Mark Twain said there were no original thoughts. Everything that could be thought had been thought and we were only tossing them about in new and unique combinations ever since. There’s some truth to that I think. I used to work in equity research right across from the old trade centers…yep I was there that day. None of my notes or reports were so original. Really all we did was regurgitated each other’s work sometimes with sloppy precision, made lots of money and then went for drinks. Don’t get me started on Wall Street….hang on gotta write that down as a future topic. Ok, I’m back.
Remember Dan Brown? The Da Vinci Code? I really enjoyed it, clever premise, decently written, entertaining… and plagiarized. Just like the next book, Angels and Daemons I think it is. Oh there’s roar that it wasn’t plagiarized, court rulings to back the outrage of such an accusation. But the fact remains two historians and researchers while trying to make a non-fiction book devised this professor Indiana Jones idea to present their very factually based book in an entertaining way. Silly them unaware that doing so left a murky grey brush stroke of questionable copyright law for an enterprising young writer to swoop down and abuse in an opportunistic way.
I read both of his first books really enjoying them only hearing later about these authors’ suit against him. Then I read Inferno an awful, blunt instrument bludgeoning of art history, marginally exciting thriller and suddenly I realized how right Mark Twain was. And I couldn’t help smirking while I thought, much harder to write a good book when you don’t plagiarize it right Mr Brown? Both side can howl, but my opinion was formed after that last book. I won’t likely read another one of his books.
The problem isn’t the use of a similar idea. The problem is the willingness to force us to dwell in this sticky middle ground with him. Harry Potter isn’t the be all end all in innovation, plenty of middle grade sorcery books out there, D&D anyone? But she did it with her unique voice and without the volition to take advantage of a convenient murky spot. That’s all we can do as artists, be honest stewards of the ideas we hear in our heads and try grow. Fan fiction is a huge sub genre. I’ll be honest I had no idea 50 Shades was fan fiction for the Twilight series. It’s almost laughable given the puritanical strain cutting through Twilight and you know the goals of that other series.
Be yourself, be honest because people will read and they may hate it but don’t ever give them reason to question your integrity.