Saturday, May 11, 2013

Is Nothing Original?

You might remember my post on copyrights (it's mainly regarding laws in the United States, but from what I've seen from digging up on other countries, most have similar laws).

But a rather interesting thing is the notion among some writers that nothing can be original. A lot of writers have found that some of their lines that they've written are strikingly similar to books that they've never read.

There are a lot of explanations for this. Some people say that while we're reading, we're subconsciously picking up on various things, and by accident we might be including them in our writing without even realizing it. An example is a rather famous book and you can read about it here on Wikipedia.

But at the same time, what about passages which are strikingly similar between books that you've never read, or even heard of before? Well, think about all of the millions of books, films, television shows, comics, etc. that are out there. Chances are that no matter how much you try to make an original idea, by pure chance, there will be several things out there that will have the similar idea, or an idea that you can relate to your book.

Well, the thing is that accidental plagiarism still counts as plagiarism, and all publishing houses make sure that you sign a contract which makes you state that the work is all yours. The book I mentioned earlier won a movie deal and a half million dollar advance, but it could never sell since the whole incident. And for some reason, ever since that book has been accused of plagiarism, even more authors have found similarities between their works.

But a whole lot of those things might just be tropes and archetypes that everyone uses, right? After all, almost all writers try to do something different, but also want to do something that sticks with the genre. No one can really be sure.

So, if it ever happens that you find a line in your book is similar to one in another's, don't overly panic. It happens sometimes, and your best bet is to to change it.

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