Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Refined Art of Borrowing

Debra takes a look at how we take others' ideas and make them our own.

I have friends who talk about and browse Pinterest all the time. For me, I haven't quite got there yet. Mainly because I'm a bit afraid I'll get addicted and it will be one more thing to do on the computer that isn't writing a book. And believe me, I don't need any kind of distractions or procrastinations there.

And while the site itself is a fairly new idea, the theory behind it has a much longer history.

Everyone knows the mark of a good teacher is to take an idea from someone else and make it your own. I love doing this. Next month I'm heading to the IL Reading Conference, which is absolutely my all-time favorite teachers' conference. My curriculum is chock full of things I've garnered from this yearly event.

One of my favorite winter holiday traditions is our Historical Society's Christmas Housewalk. Each year about a half dozen homes in a local neighborhood are opened to the public to tour. On these walks I've gathered a lot of great holiday decorating ideas. Last year, I came across a year round decorating idea, which I implemented this past summer. I'm sure it's not a new idea, but after seeing it in one of the homes on the Walk, I knew I wanted to do something similar in my own home. It's simple, but it's become one of our favorite spaces in our home.

Black framed sepia-tones prints from the places we've traveled to. These aren't pictures of us, but photographs of scenery, monuments, and historic places we've visited. It was fun tracking down old photos for the project this summer, and I can't wait to expand the gallery with more photos of upcoming vacations.

Now with writing, this borrowing from other people can get a bit tricky. After all, no one wants to mess with that little thing called plagiarism. It's definitely not okay to blatantly take someone else's idea or words and use them as your own. However, as we all know, there really aren't all that many unique and original storylines out there. Think back to Freshman English class: You have your basic man vs. man, man vs. nature, etc. How many millionaire/secret baby romances have you read? These days it's shapeshifters and vampires and zombies. It's what we do with those traditional story lines and conflicts that make our stories unique. And with that, the possibilities are endless.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!



  1. I love your photo gallery, Debra!
    Core story themes are classic, and have been done for millennia. Love, revenge, boy gets girl, girl loses boy. It;s a good think we are wired to love infinite versions of these themes.

    1. Thanks. We love looking at the pictures and 'remember when-ing'.

      And, definitely on into infinity with those story lines. Yep. Good things we humans are creatures of habit.

  2. Love your photos, Debra - what a great idea!
    I think there are supposed to be 7 basic plots, but of course we all put our own spin on them. I think it's probably true to say that if you gave the first chapter of a story to 100 different writers and asked them to write the rest, you would end up with 100 very different stories!

    1. Thanks about the photos. We love them too!

      So true. That might be a fun blog post at some point. Start with the first line and we could each write a short story from it. We could even invite other authors to post their stories too. Maybe something to think about for the future...and plan ahead so we'd all have time to write. :)

    2. 500 or 1000 word story maybe? And we all offer a PDF copy of one of our books to the winners? It's an idea! Not sure how we'd receive the entries though? Any ideas?

  3. One of us would have to compile the entries. it would be good to have an outside judge select the Winner.
    FTHRW just ran a contest (I was deeply involved and learned a lot about running a contest.)

    1. I could easily find a judge - but don't know anything else about running a contest! Perhaps we ought to discuss this more on the HWH loop?

    2. Definitely. And it doesn't need to necessarily be a contest. We could just invite readers to submit their stories and post them throughout a period of time.