Gabrielle Bisset

Monday, April 2, 2012

Plagiarism

I ran into a very strange experience last night.  My editor, always on the trail of all things interesting, emailed me with the very disconcerting idea that a fellow author I used to know may have plagiarized from me.  Now I'm a plagiarism snoop from way back, as any of my students will tell you.  I can spot the malfeasance a mile away.  Many a student has earned the painful P on their paper from me. 

But this is different.  This isn't as obvious as my students' plagiarism, if it's plagiarism at all.  This is the more challenging type of stealing--the tone and idea lifting instead of word-for-word taking of another's work. I should mention I used to know this author quite well.  I won't go into how I knew her, but we were close.

I haven't decided what I intend to do about this.  When my editor and I spoke on the phone, she read me what she'd read and I definitely heard things that sounded very similar to Blood Avenged.  I have no doubt this author read that book.  My editor found what she believes is plagiarism in the sample of the book on Amazon.  She didn't even get past the first two chapters.  I have to admit that mostly what I heard when she read the sample to me was poorly edited writing, but there were parts that sounded a bit close for my comfort.

For my editor's part, she's ready to buy the book and do the fine-toothed comb thing.  For my part, I feel like I always do when the issue of plagiarism comes up.  I can't help but feel sorry for the person who believes their ideas and words are so lacking that they have to look to other people's.  That said, if I do find that this author has taken enough to make me move past seeing them as merely pathetic, I will have to look into the next step.  As any of my students can tell you, I will call plagiarism out when I confirm it.

18 comments:

Savannah Chase said...

It is sick how sneaky that the people who do this are getting...It really sucks and I'm sorry.

Gabrielle said...

Thanks, Savannah. I see it as pathetic. Any writer who can't think up their own stuff isn't much of a writer, right? (That sounds like a Dr. Seuss line LOL).

Erin said...

They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery, but I say it's still cheating and copying. Plagiarism is something that disgusts me and I'm sorry that you're once friend is stealing from you. You're right--it's pathetic. And tragic. Losing a friend to something distasteful would be horrifying. I hope everything works out...I really don't know what else to say other than I'm sorry that this happened.

Gabrielle said...

I was thinking the same thing, Erin. My friends used to tell me all the time that this person imitated me a lot, but I never saw it. My close friend told me, "Of course you didn't. You like yourself, so why wouldn't you like a copy of you!" Other than that, we had few things in common, but it seems we might have another thing in common: We both like my writing a lot! LOL

Trying to keep my sense of humor about all this. When I get the details about the whole book from my editor, we'll have to see what happens. Regardless of whether I decide to call it plagiarism or not, I see her as truly sad now.

Ellie Heller said...

I'm hearing more and more instances of this. I can't imagine what's going through someone's mind when they steal ideas. There's no excuse.

Gabrielle said...

I agree, Elle. I think some people just want to be writers so badly that they don't want to admit that they can't do this without original ideas.

Steph from fangswandsandfairydust.com said...

I think we are highly sensitized to this issue, but while outright theft is sad and unacceptable, we also have to remember how pervasive some ideas are. When is something a trope and when is it stealing? If someone writes a story about a post-apocalyptic world filled with zombie-like creatures are they stealing from the Walking Dead, or from HG Wells? Or is that such a pervasive plot line now that it's just there and archetypal, part of our collective ideation? Is there a difference between being derivative and plagiarism. I look at other fields of art and I am constantly brought back to the idea of Manet's Olympia, was it pure copying of the Venus of Urbino or flattery? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_of_Urbino)and (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89douard_Manet)

Painting is different than writing but I see a similarity in how ideas spread.

I am sure this editor has come to you with an appropriately identified plagiarized manuscript but I also think these days people are calling everything derivative plagiarism.

I am no expert this is merely a thought I've had. And, e-pub has certainly thrown another variable into the mix.

Gabrielle said...

