by the reviewers, every time.

But just coming up with a similar idea? Or using a generic theme? To call that plagiarism, like it has been done here by that person who accused other authors at HASA of stealing from her because their stories used some generic themses her stories happened to explore, too, is just plain stupid.

Besides, I have seen it happen that two writers, who knew nothing of each other's ideas, came up with eerily similar stories for a challenge on a list at one time. Without ever having been in contact with each other.

It happens. And plagiarism has nothing to do with it.

Aislynn

 

 

Re: Plagiarism?!

I agree with all what you said here, but I'd like to add one point:

There is one other exception to the rule against following someone else's plot closely -- the parody. Those fall within Fair Use -- although they may not be allowed here.

...and, of course, one can always ask the author of a story if he or she would permit to play in their setting. The result, if the original writer agrees, can be breathtaking - a different view that can greatly enrich the story universe the original author has created.

I have done that myself, and I have seen it done in a few communities and by a different writers in different fandoms. Unfortunately, some writers think that this would qualify as plagiarism, or as being 'unoriginal', too.

A viewpoint I do not share.

Also, I have see at least one case where, on an e-mail list I share, two different authors came up with eerily similar stories in reply to a challenge. The stories themselves were written differently enough, but had similar plot, a very similar setting, and even a very similar structure. But they were cofirmably written completely independent from each other.

I think it would be too much to ask that in such a case one of the writers should not post their story just because the other one, posted before but written independly, was very similar. It happens. Plagiarism has nothing to do with it.

I the case I mentioned, the second author confirmed with the list mods that her story was written independly and posted it some ime later. the writer of the first story was not offended, but accepted the similarity as accidental. Luckily.

 

 

Re: How I got in trouble (years ago)

The sad thing about this is that your friend's protest cut off one of trhe best things about writing in a community: the possibility to feed off each other's ideas and explore different views and aspects of a theme.

This has been done to great effect twice that I know of in 'respectable' fiction.  The first was HP Lovecraft's Cthulu Mythos, in which he welcomed other writers to join him and add to the pantheon.  His series of stories written back and forth with young Wisconsin writer Robert Bloch, of Pscho fame, in which they gleefully killed off 'my elderly friend from Massachussetts' and 'young Robert Blake from Milwaukee' is very amusing.  Klarkash-Ton, the mad Priest (Clark Ashton-Smith) was another of his protegees.  As a result, the Cthulu Mythos is still a fertile ground for creative imagining.

The modern day equivalent would be Night of the Living Dead.  George Romero has allowed a number of very talented writers to use the theme, Stephen King among them.  I confess (guilty pleasure) that I'm a big fan of those stories.

There is little as exiting as sharing a story and then see the different angles and ideas another writer can come up with regarding a similar situation or plot.

To use a visual metaphor, have you ever sat in art class and seen the different version of the same vase of flowers or naked person the students create?  Seeing the same old thing in an exciting and unique way is what art (and literature) are about.

It is a sad thing if we cut off each other from such possibilities because of the fear of plagiarism and 'stealing'. I agree that the polite thing is to ask another writer before using their ideas, and giving credit afterwards is, of course, a no-brainer;

When does a theme become a fanwriter's own and off limits to others without permission and  credit?  Must we all ask the creator of the first Legomance?  The first bamf?  The first Evil Thranduil (or evil anyone other than Sauron or Morgoth)?  How about plot devices like Estel being kidnapped and in need of rescue?  Legolas mourning the dead at Helm's Deep?  A person becoming jealous because his lover has danced with someone else?

We write in the same fandom, which has existed for many years and in which we are all going over the same ground.  Coincidences are bound to happen.  And in many cases, it is hard to separate the canon from the fanon.

 

 

Re: Plagiarism?!

...and, of course, one can always ask the author of a story if he or she would permit to play in their setting. The result, if the original writer agrees, can be breathtaking - a different view that can greatly enrich the story universe the original author has created.

