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Inspiration/Plagiarism

Andreas_Helixfinger at 12:00AM, May 1, 2022
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I’m taking a pause from the Fantastic Bestiary this week as I haven’t been my best healthwise lately. Also lately I’ve been distracted by something that has left me with this question poppin’ into my mind, And so this sunday I'm posting this question that perhaps anyone of you can answer:

Where thus the line between inspiration and plagiarism go?

See, these last days I’ve been going down memory lane. The first finnished story I ever wrote from start to finnish back in elementary school was pretty much the plot to a video game I enjoyed playing at the time. I copied down the whole template of it, merely changing the names, the looks of the characters and changed and added a few scenes here and there. If you read through the full plot synopsis of that game, which was Megaman Legends for those who wonder, and then read through this script I wrote (and lost) you’d find very little that seperated the two plots.

And I was thinking of this as I found myself trying to get back to writing my comic scripts only to suddenly jump on this writing tangent, where I was scribbling together the basic framework for a series of stories that wasn’t just taken from the plot of another game, but two series of games. The games in question were Galerians and its sequel Galerians: Ash along with Condemned and it’s respective sequel Condemned 2. I took the plots of these games and spliced them together, switching out certain elements and changing the names and terminology that were being used.

Instead of having kids with psychic powers - that were enabled by drugs - created by an evil supercomputer, there would instead be a race of alien-looking females with an aesthetic reminiscent of jellyfish - having an epidermis that looks like a bride's veil and an elastic anatomy - that had these pearl-looking pores from which they’d emit these beam tentacles - also enabled by drugs - all born from a Queen that is being kept captive by a secret society - reminiscent of the one found in Condemned - wanting to harness their power and control the human population with drugs made from the microorganisms that the beam tentacle race thrives on (Might perhaps create some concept art of this just for the heck of it).

The story would combine the dark, gothic cyberpunk environment of the Galerians games with the psychological, mystery horror of the Condemned games. Now, this is as of now just some scribbling of disconnected plot points and elements that is probably gonna amount to just a for-my-eyes-only little side project, if it even gets that far that is (it wouldn't be the first time I've started writing a story only to abandon it). I could of course have done a crossover fanfic instead, but there’s always been this undeniable urge in me to make whatever I write into my own. And for my comics and their plots I feel like I’ve done my best to make them as inspired as I possibly can. To seperate them from their source inspirations as much as possible.

It is important to me that what I put out isn’t just someone elses work, which is why I don't think I'll ever publish this other story I’ve been scribbling on lately. But on the other hand I don’t really have anything against plagiarism over all as long as it's honest, and as long as it comes with a creative enough initiative. If for example someone publishes a story that is the spliced together template of more then one story with some changes of their own it could still be an intriguing story. Just as long as the creator admits that it is ripped from other sources. I don’t think it counts as theft if the original creators are credited right at the gate.

Then of course if the original creator/creators still have a problem with their work being copied it might be a different matter. Still, I can’t help but think that if you plagiarised several sources at once it could somehow end up coming up as something different. Kind of how some stories that started off as fanfics eventually would transform into their own thing. I feel like that is something that could eventually happen to this side project of mine – maybe. So that has gotten me thinking. Where thus plagiarism end and inspiration start and vice versa. Where thus the line between the two really go?

Let me know what you guys think? Have you ever had a creative venture where your plagiarism of something suddenly became inspired? What are your thoughts on plagiarism over all? What are the dos and don'ts?

Comments down below. And take care of yourselfs, ducks.

Helixfinger out!

comment

anonymous?

LWFlouisa at 11:35PM, May 2, 2022

I have mixed feelings. I've had a couple of instances where people have made stuff weirdly similar to my work, but were just different enough where I couldn't really do anything about it. And yet on the other hand, there is a feeling of satisfaction knowing ones work made enough of an impression that apparently someone wanted to do something similar.

simonitro at 8:59AM, May 2, 2022

I'm going to give you a music example. There's a Metal band from Portugal named "Attik Demons". Upon hearing them for the first time, they sound EXACTLY like "Iron Maiden". Now, I wouldn't say they're plagiarists or rip-offs because they've taken that musical style and crafted their own songs while adding their own spin on it. We all know covers and those are fine. Plagiarism is taking the exact same music piece as is and changing the title or some of the lyrics to pass as a band's own song. Plagiarism feels very blatant and easily caught compared to inspired or written a piece in a song's spirit.

