Scraping Off the Serial Numbers

They say good artists invent, great artists steal. I don’t know how true that is, and I’m not sure I believe or like the only-x-numbers-of-plots theory. Nevertheless, we all occasionally lift or borrow ideas, images and language from other writers and artists.

Legally, my understanding is that if you steal an idea, you’re fine. If you steal actual wording, execution of the idea (such as, in artwork, specific composition), or character names, you have done something actionable. I’m sure there’s a large gray area.

As writers, we do tell similar stories at times. We are all human, and humans have only invented so many emotions, so many relationships, so many ways of getting in trouble. There are millions and millions of stories in the history of publishing, and sometimes the combinations are going to match up. And sometimes we are outright emulating what we love. And sometimes we say, “Hey, that really worked for JK Rowling, why can’t I do something similar?”

Where you fall in these gray areas is up to you, consulting with your own heart, and deciding what will be your path. Good luck on it, whatever it may be.


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