Avoiding Plagiarism – or – “Reading off-genré while writing”


When you’re a writer, there’s always the chance that you’re going to be accused of plagiarism, no matter how hard you try to avoid it. The problem is that plagiarism isn’t only taking someone’s work and passing if off as your own, but is also defined as taking someone else’s ideas and doing the same. Considering that original ideas are as scarce as hens’ teeth, how in the world can a writer hope to avoid such an accusation? Well, my personal practice is that, if I’m going to be reading in between bouts of writing, I read off-genré.

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At present, the genré in which I’m writing is Visionary Fiction. This is a relatively new designation which includes a combination of fantasy, scifi, metaphysical and so on. I knew that it was going to be a bit difficult to find something to read, but I didn’t realize just how difficult until I ran into a bit of a writer’s block and decided to take a break. It seemed as though every book I picked up involved a portion (no matter how small) of something I address in Folded Dreams, even if what I’m reading is historical fiction, elves, magic or romance. As a matter of fact, I have a half dozen books open in Kindle right now because I only got so far before running into a similar story-line as my book.

The same situation arises when I watch a movie. I can’t tell you how many times in the past week that I’ve had to change channels five minutes into some film or another because I didn’t want it to influence my writing. That’s not to say I avoid all of them; I do look for inspiration for surroundings and descriptions (adjectives, phrases, etc.) from whatever I read or watch, but I’m so paranoid on the subject of plagiarism, that if a subject comes even close to what I’m writing, I step away from it and go watch PBS, read poetry (and I have to be careful there as well!) or either take a walk or a nap. About the only thing I’m safe reading – and that only relatively – is non-fiction.

I subscribed to Bright House cable television service for the first time in about 2 years this week. Movies, y’all. Lots and lots of movies that I haven’t seen…and all in my favourite genrés: fantasy, time travel, ghost stories and so on. I’ve been lucky that we now have a 24-hour news channel, Food Network and The Travel Channel, and that one of the channels has been showing nothing but all eight Harry Potter films for days now, and that The Conjuring and The Conjuring II (stories from the files of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren) were On-Demand, otherwise I would have slept my week away!

Maybe I am paranoid, but the idea of anyone finding cause to say I plagiarized any part of Folded Dreams is horrifying to me. So I stay off-genré as much as I can when I’m reading or watching television. “Writer’s Life”. I swear, sometimes it can be hell. Just sayin’.

 

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20 thoughts on “Avoiding Plagiarism – or – “Reading off-genré while writing”

  1. I’ve always wondered on how writers tend to read a LOT without getting influenced by it too much. I don’t think I’d be able to do it myself. There are always elements you pick from other stories (subconsciously) but I’d be terrified to copy too much (unintentionally). So I don’t think you’re paranoid at all! (or maybe just a little, I wouldn’t turn off my TV for it probably 😉 but then again, who knows!)

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  2. This is excellent advice! I worry about being overly influenced, too. Besides off genre reading, one of the things I’ve been trying to do is stick to non-fiction reading that will give my WIP authenticity. Feels productive at least! And there’s always baseball!

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