PaulEberhardt at 6:46AM, May 2, 2022

What I'm trying to say is, writing/scripting stuff that turns out to be suspiciously similar to something famous is nothing to worry about. It's much more important to read a lot so you notice before anyone else does. Then you can either ruminate on it (What would I do differently? Didn't the original authors miss a great opportunity for fun there?) until it's something quite different or take the bull by the horns* and label it "parody". It's only plagiarism if you leave it as it is and don't bother to acknowledge it - or more precisely: I'll call anything plagiarism that clearly shows laziness in dealing with the source material by not doing anything with it and claiming others' ideas for your own. It doesn't matter if it's derivative as long as it's not too obvious and makes good reading. [*"to take the bull by the horns"© idiom courtesy of some late 18th century cattle breeders in America]

PaulEberhardt at 6:21AM, May 2, 2022

Copy one source and it's plagiarism, copy everything and it's research... Not copying things in some way is practically impossible. For one thing there's too much stuff around to keep track of, for another you can't reinvent the wheel every time you do anything (and chances are you'll arrive at a round one that's too close to OxCart™ 1.0 for comfort, anyways). The aforementioned Mr Shakespeare nicked practically every plotline he ever wrote from some classical source or another, and does it matter? In his days it most certainly didn't, because this kind of thing used to be standard practice. Likely as not, not doing so would have marked you as ignorant-slash-presumptuous. The other extreme is today with everyone acting like a chicken shack that's been intruded by a fox - there: I stole a classic metaphor, but don't sue me, it's public domain (I checked). You have to build your originality on something.

Corruption at 10:44PM, May 1, 2022

@hushico and marcorssi, plagiarism can involve creativity; some people plagiarize parts of something. Take Ghost in the Shell for example. The Hollywood version uses scenes and some ideas from the anime, but are too totally different stories. Seeing one does not act as a spoiler for the other. I like to see how ideas can go together and be made to work, and when I find a way to integrate them in ways that are original, you have creativity. Still, I can't help wish for a crossover of the Beverly Hillbillies, Beverly Hills 90210, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Beverly Hills Cop and Beverly Hills Ninja. (the first 3 fit together disturbingly well)

bravo1102 at 5:16PM, May 1, 2022

Great post and great thread. Very interesting topic. One remark about @skyangel's poor brother, as a fan of 1960s movies there were an amazing array of James Bond in everything but name. He could have just called his hero Matt Helm, Derek Flint or even Austin Powers.

hushicho at 1:14PM, May 1, 2022

Plagiarism is usually just copying without creativity involved, whereas inspiration is typically kindled by something but isn't just a retread of that thing. It's been said that everything's been done, and that's true in a sense, but each person's individual experiences and perspective can bring a great deal even to a fundamentally similar idea for a story. "The Tempest" and Forbidden Planet are fundamentally similar ideas for a story, and one inspired the other. However, Forbidden Planet is very much distinctly its own thing, even if it hits many of the same beats. "The Tempest" is one of my favorite Shakespearean plays, but I didn't even realize it was an inspiration until after I saw the movie Forbidden Planet. I am often inspired by ideas I find interesting, but which aren't really done well or to my satisfaction. Though I also tend to write satire, so a lot of it depends as well on what genre or type of thing you happen to be writing.

marcorossi at 10:56AM, May 1, 2022

As a rule of thumb, it seems to me that if you write a story A that is so similar to atory B that someone who reads story B has no reason to read story A that is plagiarism. If we take the legal concept of plagiarism, probably things are different, but it is not what we are speaking of here.

UnderTheBlackHat at 9:09AM, May 1, 2022

(part 3) Once assembled, this story would not be a product of plagiarism so much as a nod to those that came before. If on the other hand, we simply repackage the first Honor Harrington book with a quick gender swap or similar in an attempt to tell the world we didn’t copy a story. Well, yeah, that’s proof that we’re not a writer but a thief. If you’re worried about being that person. Do this. Write your plot. Then step away, read it again later and be brutal with yourself. If you recognize another story there, not so much the same universe or the like, but that same story. You should rethink what you’re writing.