I have done that myself,

It's one of the most enriching and generous things an author can do.  I happen to know one of the writers you talk about pretty well, and he speaks highly of you and the creative give and take.  The stories you allowed him to write were among the best he's ever done.  Wink

This has happened to me only once.  A story I wrote inspired someone else and I had not known she gave me credit until she brought it to my attention. Far from being annoyed, I told her that no one owned Tolkien, read the story, and then wiggled like a happy puppy for the rest of the day.

 

 

Re: Plagiarism?!

Does the use of a variation of a phrase, or a line, written by someone else, necessitate attribution?

In a ficlet of mine, I have the following line:

My line (with the particular words italicised): Coming early to their meeting, Halbarad had heard his cries, seen the light of the brands he had thrown, and rode round and round in the dark trying to find him.

 

 It has some similarities to the last line of the book The Guns of Avalon by Roger Zelazny, which happens to be a book I've read a gazillion times, though it's been a few years since I last looked at it.

 

Zelazny's line (with the particular words italicised): We moved on through the cavern to the stairs where the dead man lay and went round and round above him in the dark.



 

I really don't know whether this is plagiarism, or using words in common - where does one draw the line, since it's not a direct copy of anything other than round and round.

Further advice/clarification would be appreciated.


 

RAKSHA THE DEMON

 

 

 

Re: Plagiarism?!

Personally, Raksha, I would say that is definitely not plagiarism. Plagiarism implies that the author owns the writing that you are using, and something as simple as "round and round" is, IMHO, on par with an author claiming to own "once upon a time". For example, I have never read the book you cite, and yet I have written those words at least once, and seen them in many places...it's not a distinctive phrase that an author could lay claim to.

~MerryK

 

 

Re: Plagiarism?!

Hi, Raksha,

I'm going to agree with MerryK; I don't see enough similarity between your passage and Zelazny's, for one, and secondly, the small similarities that are present are too much a part of everyday language. We'd all be plagiarists. ;)

There is similarity between the words round and round and the fact that the actions occur in the dark, but even the actions seem to me--without additional context--to be different: Your Halbarad is riding in the dark, trying to find something; Zelazny's characters seem to be moving quite intentionally over something in the dark. If you were to hand me both works and let me read them, I doubt I'd even notice the similarity; the words that they share are simply too common.

Regards,

Dawn 

 

 

Re: Plagiarism?!

Thanx, Merry and Dawn.  If the two sentences just had round and round in common, I wouldn't have thought twice about it; it was the pairing of round and round with in the dark, common to both Zelazny's line and mine, that had me concerned. 


 

RAKSHA

 

 

Re: Plagiarism?!

I googled "round and round in the dark" and other people have used the phrase.

If you think you may have used the phrasing too closely, perhaps "Kids Scotland" also plagiarized when they wrote:

'free fall with a splash on the Ness Monster Ride or whirl round and round in the dark on The Cyclone. ...'

or perhaps  Fido Knits when they wrote:

 'So I picked up the sock, and knit round and round in the dark. Once the episodes were over, I looked at the sock to see what damage I had wrought"

or maybe from the song "Fighting Back Tears" by FisherZ

And you lied to me
What d'you do that for?
And you tried to be what you never were
And you found yourself going round and round in the dark

ROTFLMAO

Accidental congruence of common phrases in your writing does not constitute plagiarism.

Gwynnyd 

 

 

Re: Plagiarism?!

Does the use of a variation of a phrase, or a line, written by someone else, necessitate attribution?

I don't see this as plagiarism, just a common phrasing that seems fairly general, and you only noticed the parallels afterwards (and) because you know this book well.

I rather think it touches on a different but related field, and I hope you bear with me if I'm elaborating quite a bit here to try to explain what I mean.

I had similar concerns to yours a while back: in some of my stories, I have certain lines that are remiscent of quotes from other books. That is, in a very few instances, I use certain lines that are, as it turns out, paraphrases from quotes of other books.

