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View Full Version : When you start stealing for your writing?



The Lonely One
02-16-2009, 09:00 PM
It wasn't like shoplifting or anything; but I did take a shopping list somebody had left in a Walmart isle, feverishly packing away the little list of secret insight into a family I'd never met. I felt like I was stealing from them, but they obviously don't need it if they've left it carelessly by the spices, right? Is it a problem when looking for material to write about pushes you to kleptomania? Have you ever done anything similar you felt somewhat bad about?

Among the items on the list are whiskey, mom's mash potatoes and yellow mustard mayonnaise. I've got a short story brewing already...

Wayne K
02-16-2009, 09:51 PM
After I read "Dog day afternoon" I started planning to rob a bank. Good thing "Silence of the Lambs wasn't out yet

ETA: true story, but I wimped out. I also met the guy who actually robbed the bank years later in the West Village, and he didn't look or act anything like Al Pacino. Mrf.

Lyra Jean
02-16-2009, 10:08 PM
When I was in High School some one was passing a note to another person. You know all folded up special and stuff. When it reached my desk I kept it. No the note wasn't for me.

The Lonely One
02-16-2009, 10:12 PM
When I was in High School some one was passing a note to another person. You know all folded up special and stuff. When it reached my desk I kept it. No the note wasn't for me.

Do you still have it? That sounds like a short story.

Lyra Jean
02-16-2009, 10:17 PM
Do you still have it? That sounds like a short story.

No I ended up leaving it on the desk after reading it and the intended recipient ended up getting it after all. It was a long time ago and I don't even remember what it said.

I collect used postcards now. Some very interesting stuff you can find there.

Michael J. Hoag
02-16-2009, 10:42 PM
Alright, Wynona. Found text kicks bum.

I'd like to think I've "stolen" huge portions of my recently completed book from the likes of Anthony Robbins, Suze Orman, Robert Kiyosaki, Dale Carnegie and Pope Benedict.

My novel deals with the relationship between selling "dreams," belief and "taking advantage" of people. It's written as a "self empowerment memoir" from the point of view of the "Michael Jordan of Prostitutes." Anytime a character does something really despicable in my book, their words are famous quotes from the people above. In fact, I have characters named "Anthony F-ing Robbins" and "Suze Orman."

They're drug dealers.

Most of the sex scenes are cut-ups of "exercises" from these self help seminars and books: "I want you to tell me what you want. I want you to show me. How does it feel? How does it taste? Smell? Use all your senses...." --Anthony Robbins.

Of course, putting the words of "self help" gurus into the mouths of pimps, prostitutes, pushers and thugs is as clear an example of protected satire as there is.

But it's more fun to think of it as "Stealing."

Michael J. Hoag
02-16-2009, 11:19 PM
So, when do we get to see the story?

scarletpeaches
02-16-2009, 11:30 PM
I always look at mini-statements left in the ATM by the previous card-holder.

If they have more than me, I wonder how they got it.

Less? I laugh.

Jerry B. Flory
02-16-2009, 11:33 PM
"Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination...And don ’t bother concealing your thievery—celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to." Jim Jarmusch

I always go with Jarmusch.
He's just weird enough to be credible.

Wayne K
02-17-2009, 01:06 AM
I always go with Jarmusch.
He's just weird enough to be credible.
QFT.

The Lonely One
02-17-2009, 02:40 AM
So, when do we get to see the story?

Still peeling the barcode label off with my swiss pocket knife...I'll let you know if I get it past security...

Williebee
02-17-2009, 02:47 AM
What Jerry said.

But just to be clear? Taking the found list home wasn't stealing. Now, picking up the items on the list and walking out the door?

But officer! I'm a writer.

Wayne K
02-17-2009, 02:58 AM
What Jerry said.

But just to be clear? Taking the found list home wasn't stealing. Now, picking up the items on the list and walking out the door?

But officer! I'm a writer.

Why didn't you say so? We thought you were a criminal.

darkchild
02-17-2009, 03:59 AM
You might as well call me Spongebob because I get ideas EVERYWHERE. my sister is the funniest person i know and most of the things she says are the things one of my characters would say. stealing? no! im a sponge!

