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View Diary: I Wrote "To Kill A Mockingbird" - Plagiarism and Other Follies (55 comments)

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  •  I agree with your point that two words do not (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    True North, twigg, pdxteacher, blueoasis

    constitute plagiarism, but I know exactly how Twigg feels. Fifteen or twenty years ago a friend who was writing dispatches for the home paper about his and his family's stay in China where he was teaching english, used the term "a tangerine sun" to describe the setting sun. It's probably been used many times before-perhaps he borrowed it from someone else-but I was struck by the succinctly beautiful description using a fruit that has been cultivated for thousands of years in the country where he was teaching. To this day, I always wish I could use this description of the setting sun when I write, but I just can't bring myself to use it because I know it is not something I thought of. It seems silly-tangerine is an adjective one could use for anything orange-but I guess because the reaction I had when I first read his words was so sublime, I feel like I should always thank him for eliciting that reaction in me, and therefore do not feel right in claiming it as my own. Does this make any sense?

    A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. - Greek proverb

    by marleycat on Sun May 12, 2013 at 08:36:13 AM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  It makes sense. Here's a strategy I used... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      twigg, marleycat, blueoasis

      ...when I was writing fiction, which I no longer do in any case.

      I wanted to use the words, "Love is a bird," at a certain point in a short story I wrote, and although I couldn't think of an attribution, I was still sure that someone somewhere had used it, but it was essential to the allusions of the tale, so I wrote it thusly:

      Suppose, as they sometimes say, that love is a bird, who alights wherever she will...
      The bold part was a dodge of course.

      So you may try, if you need the "tangerine sun" something like this:  

      ...what they have called the tangeriine sun
      ...what a poet called the "tangerine sun..."
      Personally, I wouldn't worry about it though.   You will know if your work is your own.

      As it happens, I once wrote a book, never submitted for publication, that ended with a sunset, and was quite happy with it, although I'm sure that there are hundreds, or maybe thousands that end similarly.    A work will not be trivial if it goes to some cultural universal if there's enough guts in between the first word and the last.

      Afterall, "Hamlet" is just a tale about a troubled relationship with a stepfather, and there's lots and lots and lots of step-parent difficulty tales that are told and written, everything from Cinderella to "A Series of Unfortunate Events..." but nobody really worries about how often the plot is retold, so long as there is something new in the spin.

      The novel I wrote was basically a retelling of the Faust myth, and I knew as much from day one, and kept at it anyway.

      If I read "tangerine sun..." in a work with no mechanism as such, I wouldn't have a second thought about it.

      •  Carmen sings "Love is a rebellious bird" (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NNadir, twigg, jan4insight, marleycat

        in the famous Habanera aria. The lyrics were composed by by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy.

        And--side note that makes me chuckle--Bizet "adapted" the melody of that aria from a tune by Sebastián Yradier.

        Inspiration is a circulating fountain, huh?

        •  Thanks. I certainly wasn't aware of that... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          twigg, jan4insight

          ...since I am completely unfamiliar with the Habanera aria.

          But I wouldn't be surprised to see it show up in lots of other places.

          Thanks again.   I learned something.

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