Tuesday 23 February 2016

The Writer Diaries (or A Heaping Pile of Brain Stew)

Our brains are hyper-active filing machines - they absorb, mix, and smoosh together all of the things that we see, hear, experience, etc., throughout the day, and then spit out the surviving pieces in a compendium of Brain Stew.

What I'm saying is that we take outside influences and turn them into something new. It's the creative process.

That's not to say that we're being unoriginal when we write or draw something that is influenced by something else - just that we gain inspiration from a lot of very random places.

Our brains are constantly weaving the stuff they absorb into something else - which is truly wonderful, when you think about it.

coffee and computer
So, how about crediting or acknowledging your inspirations?

This is one I've been thinking about a lot - if my brain is the one cooking the stew, how much credit do I need to give to the ingredients, or to the recipe book?

If I write something that is a bizarre combination of everything I read, do I have to list anything that I could possibly have been influenced by?

Well, I think we should treat the ingredients and the recipe book separately. Let me explain:

The Ingredients

The things that make up only a part of the over-all dish - so, if you were writing dystopia, your ingredients might be The Hunger Games, 1984, and a dash of Divergent, for example.

The end result is that your stew will have parts of the ingredients in it, but will taste different to the individual ingredients.

In this case, you really only need to credit if there's a particular ingredient you feel was worthy of praise - something special that you feel like people will be interested to know is in there. Just like if you wanted to point out you've been cooking with organic or local produce, for example.

The Recipe Book

If you're following a particular recipe, then you need to credit it -

If you've quoted someone else's work verbatim (word for word,) used someone else's work to derive a format (for example, blog memes and tags,) or taken pieces of someone else's work and altered it only slightly, you need to credit it.

There are a few instances where this isn't the case: where you're making a joke about volunteering as tribute, for example, you're making a cultural reference rather than quoting.

creative mess
When you use copyright-free images (as I do,) where the creator does not require attribution - then you don't need to credit. That doesn't mean you can claim that image as your own. Because it's not.

The Brain Stew

Basically - the amount you credit your influences is up to you.

Largely, what you should do depends on how large an influence the source has had on you -

If you write a dystopian about a girl named Kats who uses a bow and arrow and fights in The Starving Competition - then it might be a good idea to credit The Hunger Games. A lot. Like really suck up with your acknowledgement. And you still might get your butt sued.

If you write a dystopian about a girl named Corinne who uses a bow and arrow, but only against clockwork soldiers who attack on every full moon (no idea where that came from by the way,) then there's no need to credit The Hunger Games, unless you really want to. You may have been influenced by it, but it's one of many ingredients, not the whole recipe.

Hope that's given you all some food for thought. Do you agree? Or do you think that you should always list all of your influences - regardless of how much or little effect they have on your work?

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  1. Yes I so agree with this! It's important to list your influences, also so other authors can see that others benefitted from their book.v

    1. That's true - didn't think of that! I think there has to be some sort of balance though - otherwise we'll have 10 pages of story and 100 pages of an influences list :)

  2. It seems like you really have been thinking about things! And I agree with you - if you feel particularly inspired as to ideas by one piece, then by all means do mention it to show others that it is wonderful and inspiration-finding-worthy. But you definitely have to credit format. The best example I could think of is blog tags - we always tag back to the blogger who originally created it!


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