Friday, April 15, 2016

Wayward Words

A friend asked me recently if I read fiction when I'm writing and if that interferes with my own work. No, reading while writing doesn't affect the work in progress, and giving up reading when I'm writing just makes me cranky. Nevertheless, when I'm currently reading a book with great description or characterization I feel goaded to improve whatever is on my computer at the time. I also find myself giving more thought to details in my own work.

Most novelists have a horror of "unconscious plagiarism." So I was infuriated by Rick's recent blog on the outrageous blatant plagiarism perpetrated by a woman who copied a novel nearly verbatim and then posted it on Amazon as though it were her own book. She made quite a bit of money by doing this.

I feel so strongly about the issue of creative piracy that I won't even read books that expand on a dead author's characters or plot lines. I'm too cowardly to list all the books I refuse to read because I don't want to respond to readers who see nothing wrong with it.

To me, poaching characters is dishonorable! What's more, a line from an old Kipling poem, The Mary Gloster, comes to mind: "They copied all they could follow, but they couldn't copy my mind, And I left them sweating and stealing a year and a half behind."

The out-and-out plagiarism Rick referred to is in a class by itself. It's criminal. But I've noticed the "legitimate" books built on another author's foundation don't stand very well. Because the original creative spark isn't there they flounder in the marketplace.

Creative energy is unique to an individual. The source can't be duplicated.

Nevertheless there is a great deal of craftsmanship involved with creating good books and much to be learned by studying the techniques of the masters. Especially when one begins to write.

I often turn to books that I especially liked to see how they did something. I went back to Love Let Me Not Hunger to see why I thought Mr. Albert's leaving the circus was one of the saddest events I had ever come across.

How do other writer get characters out of room and change scenes? Oh. They don't. They simply double space. Why do the pages in this book rush by? Oh. Short, short sentences. Short chapters. Mostly action. Why do I like longer books with more detail? Oh. It's characterization.

Most of us go to the masters for instruction and inspiration, but a pox on anyone who goes with the intention of copying material.

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