=====
Crossing towards Sunrise:

"For a moment longer, he held back."
(...)
"His face slowly lit up. Then his hands slid into her hair, and he bent his head
to her lips."
---
The Original (from Dorothy Dunnett, Checkmate):

"He held back one moment longer. Then he slid his fingers into her hair and
bending his head, sought her mouth as a man withered by sun might seek water."

[In this instance, I still remember I even looked up the quote because at the time I couldn't remember the one specific word to describe the motions of his fingers into her hair (neither in English nor in German *blush*) and I knew this word could be found there, way before I became aware of the specific resonance between the two passages.]

=====
The Heart of a Knight, The King's Judgement:

"I am sure I have never heard of a 'White Company' before! And even if there is
one such company, should you not discuss it with their captain before you offer
someone a place among their ranks?"
Blandly, Beregond answered, "I do not usually discuss things with myself."
---
Here the original (from Ann Bishop; The Black Jewels Trilogy):

"You're signing a contract with the Warlod Prince of Ebon Rih."
Daemon let out an exasperated huff. "Don't you think you should discuss it with
him beforehand?"
Lucivar gave him a knife-edged look. "I don't usually discuss things with
myself, Bastard [meant as a term of affection here]. Plant your feet."
=====

There are also one, two lines I will certainly use in future chapters in my WiP - in a different context. In fact, I've been very much looking forward to playing with the theme of the "original" of this particular line for a long time now, and it was in my earliest thoughts and drafts about the story.

What I was wondering about was whether I should cite bibliographical information about those quotes in my author's notes, the way I do if I use word-for-word-quotes (see e.g. in my drabbles "And Thought How Blessed He Was" or "Pirates Ye Be Warned").

I'm very, very conscious of attributing things where credit is due, in fact I rather err on the side of caution, and so this was really a difficult question for me.

My argument with myself (and also as it came up in a private e-mail exchange) was that in fact I was not basing these specific passages of my writing on these quotes, that I was purposefully meaning to use them before I had written them down. No; it was only when it was already there, fitting into my intentions with the writing, that I noticed that these lines seemed to strike a familiar cord and then, in hindsight, I remembered the "original" lines (mostly because they are also particularly poignant in their "original" context). It is, or so I feel, mostly a resonance that is only obvious to me as the writer who knows the background of the creative process, who has read those other books; and the connection would not necessarily be visible to an "unspoiled", "unbiased" reader.

To me personally, the connection gives those lines an additional layer of resonance, both as they compare and how they differ from the original. And of course if a reader would actually recognise a line and ask me about it I would a) certainly acknowledge it and b) be happy to find someone who remembers those passages from those other books.

But in the end, I lean towards the decision to not include this information in the author's notes, since a) I had the idea on my own, and did not use the quotes to write my story (always excepting unconsciously, perhaps), and b) it isn't necessary to understand the text, its meaning and interpretation.

Other thoughts on the matter? Agree? Disagree?

Imhiriel
...still struggling a little with doubts about the rightness of the decision...

 

 

Re: Plagiarism?!

Thanx, Gwynnyd and Imhiriel; I feel better now; and don't think I need to credit the line. 

Gwynnyd, I had no idea that round and round in the dark was used so frequently; but then I don't have as wide a repertoire of songs sticking in my head as scenes/characters/lines from books.  And sometimes it's hard to tell what is mine and what might have come from something I read thirty years ago; since I've read tons of books, there's no telling what's floating around in my skull (though I'm pretty sure I don't go around quoting long passages of somebody else's work verbatim and unattributed, that would be awful). 

Imhiriel - I think I remember that squee-worthy line from Dunnett's Checkmate, wasn't that Francis finally kissing Philippa?

 Funny you should mention Ann Bishop's Black Jewels trilogy - I just tried reading the first one and found it poorly written, in fact almost incomprehensible and not intriguing enough for me to try to figure out what was going on.

