Walt Disney’s Cinderella was based on a fairy tale collected by the brothers Grimm. Marissa Meyer’s wonderful adaptation of the same story, Cinder, made the New York Times bestseller list in 2012.
Word count: 305 Reading time: 1-2 minutes
I bet Cinderella, as published by the brothers Grimm in 1812, was only one of many versions being told by the oral storytellers of the day.
‘Filter any single incident through another set of eyes, it becomes a different story’ Ellen Hopkins, Flirting with the Monster.
Helen Fielding watched the 1995 BBC drama, Pride and Prejudice, and re-worked the plot into her classic novel Bridget Jones’s Diary. She even based the BJD romantic lead on Colin Firth who played Mr. Darcy to Jennifer Ehle’s Elizabeth Bennet. In doing so Fielding created a mini-industry that just keeps paying and paying.
Picasso said it best: art is theft. But there is good theft and bad theft, and writer Holly Lisle gives some hints here: How to (legally and ethically) steal ideas on the difference between the two. Austin Kleon offers more guidance in his book Steal Like an Artist:
Good theft: honours, studies, credits, transforms, and remixes. It takes from many sources, not just one.
Bad theft: degrades, skims, plagiarizes, imitates, and rips off. It takes only from one source.
David Bowie said, “The only art I’ll ever study is stuff that I can steal from,” and most of the time, that’s how I pick my reading list. I lift ideas from other writers and if my remix is detected, I hope I've done justice to the original work.
Have you stolen any good ideas or techniques lately? Have you read an author that made you break out in goosebumps and if so, did you do something to honour that experience? How do you stop your admiration of someone’s work from slipping into plagiarism?