A lot of authors and editors have been asking this question lately. Undoubtedly, plagiarism is on everyone’s minds because of the Cassie Edwards situation a few months back (if you’re unfamiliar with that, simply Google her name. You’ll find more information than you wanted to know.)
If, as the saying goes, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, where does that end and plagiarism begin?
Scenario one: You’ve just finished the best book you’ve read in ages. It had it all, spunky but stubborn heroine, dashing, fearless hero, humor, passion, a villain you loved to hate and a plot that kept you on the edge of your seat. You close the book and sigh. I want to write a story just like this.
Maybe it’s the characters. Maybe you want to write about a heroine who is gutsy and determined and decide to model you character after the one in the phenomenal read.
Maybe the hero was far more alpha than what you normally write, but it inspires you to write a rougher-edged beta than you have before.
And maybe since the hero and heroine were forced into an arranged marriage early on—maybe you’ll do that too, you love marriage of convenience stories, after all.
On the road to creativity, your plot twists and turns—while undoubtedly similar to those of any marriage of convenience story—are purely from your own thoughts and ideas and from brainstorming with your CP’s and friends. Your characters have their own names, appearances and experiences apart from the book that inspired you.
So are you guilty of plagiarism? Nope.
Scenario two: You’ve just finished reading the best book you’ve read in ages. You close the book and sigh. I want to write a story just like this. But rather than rely on your own creativity, you copy entire sections of the other author’s book word for word, changing just the names and a few details—no one will ever notice, right?
Well… you’d better hope not. Because that’s plagiarism. (As defined by Merriam Webster: to steal and pass off another’s production as one’s own http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/plagiarizing.)
Bottom line is… it’s okay to be inspired by your favorite writers. There are only so many plots out there, after all. Fortunately for all of us, we put our own spin on them and tell our own story in our own unique way with our own unique twists and turns along the way. So relax. There’s a huge difference between plagiarism and inspiration.