As writers and/or artists it is our worst fear to be the victim of plagiarism. As people of creation, when we write a story or poem we are bleeding our essence into every word, every letter. When creating a sculpture we cut away and cut away at the clay until we see a piece of ourselves emerge, until we're satisfied with that little bit of light or darkness in ourselves. Our creations are extensions of ourselves. They are our memories, our darkest secrets, our first kisses, our deepest, scariest thoughts. They are our life.
They are us.
So when someone else takes our painting, our poem, our story, and claims it as their own, they are tearing a very deep and lasting hole in our heart and there is no question; that hole will leave a scar.
This has been gnawing on my mind, as well as Stevie's, for about a week now because we recently had someone submit plagiarized material to us. It was by pure luck that we found out about it and I'm glad we did because it made us smarter, business-wise, but that's beside the point.
I don't know why they did it. Perhaps they wanted to build their resume without doing any actual work. Or maybe didn't know they were plagiarizing. I'm hoping for the latter. They copied someone else's picture. They didn't trace it, copied. It's completely possible they had no idea. I mean, they did draw it themselves. I would like to believe they weren't trying to deceive us and I'll leave it at that.
So what is plagiarism exactly? We all know that it is considered plagiarism when you steal someone else's work, but what if you copy just a couple sentences? A paragraph? A couple sentences, I don't know. A paragraph, probably. If you read an article and come away with some thoughts of your own and want to expand on the topics discussed, is that plagiarism? No. What about taking somebodies story and rearranging the sentences? Yes, definitely plagiarism! I could ask questions like this all day but really, where is the line drawn between plagiarism and an original work?
Wilson Mizner said, "If you steal from one author it's plagiarism; if you steal from many it's research."
And Charles Kuralt said, "I could tell you which writer's rhythms I am imitating. It's not exactly plagiarism, it's falling in love with good language and trying to imitate it."
Apparently these guys aren't really sure where that line is drawn either. This is what I gathered from the two quotes:
1. When you combine elements from different authors stories then it creates an original story.
2. Imitating your writing style after an author is not plagiarism (and in my opinion, should be encouraged.) We read to find a way to say the things we want, the way we want.
If you have any question at all about whether or not your work is too similar to someone else's work, then it probably is. Be mindful and smart about the research you gather when you're using it in your work. If it feels wrong it most likely is. If it doesn't, if they are your own thoughts and ideas or thoughts about other people ideas, then great!! No need to feel bad.
If you have been a victim of plagiarism visit this website. Lorelle VanFossen has written down some excellent steps to resolve the problem. Remember, always be kind and professional when handling situations like this, especially if you're an aspiring author that wants to have a good reputation. It's angering and painful and annoying, but the wrong-doer doesn't need to know that. Happy writing without plagiarizing!
Writing prompt: Someone is stealing peoples stories one by one and somehow completely erasing all evidence of those stories from the authors computers. It is up to you to find the culprit.