View Full Version : Do I Call Plagiarism on This One?

04-04-2008, 06:09 AM
I have a friend who we'll call "Nick". We swap stories sometimes, critique them, etc. Lately, he's been producing stories eerily similar to mine. Most recent has been a version of a short story I wrote. For comparison:

My Version

1. Humorous tone
2. Some dialect
3. Ambiguous setting
4. Fantasy creatures
5. Science fiction elements.

Nick's Version:

1. Serious, almost dark, tone
2. Almost perfect language
3. Painstakingly-detailed setting
4. Non-speculative, could be realistic fiction, really

I've told Nick that this isn't ethical and may even be plagiarism. He tells me it's not. I've poked around the internet and in textbooks a bit and can't find anything definitive. Even my teachers aren't sure, because Nick doesn't copy my exact words, or even my exact characters. Just the basic plot. If I write about a mad scientist who blows up Earth, Nick might write a story about a clumsy technician who blows up Saturn.

I've stopped swapping stories with him and now he tells everyone who'll listen that I'm a jerk. I really don't know what to do. Do I call him out as a plagiarist? Give him a good kick in the groin? Someone please recommend that last one so I can take the advice and do it.

He just screams at me when I ask him what the hell is going on.

04-04-2008, 06:13 AM
You can't copyright an idea. Lots of books share basic plots. It's the details and the prose that make them different.

my $0.02

04-04-2008, 06:16 AM
From your description, it sounds as if you've lost a friend, but maybe that's for the best. I don't mean copying your stuff, because it's not clear to me just how much he's aping. I mean that he blows up at you when you say anything about this.

How would he describe the situation, do you think? Why do you think he blows up?

If he's copied your words, even if only an occasional phrase or image, that's plagiarism. If he's written closely analogous plots, that's suspicious but less conclusive. Still, if I were in your shoes, I'd be pretty upset.

I hope you resolve this. That's pretty bad when someone you trust to read and comment on your work repays you by imitating it, even if that's supposed to be the highest form of flattery.

04-04-2008, 06:17 AM
That's not plagiarism. I can understand how it's annoying, though. And you can always give an annoying person a swift kick in the pants, can't you?

04-04-2008, 06:20 AM
He's stealing your idea, but he's not plagiarizing. If you don't feel comfortable with sharing ideas with him and exchanging crits, then don't. There's no need to fight over this or calling each other liars.

Claudia Gray
04-04-2008, 06:26 AM
I agree with Maestrowork. He's borrowing inspiration, and I see how that's annoying, but if he's doing it in a different style altogether, it's not plagiarism. Some crit partners might feel free to exchange and even share ideas -- but you don't, and that's absolutely fine. Just cut off the crit partnering and give the friendship time to mend.

04-04-2008, 06:28 AM
Wow, lots of quick responses! Yeah, I didn't think it was plagiarism, but I wanted to be sure.

Nick's behavior came to me pretty unexpected and the first time he did it, it was more innocent (and here it's my fault for not mentioning it). It was just one bit of plot, so I thought awesome, I inspired him. Then he started imitating me more and more closely.

I just got a message from a buddy and she was furious with him for cheating off her paper during a big test. I guess there's something going on at home or somewhere else. Too bad he has to direct his frustrations at me and other people. I've learned my lesson, at least. I won't be sharing my work with anybody off this board in the future. It's a shame, because when Nick writes his own stories, he's actually very good. Not quite publishable quality yet, but so close he could lick its bootheels, so to speak.

I'm going to poke around and see if I can find anymore information. I'm worried about him now.

04-04-2008, 06:36 AM
Don't forget, they think only one of Shakespeare's plays was totally his own work. My advice is, get your work published so you can tell him to get Nicked.