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Mimishu1995's avatar

Is it wrong for a writer to ask for others' plots for inspiration?

Asked by Mimishu1995 (8561 points ) December 16th, 2013

I remember reading a question on Yahoo!Answer like this: “I want to write a story. What kind of plots can you give me?”. There was an answer saying: ”...you shouldn’t ask for others’ plot like this. It’s like asking someone to let you steal their ideas.” At first I didn’t agree with that answer because I thought the asker was simply asking for help. But now when I thought back, I became rather suspicious that the answerer was right. So who is right, the asker or the answerer?

By the way, I’m doing military service at the moment, and this is one of those rare time when I have access to the internet. So I don’t have much time to go to Fluther right now. My military service will be over in half a month.

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15 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

How can one call oneself a writer of fiction if he or she cannnot think of a plot? That is very different than bringing your writing sample to a class or workshop and have other writers give you a critique or make suggestions.

kess's avatar

What is an idea, where does it actually originate?
If an inanimate object gives you an idea, have you stolen it from that object?

I think people are way to possessive to their own detriment

If a man ask of me and I am willing to give, what loss is there that I have not already accounted for?

My position would be, it would be easier for you to work with your idea that to work with someone’s.
But if you are not convinced then go with another…in the end you are the one writing the story.

But then again isn’t it true that lots of books are published under a popular authors name for the sake of cash, but written by another.

Wisdom says, “this is a way to go if you are in it strictly for the money”.

JimTurner's avatar

I can’t see why a good writer would need to use another person’s ideas.

He or she should be able to build a good story line based on their own thoughts and experiences.

Bill1939's avatar

I like to think that I have some writing skills, but find that I need a seed to start the process. Questions offered here stimulate my thinking. Should I sit in front of my keyboard waiting for my creative juices to flow, nothing happens. A plot is not a story. At best it is a skeleton that needs to be fleshed out to become a story. Any number of stories can be written around a plot. A would-be author can create the feel of a place and time, and develop the characters involved in a suggested plot. I wish I could think up plots.

mrentropy's avatar

A plot is just an idea, it’s not the execution. Give ten different authors the same plot and you’ll end up with at least ten different stories.

Here’s a plot: A family moves into a house that ends up being haunted. You can’t tell me there’s only one story that uses it.

Is it wrong to ask somebody else for a plot? No, of course not. Does it mean you are less of a writer? No, not really. It just means you need a little nudge to get started.

zenvelo's avatar

I can understand being inspired to derive a plot from someone else or something else, but the act of asking for a plot and expecting to develop a story on that is not the job of a creative writer but the task of a paid directed writer.

It’s closer to professional story development like a screenwriter or an advertising executive, or one of those factory writers that wrote Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. There’s nothing wrong with that as a job, just don’t fool yourself into thinking you are an author.

mrentropy's avatar

@zenvelo Using that logic, hack writers like Alan Dean Foster aren’t authors because they’ve written novel adaptations of movies. Same goes for people that have continued on series when the original author had retired or passed away.

Are you saying that if I had a child and that child said to me, “I wish you would write a story about a princess and a unicorn who rescued a prince from Mars” and I went ahead and wrote and then published that book that I would not be an author?

The ‘job’ of a creative writer is to write a story. Does it really matter where the idea originally came from?

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

If writers will be honest with themselves, we are a vain bunch, wanting to believe no one could present my story well enough but me. This fact really took hold with me when I stumbled on a brilliant plot, but subject matter I KNEW I could not do justice. I searched for someone who would better suit the story and the cast, but, WOW! I was rebuffed at every angle. I was told I would have to hire a ghost writer. It was not MY story. I had a brilliant idea for a fiction piece. I wanted to do right by it, the best way would have been to hand it off to someone with the background for it.
Sure, some people get their noses out of joint. Sometimes I do. When my daughter was three, she wrote her first story. She dictated, I wrote. She asked me to write the ending so it would surprise her. She named her charactrers, devised a plot, faced a hardship, and left the solution to me. It turned out very cute. Teamwork can be a good thing.
If someone did find a plot seeking from a crowd that way, it couldn’t hurt to remember to give some credit down the line.

zenvelo's avatar

@mrentropy To be short and to the point, Alan Dean Foster is a hack. He may be a good hack, but “novelizations” of movie scripts are dreck and have been so for a long time. So he gets to be called “writer” but I wouldn’t call him “author”.

And if my kids gave me a story idea like that, when I presented the finished product it wouldn’t be mine, and it would be unfair to my kid to say “it’s mine”. Rather, the conversation would be “See what dad and I wrote together” or “look what dad did with my good idea.”

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

Good gosh! Did I give THAT impression? I did use the word teamwork. It is her story, and always shall be. She made the whole story. she could have made an ending, there is no doubt in my mind. I am very proud of what a terrific imagination she has, for navigating her way through the elements of a good story. I didn’t coach her AT ALL. When she was in the second grade, she really worked at her writing skills. She felt stuck on one writing assignment. I coached her on some brainstorming skills. From that brainstorming session she wrote a clever little story. When I read it, I told her it seemeded to me like a chapter in a much longer story. She was ticked at me first, but after thinking it over, she found herself inspired. From time to time, she finds another idea to add in. One day it will be finished, and will be quite the adventure.
I inspire my daughter, she inspires me. I certainly would never claim a three year old’s work as my own. I have more ideas than I can keep up with as it is. In fact, perhaps one day she will see fit to pick up some of my unfinished works, and give them new life.

mrentropy's avatar

@zenvelo Wow. Alan Dean Foster is one of the worlds most prolific sci-fi authors. It’s pretty harsh to say he’s not an author. Unless, you’re saying the definition ‘author’ goes out the window the moment a movie adaptation is written. I suppose I can assume you’ve read all his adaptions if you’re calling them all ‘dreck.’

Your attitude actually blows my mind.

keobooks's avatar

I don’t read Alan Dean Foster’s movie adaptation, but I was a fan of his Spellsinger series when I was a kid. He writes quite a bit of his own stuff.
—-

Anyway, you can give one plot idea to three different writers and have three completely different books. “Midnight For Charlie Bone”, “Harry Potter” and “So You Want to Be a Wizard” all have pretty much the same plot skeleton of “Kids studying and learning to be wizards” but they are all very different stories.

Writers are thieves. They steal ideas from all over the place and make them their own. That’s why the best writers are also the best readers.

JimTurner's avatar

In the past there have been many retellings of classic stories.

If one looks at the smash hit Avatar they will see the correlation with the story of Pocahontas. Rudyard Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King is another story that seems to be borrowed upon many times by others. Even the hit TV series Kung Fu’s premise was based on the biblical account of Cain being a murderer who must wander the earth as a marked killer.

I’m not sure if we should scream plagiarism since these stories are at times obvious retellings.

Rarebear's avatar

There are very good legal reasons why you should NOT do this as a writer. If you write a story based upon someone else’s plot you can be sued for copyright infringement.

I have a very good friend who is an accomplished writer of multiple works of published fiction who gets emails all the time by people asking him to read their manuscript. He doesn’t even open the emails.

lifeflame's avatar

Seven basic plots – a suggestion that there’s really nothing that new under the sun…

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