I’ve heard someone say that once people start imitating you and copying your style, you know you’ve made it big. Same goes if you receive a high number of spam comments on your blog, but that’s a completely different matter. Yesterday’s WP prompt suggested writing a post in the style of another blogger, and I have to admit that I would feel flattered if someone were to do that to me. It would feel like some sort of homage.
However, at some point that homage stops being so and instead turns into something uglier and almost taboo in the world of writing. This was something I hadn’t even considered before. Okay, so I know papers and studies sometimes get plagiarized, that’s not unheard of in schools and universities, but I never thought it could happen between writers. Yet in one week I came across three bestselling authors who’ve apparently did a share of plagiarizing. One particular author began with fanfiction, and no, I’m not talking about E. L. James.
Now before I say anything else, I want to make clear that I fully support fanfiction and actually like it when authors try not to stray too far from the characters and style of the original author as long as they give credit where credit is due and don’t make any money out of it.
The author of bestselling City of Bones, Cassandra Clare began her writing journey with a Harry Potter fanfic that received mega popularity. Apparently Cassandra paid a lot of homage to many authors by borrowing quotes and sometimes entire passages from their work. The word on the street is that Cassandra took down her fanfic and rewrote it, but yet many people wonder if the quotes and passages she had copied before were excluded during the rewrites.
Other famous authors got caught red-handed, some tried to say that they didn’t know they had to give credit, and there are probably some who will never be found out. Honestly I can’t get my head around what would possess people to do that. As writers, we’re supposed to craft our own words. Sure one can imitate a style, but copying things word-for-word is a total no-no. Isn’t there some kind of Code of Writers’ Ethics to prevent this kind of thing?
I know I would sue the living daylights out of someone if I discovered that they were ripping off my work without any sort of permission or credit. Even if I’m not the victim, it makes me furious to hear that someone is stealing another writer’s work and I’d most likely have second thoughts about ever reading their books again.
While there may be a shortage of ideas, there will never be a shortage of words and how we can use them, so there’s really no excuse at all.
Why do you think people do this? Would you abandon an author if you hear they’ve been plagiarizing?