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

The jerk-face warrior

Jerks are people that aren’t necessarily the bad person. I think of jerks that are just contrary or mean without true malice. A self-serving person that is borderline if not a bully. I’ve read books where the protagonist complains about a jerk, but the jerk is either not a jerk or the writer doesn’t show it for it to be believable. Honestly if I want to believe someone is a jerk I want proof, I want the example and I want to agree fully with the protagonist. If I don’t then they lose credibility in my eyes. Show me an ass and I’ll dislike them as I was meant to.

Being mean doesn’t mean the person is bad. A good person or even the hero of the story can be a jerk on a good day. But hey that can lead to some interesting confrontation or dialogue.  If it’s really out of character then maybe it will lead to the revelation moment, when the past or truth is revealed.

 A jerk is condescending to someone undeserving.

Dale rolled his eyes at the barista. “This would be perfect if you’d made it correctly.”
Tittering behind her hand Amber nodded. “It’s too much to ask of the minimum waged.” She whispered loudly.

A jerk is often found giving backhanded compliments. 

Amber smiled sweetly. “The new company promo is out Sasha have you seen it?” “No, not yet.” Sasha smiled and looked at the printout Amber held.
Scott peered over her shoulder. “It’s a good picture of you Sasha, you look slimmer in it.”

A jerk insults someone close, like spouse or family member to/ in front of others.

Sasha took a deep breath and went back to the table. Her father and mother had invited friends, whom she’d never met. Mr. and Mrs. Welsh and they were already three glasses of wine in. The regret to come to this dinner was setting in just fine.
“Sasha darling you do take forever, your food is getting cold.” Her mother smiled and refolded her napkin on her lap.
“Sorry.” Sasha sat and listened to the idle pompous conversation of the wealthy as they ate. She should fit in, she was their daughter, but it wasn’t her cup of tea to boast and brag.
“What is it you do again Sasha?” Mrs. Welsh asked as she lifted her wine to her perfectly painted lips.
“I’m a senior graphic designer at Clifton-” The kick from her mother stopped her from continuing.
Her father smiled and cleared his throat. “Sasha hasn’t found her true calling as of yet. We are hoping she considers law or architecture. Something more respectful.”

A jerk takes food without permission.

Sasha sat at her desk and took out her pumpkin spice muffin. Amber strolled in without knocking and dumped a file on her desk.
“Ooh pumpkin. Yum.” Amber leaned over and pulled a piece off, popped it in her mouth and left.

A jerk brags or boasts.

Scott walked briskly out of Morrison’s office a deep frown on his face.
“What did he want?” Sasha asked as Amber stopped filing and stood beside Sasha. He stopped and pouted prettily then grinned broadly “Guess who got the promotion?” He raised his arms, closed his fists and pointed his thumbs at himself. “This guy, that’s who. Yup. I totally deserved it.”
Sasha plastered a small smile on her face and glanced at Tory, he deserved the promotion hands-down, not Scott.

A jerk leaves a mess behind.

Cal went to the lunchroom as Detective Poulson finished making his coffee.
“Morning Cal, how’s that Crowen case going?” Poulson spilled sugar then set the dirty spoon on the counter beside it.
“I’m heading over to the latest victims house in half an hour.” He held up a box of bagels. “I was just brining these in before I go.”
Poulson picked up his coffee and headed toward the door. “Let me know if you need any help, that prick needs to be locked up once and for all.”
“Will do, thanks.” Cal frowned at the counter as he set the box down and pursed his lips at the wet coffee ring, spilled sugar and dirty spoon. The cloth was less than a foot from the mess, as was the sink.

A jerk in inconsiderate.

Sasha indicated to take the parking space that was just becoming available. Before the car fully drove away another swerved around her and eased into the now vacant spot.
“Hey! I was here first.” She yelled at the driver as he hurriedly got out of his car.
“I’m in a hurry, sorry.” He waved at her absently and kept walking.

A jerk says inappropriate things.

Sasha and Valery leaned over the table looking at the proofs. “That is quite the view.” Scott leered at their backsides as he entered the room.

Amber closed the panel on the projector. “There. All fixed.”
Dale leaned back in his chair. “Not bad for a girl.”

Jerks do a lot more than what I described. Jerks or jerk moments happen, they can be ignored, addressed or confronted. They can be a minor or major part in the transformation of the protagonist or even the antagonist. Whether they start rumors, complain for no good reason, decline donations or contributing to a group gift or are undeservedly bossy, Jerks are necessary for creating conflict or tension, small or large. My husband calls people like this Jerk-face warriors.

My advice about jerks.
If and when someone pisses you off, think about why and what they did. Will that work in your story? I don’t recommend making it over the top in your face without provocation. Jerks are just simple small people that make life less pleasant and the work day just a wee bit longer.

-Sheryl

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Transformation