I think it's very important to differentiate between plagiarism and the use of common tropes. I'm moving slowly on this issue because of this. However, I can say that this story has a number of scenes that are quite close to those found in the beginning of Blood Avenged, and the description of the action sounds like my description, using VERY similar words in at least once instance. But I will have to examine the rest of the book to see what I want to do.

flchen1 said...

Oh dear. Hugs, Gabrielle, and glad you have a supportive editor ready to help comb through this. I hope that this wasn't intentional simply because that seems so dreadful to acknowledge, but it's frustrating to assume also that people can be so careless with absorbing what they read into their own work :(

Best wishes to you, Gabrielle!

Shah Wharton said...

Ew - this makes me feel icky! A former friend stealing from you for their own benefit is just, well it makes my skin crawl a bit, you know? Any plagiarism is bad, but when its someone you know, its so much worse. I hope upon investigation you find it to be coincidence or something. But if not, then you should expose her and back it up with the evidence. Best of luck with this Gabrielle. I wouldn't wanna be in her shoes, I know that!

Julia Barrett said...

It's happened to me and it's very distressing. You can't always do anything about it either, depending upon how much has been borrowed/changed.

The Romanceaholic said...

And THIS is why I will never be an author lol I read such vast amounts of romantic fiction that I'm terrified any "new" idea I had for a story would actually be from a book I simply didn't remember reading :P

I'm sorry that your friend stole from you. Shah is right, it's worse when it's someone you know :( I hope you get it straightened out soon!

Jess

Megan@Riverina Romantics said...

Wow....I honestly don't know what to say to this. It's one thing if she copies you in personality or style but to essentially steal an idea and gain off of it is a type of backstabbing that is rarely seen. Keep us posted.

Marie Dees said...

I've seen it happen. To an experienced editor, it's usually easy to spot the difference between a shared trope and actual plagiarism. It goes beyond the idea being the same to actual echoes of the original work in the writing. Even if the words aren't exact, you can almost diagram where they were changed.

Kenra Daniels said...

So sorry this happened, Gabrielle. It's an icky feeling to see someone else profit from your ideas and hard work.

As more and more people start to believe writing is an easy way to make money, only to realize it isn't, I'm afraid this kind of thing will become even more common. Some will become frustrated with the actual work of writing, and seek the easy way.

They'll steal ideas at every level, thinking that if they just knew *what* to write, they could easily write it. When they realize it doesn't work that way, that even with the ideas, there's still an immense amount of work in writing a book, some will give up, some will buckle down and do the work, and others will resort to bolder plagiarism.

Unfortunately, it's difficult to prove unless the work is copied fairly extensively. Add that to the low likelihood of the author ever seeing the material. Being caught is pretty unlikely, and even if you are, the author has to prove it.

Sadly, to some desperate people, plagiarism looks like a fairly low-risk way to make money, or to achieve some sort of prestige, or whatever.

Barbara Elsborg said...

That's horrible!!! I'm yet another one it happened to but on a different scale. The person copied a long scene out of my book and just changed the characters names - actually to those out of Trueblood - and passed it off as her work. I didn't know until a fan of mine pointed it out.

Gabrielle said...

Thanks for all the comments! The more I think about this, the more I think the whole thing is quite sad. One of my betas said last night, "This is the first book she's had to do without your help. Does this plagiarism thing really surprise you?"

It does, though. I really hope in the end the issue doesn't grow from what I've seen already. That would be bad.

S. J. Maylee said...

I'm hoping after those first couple of chapters she began writing her own words. Looks like you are surrounded by lots of really good people and for that you are a lucky girl.
I'm disgusted by the idea that a friend could take advantage of you in this way. Of course it could happen from someone you do not know and that would be completely awful too. She "acted" as a friend and it digs the knife in further. Pathetic.
As a new writer I have to say that if I can't do the work than I do not deserve to be published...so back to work I go.
Big hugs to you and your editor.