Taking Things from Other Books

I’ve seen and heard of readers accusing authors of taking things from other books (My personal favorite instances are someone accusing Tolkien of taking ideas from the Harry Potter series and someone accusing J.K. Rowling of taking ideas from the sparkling vampire books. *cough*). It makes me think that might just be one of the types of hecklers authors end up dealing with.

I mean, first off, some of the things those people target are genre-specific tropes. Take the Tolkien and Harry Potter, example. Simply having goblins and dragons and similar creatures in a book is not literary theft. Maybe, you could call it that if you’re referencing the first fantasy book ever, but then you can accuse every fantasy author after that of theft. And even the first one was taking from a lot of fairy tales and local myths. So that’s a hard accusation to make stick.

It’s like accusing a romance author of stealing from another romance author because her book has two people who fall in love and have sex. Um… really?

When people are more specific about it (“Your hero is a plumber, your heroine is a developer, and they’re being chased by her stalker – just like this other book” kind of things), they don’t realize that in writing that’s still a very generic thing. There are only so many plots out there (at that level), so unless the names and all the twists are the same, it’s probably not taken from somewhere else.

At the same time, in a much more vague way, the accusers are right. Every writer takes from other writers because that’s how we learn to write: by reading. We read other books and learn subconsciously how plots work and how characters interact. So in a very general way, our writing is based on every book we’ve ever read. And so is every other author’s work.

So… well, I’m not sure where I was going with this now. I guess I wish people would chill out or understand how tropes, genres, and writing work a bit better. It’s really not worth getting riled up because books are similar in that level. Although, as examples I’ve seen show, a simple Google search could head off that problem, so maybe they like being angry. 🤷‍♀️


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