Sunday, October 25, 2015

Plagiarism Or Happy Coincidence?

Plagiarism is the "wrongful appropriation" and "stealing and publication" of another author's "language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions" and the representation of them as one's own original work. The idea remains problematic with unclear definitions and unclear rules — Wikipedia

In light of the recent MF to MM debacle (find current list of ripped works here) which closely follows the case of  MM to another MM , all readers of the genres, their authors, as well as their editors and publishers are on the serious lookout for more scandals to come out of the wood works. Some have even gone on stating they doubt the sincerity and gift of an author who is more prolific than the others. 

"Okay. Can we please stop equating prolific writing with plagiarism? One thing has nothing to do with another. Such sweeping generalizations aren't helpful" — Felice Stevens
I agree with her. These sweeping generalizations are truly hurting both MM and MF worlds. There are 'great' authors out there who write fast even if most of their works are only worthy of the trash cans they land in. Are we to start looking over every one's shoulders and point: "Hey, you wrote three or six books in one year (even if said works are only 35 pages long). You are a plagiarist!" 

Wrong! Totally wrong!

Then again, we have the 'happy coincidences' which brings us to the reason why I am saying something about this whole issue. Usually I just sit and watch the threads as they refresh as more and more comments are posted by the concerned, unconcerned, trollers and pretend-trollers. I like to see the whole picture before making my voice heard.

Happy coincidences. I am beginning to hate this phrase. No, not because of the debacles based on greed and lack of imagination. I hate this  because just recently, it struck close to home.

I am not about to state names or book titles. I will not. Ever. Not on this post. Above are quite public knowledge by now so I can link them should you care to read. 

I am a beta reader. I beta read for six authors who trust me enough not to steal their works in draft form and publish them as my own. Basically, as a beta, I get the draft of manuscripts before they get submitted to publishers, before any editor has proofed them, before the stories are even mentioned on social media as works in progress. I think they trust me enough to state the obvious and point out flaws to their plots.

The first time I beta read, I didn't know what I was doing, I just agreed and got the surprise of my life because I didn't know what the heck I was doing. Something worked somehow and I have learned a few things. One of these lessons is: if you beta read, prepare for drafts that don't read right and you read them so much you memorize everything regarding that draft.

When I beta, I read the work at least three times. That way, I get the feel of everything. In the process, I know the stories and individual styles of the author's works. When I read to review, basically the same thing happens. 

I've read thousands of books, but don't review all. I don't post anything below a three stars (3***). I refuse. If I did before, well, now I don't.

I read something recently and it was so familiar, I got confused why I had another name for the MC in my head. I opened a book I had beta read months ago and the confusion set in. Why? Well, this: 

Ever heard of plot points and resolutions?

Each story has plot points that authors base their stories on. Each work can be divided by these plot points: Act 1, 2, 3, Resolution. If the resolution is absent, the story is not done. You get the drift. 

What I just read?

Author 1 (A1) published book 55 days ago. Author 2 (A2) published 11 days ago. When reading A2's book, the plot points and resolution followed everything found in A1's work. There were too many similarities and as I basically memorized A1's work because I beta'd for it, they jumped out the pages, gave me a killer headache and broke my heart I cried so hard for A1. The worse for me is, technically, nothing is plagiarized. Every word is changed, yes, but everything else, the imagination of how this came to be, how the angst rose, it was there. Even to how it all ends. Just words changed so as not to come out as a blatant plagiarism.

Happy coincidence?

That is what A1 is hoping it is. Maybe A2 read and something triggered their imagination? I have no answer. 

Paraphrasing: Paraphrasing / re-writing a restatement of the meaning of a text or passage using other words. The term itself is derived via Latin paraphrasis from Greek παράφρασις, meaning "additional manner of expression" — Wikipedia

Let's go back to the definition of plagiarism: "stealing and publication" of another author's "language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions" — Wikipedia

As I see it, paraphrasing some one's work is still considered theft of the original author's ideas. Regardless of fact the two or more works are made to go through a plagiarism checker and the result is negative or less than 15%. 

Ideas. Fantasies. Dreams. These three are different from when you think of themes. A theme is a theme but the plot points and resolutions will never be EXACTLY THE SAME.

Am I wrong to feel upset? I don't think so. What I read were twins of one story, one in its original form, the other in its paraphrased form.

Happy coincidence?

Coincidence my foot. 

Note: If you want to check out the list of books considered plagiarized, click HERE.


  1. ONE point about IDEAS ... by law you CANNOT copyright an idea ...many come up with the same or similar ideas. However it is in HOW you present the idea that comes into play for plagiarism. Have i seen plots I like? Yes. Have i worked a similar idea around it? yes. DID I follow tha author's evolutionof plot? NO! I played the what if game and often the story then evolves into something perhaps similar to the original but in itself is original for content. But for now I have so many of my own plots I dont need to add more from other sources. Oh Do I sue the makers of MATRIX coz I had that sort of sci fi plot down 15 years before the movie was made .... I wish. Think of the money I could have lol.

    Other peoples work can act as a source and a trigger for your own creativity. That is not to be ignored. ANd ihappen to like very original names formy characters too so would never use a name and plot in one breath ..I always reserach my names.

    SO all that in passing...if two people come up with the idea for a can opener but one is electric and one is manual...are they infringing copyright ? Only if the actual mechanism is copyrighted ... and electric vs manual are two fields in the same property so to speak.

    Plagiarism is applicable to other areas too.I have to check a nationally broadcast documentary in Aus coz a friend thinks they used my research and footage without crediting me....

  2. Lol... we followed thru on FB hehehehehe