UnderTheBlackHat at 9:09AM, May 1, 2022

(Part 2) That is why so many very young story tellers are so derivative of one or two previously told tales. A lot of Hollywood also seems to fall into this category as well now, but I think that’s another discussion entirely. If you take things from other stories to help complete your world while telling your own story, that’s acceptable and even a nod to that author of the ‘borrowed’ work, but only within reason. So, if we’re writing a space navy story and we choose the basic configuration of the navy from Great Britain’s Nelson’s classic formations, and we borrow the weaponry from the Honor Harrington stories since the two mesh quite naturally, along with the discovery of the universe as social commentary based on Watership Down making our hero space rabbit Prestige Fulffytail… and now we’re getting a bit carried away but you see where I’m going.

UnderTheBlackHat at 9:08AM, May 1, 2022

(apparently I had to much to say on this so it's going to take multiple comments to complete. Please bear with me) Okay, I guess the first thing to understand is that all of your story telling, all your ability to ‘write’ is based on two things: Personal experience/knowledge and stories you have read/absorbed before. These items, vast as they could potentially be, serve as the frame upon which you build any sort of story you wish to tell. It’s perfectly normal for you to choose things from the various other stories you’ve read to fill in your imagined world. The less you, the author, reads, the less you have to draw from so the more limited you are in your story telling. People that plagiarize either have no skill in crafting a story or are so limited in their exposure to the greater world around them and to stories in the same vein they are working that they can only copy what went before them.

Jason Moon at 8:07AM, May 1, 2022

Great post Andreas, I remember playing and finishing the Condemned games back in the day! Hey Drunkduckers! Comicfury banned a really talented artist/friend from their website so I told him to come to the Drunkduck and he did! Go check out his "Brock Trueblood" comic and leave some comments, show him how cool we are on Duckweb.

skyangel at 6:44AM, May 1, 2022

My late brother was a huge James Bond fan even before he reached his teens and he'd read every book before he was even old enough to see the movies but in later years when he felt inspired to write his own stories he copied so many of the ideas from the original books that to me it seemed rather sad, because he had almost just created a scrapbook of tributes the the original work. I think being inspired in such a way is a wonderful incentive but then to deny oneself the freedom to create a whole new direction to go in and play with fresh dilemmas and ideas is really a waste of that inspiration.

bravo1102 at 5:54AM, May 1, 2022

I can't even write a fanfic without changing a lot to shoehorn it into my developed universe. My influences are diverse and just thrown into the stew. They mix and the resulting dish is usually my own but when something is obvious I will credit the direct inspiration. I have a chapter in the Robofemoids with the alien from the movie Brain from Planet Aurus. Interstellar Blood Beasts was noted as a tribute to 1960s Italian space opera mixed the anesthetic of one with monsters based on another with a lot of twists but still I gave credit to the inspirations.

dpat57 at 4:46AM, May 1, 2022

Every project I've ever written or created is really a mixture of everything I've read, watched or listened to. So it's not surprising that familiar things ooze out of that chaotic maelstrom of half-remembered books, movies and shows. The trick is recognizing things that are tooooo similar and twisting them so they're not as recognizable any more. Changing names and settings is an easy first step, and keep applying camouflage paint liberally. Otherwise yeah, you might as well just call it fanfic and enjoy doing that. Which is not a crime. I started off writing original Trek fanfic, and am still to this day fiddling about with starships and their intrepid crews... only different, with my own twists and detours.

KAM at 4:45AM, May 1, 2022

There was an old TV show I loved and, at one point, I just kept thinking up possible plots which was ridiculous since the show was long over, and there was no tie-in media like with Star Trek or Dr. Who, and I didn't want to waste my time with fan fics. So I thought, "What do I like about the show? What do I hate about the show? What's unique to the show that I can't use?" Once I had reduced it to elements I liked that I could use, I came up with new characters in the same genre setting, but with different backstories and twists. More work than just filing off the serial numbers, but more creatively rewarding.


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