Using prompts or stealing ideas?

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    Hope Ann

    This week’s question has been asked before, but it’s a good one for all of us to think about as we get inspiration all around ourselves. It’s from Grace:

    How do I find and use inspiration from other sources without directly copying or stealing the idea itself? Is using part of an idea from someone else stealing it, what’s the limit, and what is the balance between inspiration and stealing?

    I gave an answer with some tips about how to copy base ideas but make details your own. But I’d love to know how you guys handle this and what your thoughts are.

    Victory in the march. Hope in the destination.


    Hi Hope Ann, I liked the way you addressed this in the newsletter. I don’t have much that I’d want to add to that. I guess for your question, how I would handle this, hm. Well, I can give an example by the speculative romance my fiancé and I are working through. As a young boy he admired bits of the world-building behind the Sailor Moon 90s anime, but something he was bothered by is that male characters there are well, unimportant, ultimately. (I read the manga before, and can definitely attest to that observation.) Instead of supporting the girls, they’re like obstacles and eventually lose purpose. So he started thinking of how to write about magical space knights in a Christian brotherhood, and how their individual purposes (“quests”) were intimately linked to their Father-King/Our Lord, with every knight’s quest involved healing something of the myriad male/female relationships post-Fall.

    In other words, instead of copying Sailor Moon, he took the thing he admired most strongly (magical fighters from the stars), considered what he liked and disliked about how that concept was applied in the show, and created something very different while inspired by something basic — as you said, Hope Ann, about base ideas and making the base ideas one’s own through the details. I hope his example sketches out how your thoughts could be applied. 🙂

    Me? I threw in a couple of young videogaming women with estranged mothers into his brainstorm. Ohohoho~

    + His mercy in your dark.

    Arindown (Gracie)


    This is a really good question. For me, I think the main thing is to remember that there is no such thing as a totally new idea. Ideas are a little bit like matter. You can change them, but you can’t totally create or destroy them. Actually, the best authors you’ve read didn’t come up with everything from scratch. Tolkien didn’t invent Elves, men, rings, dwarves or wizards. Lewis didn’t invent witches, or centaurs, or knights, or fauns. Both authors took the old and well-known, added a dash of new (hobbits, for example) and told a story that is known as a classic of literature.

    I believe that Andrew Peterson uses the phrase, “Steal boldly.” Don’t be afraid to use other’s work as inspiration.

    After all, the best stories are copied off the one God is writing in his children.

    "If I'm gonna break, I'll break like the dawn." -Nightbirde

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