Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Writing - Is imitation the most sincere form of flattery?

I wrote a poem last week 'I am who I am' (or words to that affect) which was similar to one that I'd read by another writer. At times I have 'borrowed' styles that I've thought suited my writings, but sometimes I wonder how close to plagiarism that is. 

The reason I bring the topic up is because of a new series of books outlined below.

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Ladybird books for adults

Some quite famous authors have had a go for a variety of reasons. One of my favourite collections of rhymes came from the pen of Roald Dahl with his Revolting Rhymes which are hilarious but nevertheless a re-working of some traditional rhymes.

Now we have Ladybird Books for Adults. The eight books have been written by Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris, who have also written for comedy show That Mitchell and Webb Look.
The titles include The Shed, The Wife, The Husband, The Hangover, Mindfulness, Dating and The Hipster. But as you can see from the title above not an original idea. There are plenty of spoof titles under the genre.

The point is when does re-working stop and plagiarism begin? I'm not about to go into the legalities but I'm thinking from the point of view of how one sees oneself as a writer if you produce work inspired and styled upon what someone else has produced. 

I understand about when copyright ends but are writers who use others' ideas wrong? 

If done deliberately is it to make money on the back of someone else's success?

On the other hand aren't we all doing that anyway? That is, re-working the same 7 story lines that are possible.

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Some people have achieved success in a serendipitous way in that they have written for their family and achieved success. In the case of Charles Dickens he was writing for newspapers and magazines to try and raise money to pay off his father's debts. People liked what they read and he began serialising stories in magazines before eventually producing full length books. Roald Dahl wrote for his children and grandchildren.

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I think if someone took my work and made money out of it I would be furious and litigation would have to ensue. The fact that my work had been copied would not make me feel flattered in any way but rather traumatised. There is no secret formula for the sources of inspiration that come to an artist but keep your eyes open, read plenty and the ideas will come.

God Bless