It's blog chain time again. Annie asked the question:
Do you ever get inspired by a real-life event or news story and fear you're ripping off the story too much? Do you ever get inspired by a song or poem or line from a book and worry you're stealing that original person's idea? What if your research is overtaking your originality?
Have you ever heard the joke: "What do you get when you play a country song backward?"
Answer: You get your wife back, your house back, your dog back, your kids back, you job back...
If you could copyright an idea, the creator of country-western music would have more money than Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Tiger Woods combined, and Hank Sr. and Johnny Cash would be duking it out at the pearly gates for ownership of the title.
Instead, their music has inspired pickers and grinners for generations. Judging by the content of the lyrics, it doesn't appear anyone is concerned about whose idea it was.
Most often, plagiarism is deliberate.
Writing from inspiration is putting down your interpretation of an event, a poem, a song, something found in everyday life...
Ever heard the expression: "One man's trash is another man's treasure?" Well, I think it applies here. Not everyone interprets their surroundings in the same way; not everyone will be inspired by the same things.
I believe those interpretations allow a writer to establish his/her voice.
I also believe, however, there is a danger in writing from the inspiration found in a news story, a real-life event, a song or poem, especially popular ones. You never want to regurgitate an old cliche UNLESS you have a fresh way of presenting it.
I've never had research step in the way of my originality. As artists, we're allowed to take some creative liberties (as long as it's within the realm of believability). Unfortunately, sometimes we have to adjust our characters and/or setting to fit into that realm.
It's best to be flexible.