I don't think you need to attribute the lines from Checkmate and the Ann Bishop book.  In the case of the line that Dunnett used first; you paraphrased it, it isn't quite the same as hers.  There's only a certain number of verbs and nouns you could use for that line anyway.  Same thing with Beregond's line - I can't see any way to say it differently that wouldn't be peculiar or contrived, you're using a turn of phrase that fits the scene, as did Bishop.   



RAKSHA

 

 

Re: Plagiarism?!

To me personally, the connection gives those lines an additional layer of resonance, both as they compare and how they differ from the original. And of course if a reader would actually recognise a line and ask me about it I would a) certainly acknowledge it and b) be happy to find someone who remembers those passages from those other books.

But in the end, I lean towards the decision to not include this information in the author's notes, since a) I had the idea on my own, and did not use the quotes to write my story (always excepting unconsciously, perhaps), and b) it isn't necessary to understand the text, its meaning and interpretation.

Other thoughts on the matter? Agree? Disagree?

The couple of times when I have had a specific image in mind from another work, but nothing concrete enough to warrant a specific quoting of the original, I've just put in the summary that I snagged some images from the other work. 

For "All in a Day's Work", I had Mike Longcor's rousing, set-to-music version of Kipling's "The Ballad of the Clampherdown" playing in the background giving me 'piratey' inspiration while I wrote it.  The one line I actually copied - "Out cutlasses and board" - is so common to pirate stories (Kipling used it in the poem as an obvious cliché -  the whole poem is an amusing homage to the cliché of heroic English privateers overcoming odds at sea by old-fashioned grit and personal combat) that I felt that citing it would be silly.  I put "and a passing nod to Kipling for some inspiration" in the same sentence where I thanked my betas.

The other time I used Kipling for inspiration, it was a more deliberate copying of an image. 
I started my story, "The Lap of Time", with this quote:

 Their beds are made on the Lap of Time and they lie down and sleep.
The Sack of the Gods, Rudyard Kipling

 In the story I used another image from that poem, but I did not use the exact words.

The poem ends: "He never wasted a leaf or tree, do you think He would squander souls?"

The line from my story is: "Eru never wasted so much as a flower or a tree. How can you think he would squander souls?"

Although, obviously, the quotes are quite close, the rest of the poem has nothing to do with the circumstances of my story.  I admit that the image of a god not squandering souls has been inspirational to me when I am trying to wrap my head around what happens to Men when they die - 'squander' is such a perfect word - but I also don't think it is unique to Kipling to use it that way.  In that story's summary I put "and a nod to Kipling for some of the imagery".  If you knew the poem, it would enhance the concept, but it was not necessary, imo, to know exactly which phrase I borrowed inspired me.

 Gwynnyd

 

 

Re: Plagiarism?!

Imhiriel - I think I remember that squee-worthy line from Dunnett's Checkmate, wasn't that Francis finally kissing Philippa?

Yes, indeed! So you're a fan, too? Fine, fine, fine...

Funny you should mention Ann Bishop's Black Jewels trilogy - I just tried reading the first one and found it poorly written, in fact almost incomprehensible and not intriguing enough for me to try to figure out what was going on.

It's true, the world-building is rather vague, and, oddly, it get's explained only very much later in the trilogy instead of in the beginning. It's also rather more violent than I tend to like.

But I love the lush writing style and the dialogues, and there are many, many likeable and even loveable characters.

And thank you and Gwynnyd both for your assessment of the situation - I'm feeling much more comfortable with my decision now.

Imhiriel

 

 

In Forums

Discussion Info

Intended for: General Audience

This forum is open to all HASA members. It is read-only for the general public.

Membership on HASA is free and it takes only a few minutes to join. If you would like to participate, please click here.

If you are already a member, please log in to participate.

« Back to Originality and Authority in Fanfiction