Monday, October 26, 2009

Plagiarizing myself!

Plagiarism is something all writers guard themselves against. When I'm in the thick of writing a new story, I tend to read outside my genre lest someone else's well-turned phrase seep into my subconscious and flow accidentally out my fingers.

But sometimes, I catch myself plagiarizing ME!

Writers develop little ticks, fillers that pop immediately to mind because we like the way they sounded the first time we wrote them. Sometimes, we give a character a gesture and it fits them so well before we know it, they're cocking their head more often than that dreaded red-headed man on CSI.

Or perhaps it's a phrase. If you read a Kathleen Woodiwiss book, I guarantee that at least one character will stand with their "arms akimbo." Wilbur Smith, one of my favorite non-romance authors, evidently liked comparing a woman's bare behind to a pair of ostrich eggs so much, he does it in every book.

Have you noticed a writer repeating themselves from one book to another? Do you find it's just part of that writer's unique voice? Any unusual repetitions you'd like to share? If you're a writer, do you catch yourself doing it?

13 comments:

Susanne Saville said...

LOL! Glad I'm not the only one... ;)

EmilyBryan said...

Me2, Susanne. I swear if any more of my heroines "go still as a hare in a thicket" I may have to slap them!

Barbara Monajem said...

All the time, but I let them through in the first draft and weed them out as best I can in the second.

Ostrich eggs!!?

I just had to Google some images. There are some very cool carved and painted ostrich eggs out there.

EmilyBryan said...

No joke, a smooth pair of ostrich eggs.

Patricia Barraclough said...

There is a writer that I really like. I read all her books. I finally realized after the 3rd or 4th book, she has the same 3 sex scenes in every book. The names and places are different, but the scene is the same.
Too funny.

EmilyBryan said...

Pat, I've heard of that as well! Romance writers tend to get into little ruts as their characters progress in their relationship. I wonder if that has to do with the 12 steps of intimacy list that we're all taught in workshops?

Sometimes, it's fun to jumble them up and take things out of order.

Nynke said...

Trying not to plagiarize is such hard work! Not just in fiction, but in scholarly writing, as well. and it's tough because when discussing other authors'work, you don't want to sound exactly the same, but they've come up with so many good words... Sometimes I wish I were a native speaker of English, so I'd know more alternative words.

But I wonder, Emily, what phrases do you catch yourself re-using?

Nynke said...

By the way, I found another book of yours going global: Pleasuring the Pirate is now in Dutch shops :). I'll send a picture soon!

EmilyBryan said...

Nynke, I think it's more gestures that I catch myself repeating. My characters will often draw their lips into a tight line, to show suppressed irritation. Things like that.

Oh, thanks for keeping an eye out for my Dutch covers.

I was also wondering what you thought about whether an author who's published in multiple languages should have a page in each those languages on their website. I'm not sure how much interest it might draw since it would only be one page. What do you think?

Nynke said...

Hi again!
Gestures - yes, I can imagine repeating those...

Pages in different languages, hmmm... Obviously, I don't need them, but I'm sure there are a lot of readers who would like to know more about the writer behind the books, and probably also a little bit about the ideas behind the books. That would fit onto one page, and it would make readers who don't know a lot of English happy :). I have no idea how many page views that sort of thing would get you... But I bet it could be quite a lot once you're translated into big languages like Spanish.
On the whole, I wouldn't say having international pages is essential, but it would probably be appreciated! And if you ever need a page translated into Dutch, I'm your woman :).

EmilyBryan said...

Thanks, Nynke! I may be contacting you in the future!

fingersandtoes said...

I was just thinking about Wilbur Smith's ostrich eggs, so I googled it to see if anyone else had noticed. Back in high school my best friend and I used to count the incidence of ostrich egg buttocks in each book. It was usually about three.

EmilyBryan said...

The amazing Mr. Smith has penned so many lyrical metaphors, I don't know why he latched onto that one with such ferocity.

Perhaps it's an inside joke--like Victoria Alexander's "dead husband Charles" that appears in each of her novels. At least one of her characters is a widow whose husband was named Charles.

And the name of Victoria's husband? You guessed it! Charles!