KikiteNeko
02-17-2009, 04:03 AM
Once when I was in elementary school, I think I must have been in fifth or sixth grade, I found a piece of folded notebook paper on the school bus and read it. It was a page from a story someone was writing. I never found out who it belonged to, but I kept it. It made me really happy for two reasons:

1.) I wasn't the only freak who wrote stories in her notebook (at eleven years old I was pretty sheltered and ignorant to the fact that there were other amateur writers out there). I was also really secretive and never confided the fact that I wrote to anyone. So it comforted me in some way to know there were others out there.

2.) it wasn't as good as my writing and that made me happy ;) (well, so I thought).

I wonder whatever happened to that person or if they're still writing.

Jerry B. Flory
02-17-2009, 05:54 AM
The thing about stealing is, what if you turned something in that was so completely original that no one would touch it because there was, nowhere, a basis for comparison?
I think you'll find as a reader that a lot of the things in a story that we build in our heads come from comparisons to other ideas, other stories, movies, newspapers.

The villain I'm working on now came from succeeding where an incidental serial killer failed and yes the serial killer I'm comparing him to was a real person.
It's nearly impossible not to steal. Even comparing and drawing a character parallel to a real person isn't a new idea.
We borrow, steal and reuse old tools that we don't even consider when we're stealing our stories and characters.

The Lonely One
02-17-2009, 06:12 AM
The thing about stealing is, what if you turned something in that was so completely original that no one would touch it because there was, nowhere, a basis for comparison?
I think you'll find as a reader that a lot of the things in a story that we build in our heads come from comparisons to other ideas, other stories, movies, newspapers.

The villain I'm working on now came from succeeding where an incidental serial killer failed and yes the serial killer I'm comparing him to was a real person.
It's nearly impossible not to steal. Even comparing and drawing a character parallel to a real person isn't a new idea.
We borrow, steal and reuse old tools that we don't even consider when we're stealing our stories and characters.


Wait, wait. So what you're telling me is: my novel of approximately 800,000 words, written in a language I invented for the purpose of originality, with a plot based on colors that don't actually exist but which mysteriously appear to have a dialog, won't sell?

Bah!

brokenfingers
02-17-2009, 06:16 AM
After I read "Dog day afternoon" I started planning to rob a bank. Good thing "Silence of the Lambs wasn't out yet

ETA: true story, but I wimped out. I also met the guy who actually robbed the bank years later in the West Village, and he didn't look or act anything like Al Pacino. Mrf.I grew up two blocks from the actual bank that was robbed.

brokenfingers
02-17-2009, 06:19 AM
It wasn't like shoplifting or anything; but I did take a shopping list somebody had left in a Walmart isle, feverishly packing away the little list of secret insight into a family I'd never met. I felt like I was stealing from them, but they obviously don't need it if they've left it carelessly by the spices, right? Is it a problem when looking for material to write about pushes you to kleptomania? Have you ever done anything similar you felt somewhat bad about?

Among the items on the list are whiskey, mom's mash potatoes and yellow mustard mayonnaise. I've got a short story brewing already...Isn't that what writers do?

We don't just steal little notes - we steal whole lives.

We steal people and their nuances and their fears and their desires.

We steal their weaknesses and their hopes and their dreams.

We steal their clothing and mannerisms, their words and their hairstyle.

We steal from everyone we meet and every place we go.

And then we share it with the world.

It's what we do.

Kate Thornton
02-17-2009, 06:33 AM
It's what we do.

We lie, too - at least we fiction writers do...

Michael J. Hoag
02-17-2009, 07:14 PM
Wait, wait. So what you're telling me is: my novel of approximately 800,000 words, written in a language I invented for the purpose of originality, with a plot based on colors that don't actually exist but which mysteriously appear to have a dialog, won't sell?

Bah!

Dude, fess up. We know you swiped that stuff from the 5th dimension.

Writers. Sheesh.

You all are just a bunch of no-good, thieving liars.

Oh, and I got dibs on the Chinese guy who hugged the Panda. That one's mine.

tehuti88
02-17-2009, 08:33 PM
I'm more a furtive observer than a thief. When we drive by people's homes at night, I sometimes peek at the windows to see what the insides of the houses look like. Hey! It's their own problem if they leave the curtains up!

