Tag Archives: borrowing from the works of another

Taking Inspiration from Another’s Work


A few days ago, I read a powerful 100 word flash fiction piece from an individual¬†who I think is a masterful writer. In reading his story, a novel unfolded in my mind on the spot. The trouble is, the novel needs his words –his idea–¬†to open it. The other author’s words are that powerful. Without his opening, my idea disintegrates.

I thought about the ethics of this. I could re-write the opening to make it my own, but the whole idea of the book exploded from reading the work of another. Legally, there is absolutely no trouble in doing what I’ve suggested. Ideas aren’t copyright-able. But ethically. . .

Maybe it is because the original work belongs to someone I “know” that this whole thought line even started. But it is the first time I’ve given it a thought.

I know, I know. . .there is nothing new under the sun. In truth, the story told by the other writer isn’t new. The human story isn’t new.

But those words of his, they haunt me, even now. And that is exactly why I think they are the perfect words–even re-written–to open a novel.

I wrote to encourage the writer to do just that, expand his flash fiction piece into a full-blown story. I hope he does. Maybe then the urge inside me to explore that story will be quelled. But then, I know his full length story would not be the full length story I want to tell.

So there we go. I am back to start of my dilemma. Any thoughts?