Do you like the title for todays post? I do, some of you might realize that its part of a quote. The full quote is:

“Mediocre writers borrow. Great writers steal.” T.S.Eliot

        What does this mean? It means that there are no original ideas left in the world. Let me give an example from one of my favorite shows Suits. Heads up (Spoilers)

In the first episode of season two, the main character Mike Ross has to go deal with a woman who is suing her old job of a publishing company. She claims that she came up with the idea for a best selling authors latest book. After thirty minutes of other stuff going on and investigating it Mike learns its true, the girls boss took the idea to the author. After offering her to pay the girl wants credit. Mike has to figure out away to make it go away, and after conversation with his grandmother he realizes there is nothing new under the sun. He gets the girls former boss to admit it to the girl and she wants her name on the book, Mike goes on to pull out five books that could have been written on her idea.

Wondering what you should take away from this example? Two things: First, your multi-million dollar idea for a book is not new, the base idea has been covered already. Someone else has had the idea. Second, what makes your idea different is your take on the idea. Science loves to point out how different people are from out finger prints, to ears, DNA, the way we think, etc. This is no different, your million dollar idea to you could be seen as average to me or someone else, or I could have better idea. What comes down to it as the base idea.
What do I mean by the base idea? The base idea is when you break down your story to a single point. The one sentence marketing pitch that so many books written on how to market your book talk about.

Example: Harry Potter main idea is: A Boy learns he is a Wizard.

That’s it, I could take this idea and write my own story an it could be very close to Harry Potter, but also could be completely different that you wouldn’t even think of Harry Potter when you read it. It how you take the idea and use it. Ideas can’t be copyrighted, so starting with something as: A low simple creature is tasked with escorting a magical item across the world to the very place it was created to destroy in order to save the world. Lord of the Rings. More spoilers: We all know the One Ring of Power is destroyed at the end of the series, but what if my item is a feather from a Griffin and in the end my hero fails to destroy it and the world is covered in darkness. It may be the same plot of Lord of the Rings, but guess what, it’s no longer the same story.

“… the Eragon books are a thinly disguised

rewrite of Star Wars in a fantasy setting. It’s about

time he retold The Lord of the Rings in an SF

universe.”

Gareth P (Comment from the Bookseller)

        Interesting opinion, though when I read it I agreed. Eragon has a lot of similarities as Star Wars. How funny would it be if Paolini next book, which apparently is going to be Science Fiction, could be broken down to Lord of the Rings. I think I have proven my point about stealing. There is nothing new out there, just a different take on it. A good writer can take an idea and completely reinvent it that it looks nothing like how it was presented in the book he took it from.

Author Holly Lisle, has an article on her website about how to do this legally. Key, as long as you’re not copying the idea exactly how the person you stole it from did, there’s a pretty good bet that your safe. If you want to secure that you’re not going to be sued for plagiarism or trademark, whatever it is you steal. Check out the article Here. I’ll give you the main points of her article, but you will need to go to her site for the meat. She has three points, they are:

  • Steal only the Gems
  • Turn the Prize inside out and backwards
  • Bury your Gem in the forest

I can’t tell you how many times I have stolen ideas, not really plot ideas but ideas for weapons or items or powers. That’s about it, though I am sure I have stolen peoples plot ideas, but by the time I am done with them, they are my plots. That is all I have for this week, I just want to talk about this. Tell me what you think about stealing ideas? Are you for, against, neutral? Let me know in the comments. One last thing, if someones work greatly inspired your work, be sure to give credit to them. Seeing Through the Veil only came about because of a book by G.P. Taylor called Shadowmancer. It inspired me.
Be sure to check in on Friday on my post on my writing for the week, and next week Craft post I am going to talk about Map making for you fantasy and sci-fi writers who want them. I’ll talk post some photos of maps I have done, and some programs out there that cane help you make your own.

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