I also find myself poring over photos of homes in magazines, and seeing the doorways off to the sides leading into hallways and such, and wondering what's out there; seeing the books on the shelves and wishing I could read the titles; and looking at the windows overlooking lawns and wondering what's around the corner...damn limitations of photography!


Once when I was in elementary school, I think I must have been in fifth or sixth grade, I found a piece of folded notebook paper on the school bus and read it. It was a page from a story someone was writing. I never found out who it belonged to, but I kept it. It made me really happy for two reasons:

1.) I wasn't the only freak who wrote stories in her notebook (at eleven years old I was pretty sheltered and ignorant to the fact that there were other amateur writers out there). I was also really secretive and never confided the fact that I wrote to anyone. So it comforted me in some way to know there were others out there.

2.) it wasn't as good as my writing and that made me happy (well, so I thought).

I wonder whatever happened to that person or if they're still writing.

I've had some experiences similar to this, though. I often wonder about the people who write things on discarded notes, graffiti, etc. When I buy used books on eBay and Amazon and they have notes scribbled in them for classes, I wonder about those people too.

rsriem
02-17-2009, 10:55 PM
I plead guilty to reading messages written in bathroom stalls. It's interesting because people actually carry out long drawn out arguments. I always wondered what happened to those people.

scarletpeaches
02-17-2009, 10:59 PM
I plead guilty to writing messages in bathroom stalls.

happywritermom
02-17-2009, 11:08 PM
I took a blank legal pad left behind by state police in a temporary command center once. I noticed someone had written hard and left imprints behind. So I took it to Burger King, pulled out a pencil, rubbed it, and, low and behold, there was the murder suspect's name! From there, I went to the murder suspect's house and had a long chat with him. He was a motorcycle-riding stranger in a blue-blood town and lived near the crime scene. In that town, that was enough to make him a suspect. He pointed out the unmarked state police car in the parking lot next door. The cop had been watching him for days. After I left his house, I had a chat with the cop who was very annoyed that I had approached him and that the suspect knew he was there.
Boy, were the cops mad. The cops and the DA pressured me for weeks trying to find out who had leaked the info!!!

In the end, state police put all their time and energy into this suspect during the crucial period: the first 48 hours. Never found any evidence and drove him out of town. Years later, they caught the killer: A carnie from a festival the kid was walking to when he was killed.

happywritermom
02-17-2009, 11:13 PM
I hope nobody involved in that investigation reads my post! I'm not sure whether talking a note pad from a public conference room (That's what they had used) in a public building when the room was no longer in use and the pad was blank with only a few sheets left constitutes crime, but they could probably turn it into one!
They were pretty mad.

Michael J. Hoag
02-17-2009, 11:18 PM
On a bathroom wall:

"Those who write on bathroom walls
Should mold their shit in little balls
And those who read these lines of wit
Should eat the little balls of shit."

--Kurt Vonnegut

Michael J. Hoag
02-17-2009, 11:21 PM
Ooops, pardon Mr. Vonnegut's french.

ABekah
02-17-2009, 11:43 PM
It wasn't like shoplifting or anything; but I did take a shopping list somebody had left in a Walmart isle, feverishly packing away the little list of secret insight into a family I'd never met. I felt like I was stealing from them, but they obviously don't need it if they've left it carelessly by the spices, right? Is it a problem when looking for material to write about pushes you to kleptomania? Have you ever done anything similar you felt somewhat bad about?

Among the items on the list are whiskey, mom's mash potatoes and yellow mustard mayonnaise. I've got a short story brewing already...

There is a book you might be interested in. The compiler collected grocery lists from all over in a witty book called Milk, Eggs, Vodka: Grocery Lists Lost and Found, by Bill Keaggy.

The Lonely One
02-18-2009, 12:34 AM
I plead guilty to writing messages in bathroom stalls.

For a good crit, call...

The Lonely One
02-18-2009, 12:35 AM
There is a book you might be interested in. The compiler collected grocery lists from all over in a witty book called Milk, Eggs, Vodka: Grocery Lists Lost and Found, by Bill Keaggy.

On my "to buy" list. Thanks :)

Lyra Jean
02-18-2009, 06:22 AM
For a good crit, call...

Then post a number from the Top 20 Worst Agents.