Investigated – “Borrowed” and “Stolen” Elements

Posted November 10, 2014 by Emily in Investigated / 5 Comments


What do I mean by “borrowed” elements? I mean elements are in one book and seem to be “borrowed” from another. Now that we got that cleared up… This topic pisses me off on so many different levels. It’s just so frustrating because I have two different contrasting opinions about it.

Sometimes I hate it when people accuse authors of “borrowing” or “stealing” elements of one book for their own. So maybe this opinion is based on my belief that people are always innocent until proven guilty, but it’s really not fair. People can have similar ideas. Deal with it. Just because they sound the same doesn’t mean they are the same. Just because there are many similarities between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson doesn’t mean Rick Riordan copied J.K. Rowling. Just because a group of teenagers are trapped in a maze in The Maze Runner doesn’t mean James Dashner copied Suzanne Collins who trapped people in the area in The Hunger Games. (In fact The Maze Runner was first published before The Hunger Games so ha!) A lot of times “stolen” and “borrowed” ideas are not actually stolen or borrowed. A lot of times they are just coincidences. It’s just like if I had named my discussion posts “Discussed” instead of Investigated. Am I stealing someone else’s idea if they named their discussion posts “Discussed” before me?

I spent all that time defending the authors but now I’m going to argue for the other side. I said before a lot of times the similarities between ideas are just coincidences. But what happens when it becomes obvious the parallel between the two books was intended. When do coincidences stop being coincidences and intentional copying?

When I do suspect books are copies of others with different details, I usually follow Cammie’s rule on discovering tails (from The Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter). She says “Once is a stranger. Twice is a coincidence. Three times and you know you’ve got a tail.” The first time I notice a parallel between books, I just dismiss it. Unfortunately a lot of YA books now a days seem to be following of formula of some sort so it isn’t uncommon to find a lot of similarities between different books. The second time I see a resemblance I consider it a coincidence. The third time it happens, I’m way more suspecting and now on the lookout for more correspondence between the two books. And when I say I think a book is displaying an element of another, I don’t mean things like they both have love triangles and revolves around a girl who just discovered she has superpowers. No, I mean more specific things. Like for instance, if in a book the population is split into towns based on characteristic and their is a town that wants to control all the others and there happens to be someone that defies expectations and doesn’t really belong in one single town… Ring any bells? Sound like Divergent much? Those are kind of the details I mean.

But honestly, that doesn’t happen a lot. Most of the parallels I usually see are results of the stupid formula. I get that people want to sell books and that by following a pattern that has proven to work kind of ensures the book will sell, but come on. Originality is the best way to go. But whatever, I already talked about the cursed formula and the lack of originality in YA before so…

Sorry if I confused you with my two different perspectives.
But what did you think?
How do you feel about “borrowed and “stolen” elements?



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5 responses to “Investigated – “Borrowed” and “Stolen” Elements

  1. I like the saying there’s nothing new under the sun. People have the same ideas without knowing anything about the other. But you’re right about stories with similar details that seem quite obvious. Be original people. Also I don’t enjoy reading the same story repackaged and I’m sure others feel the same.

    Julie recently posted: Interview with Kate Perry
  2. I think it must be really hard to come up with an original story so I totally agree that sometimes it isn’t intentional and we should allow some leeway when authors are just following the formula for their genre. I do get wound up when that translates into basically rewriting the whole book with a few changes. The Hunger Games probably has the most rip-off versions and I tend to steer away from those sort of books now because I can’t believe how blatant a copy they are! I’ve heard that The Iron Trial is pretty much Harry Potter rewritten but I want to see for myself so I just borrowed it from the library!

    Charlotte @ Books and Baby etc. recently posted: Do you share other people's posts?
    • I hate it when other books seem to be imitations of others. I get the original was great and it makes sense why people would want to copy it, but seriously? I would pay more to read a totally original novel (especially nowadays) versus a novel that seems like a replica of another with a few tweaks.

      Thanks for stopping by Charlotte! 🙂