The limitation of imitation

Imitation is flattery, or so they say. Technically almost everyone everywhere are copycats in one way or another.  From tattoos, hairstyles, speech mannerisms to personal style we copy what we see to learn. We copied our teachers to learn math, science, English and more. We copy our parents and learn from them how to be adults etc.

In the world of writing, it can be more apparent. While some take inspiration and utilize a style, theme or subject matter others outright thief and pose the work as their own. Tisk-tisk, it’s obvious you know.  This is why copyright laws exist. I talked about this in copyright copyleft a while ago.

How can this behavior apply to writing stories? Well if people do, then the characters should to. What better way is there to endear someone to the protagonist than have someone look up to him or her and mirror them? On the flip-side what better way to toss a little friction in and have someone flat out copycat the protagonist and stir up some trouble? As with everything it can go any possible way, you want. For me I look to see what’s missing, if there’s a lot of drama, maybe a flattery break is needed. If not enough drama then lay anchor matey, the pirates are a coming.

It was too much to deal with. Sasha got up and turned her laptop on. Sleep was not her friend tonight. She couldn’t stop playing the so-called date over and over in her head. The tiny voice suggesting she is being unfair to Scott, then the other voice of reason reminding her he was behaving too pushy and aggressive. Both are traits she wouldn’t have applied to Scott normally. Something was up with him and it struck her as false. Deciding to work for a while, she checked her inbox.
“Huh.” She clicked open a message from Valery titled, Amber rising star.  Sasha left her personal feelings out of her conversations with Valery at work. Outside work they didn’t talk shop often and never gossiped. She read the blurb about Amber’s submission for the candle company. This would not help her sleep. The attached images opened and Sasha stared in disbelief. They were her designs, modified just enough to be passable as Ambers work.
“That sneaky little copy-cat.”  If it had been anyone else, she might have passed it off as flattery, but not Amber. She did this to Tony two months ago and snaked his position and he wound up leaving the company.  Sasha furiously examined each advert and sat back satisfied. She opened a reply box, dropped her image files into it and asked Valery to verify the time dates on Ambers. She didn’t have them, but Sasha did. The only reason Amber would chance copying her work was because lately, since Baylor attacked her, her work has shifted to a more edgier, sharper approach. It was working and getting her some great client feedback.
“We’ll see if you can keep up that level of work on your own missy.” Sasha yawned and closed her laptop after sending her email. She kept is short, sweet and matter of fact. Tomorrow would be an interesting day. The idea of going into the office to face Amber and Scott made her tired enough to finally fall asleep.

While cheating and copying is not the best way to get ahead, some people get away with it and it is infuriating. It is fun to let the antagonist get away with some clearly unjust actions for a while. It builds tension and allows the reader to grow a hatred for one while developing empathy for the other. Someone that can’t get by on their own work are limited to what and who they copy from.

My advice about copycats.
They are a fantastic way to bring some serious frustration into a story. They can also be a great way to bond characters and create lasting relationships. A mentor type situation is a great way to induce friendship.

-Sheryl

Related post  Copyright © Copyleft

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Copycat

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15 thoughts on “The limitation of imitation

  1. A nice post. A glimpse on the issue:

    The intention of the person has to be kept in mind. I have copied someone’s writing style, intentionally and unintentionally. Reframing it, I have taken inspiration from people’s writing style.
    Just because your style resembled someone’s else doesn’t make one a copy-cat. If that were the case than Isaac Newton would have been described a copy-cat: “Copernicus inspired”.
    The multinational companies taking patents for work described in Ayurvedic scriptures would have been labelled an infringement or “copying”.
    There’s a fine line of difference between resemblance, tweaking, copying and being a copy-cat.

    Liked by 1 person

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