be sure to check out Joan's latest on her website:

be sure to check out Joan's latest on her website: (usually she updates her blog every Sunday evening but she can and will surprise you) **Special Note: all of Joan's archives are now up--almost ten years of 'bitter girl.' As Joan says, go wild!**

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Everyone steals from everyone else but no one wants to admit it--except me. For example, I've stolen the format for these posts from Humbert's journal entries in Part One of my favorite book--Lolita. But if you never read that book, you'd never know it. Incidentally, if you never have read that book, I entirely recommend it, if for no other reason than the sheer entertainment value. Whatever else it is, it remains the funniest book I've ever read.
But that aside, the reason that I read that and the John Updike Rabbit books is because of the descriptive narrative passages. Descriptive narrative is something I'm not good at and thus detest--my strong points are characterization and dialog, so that's what I like doing the most. But one of the things I've learned in trying to get my books published is that not everyone skips the descriptive narrative sections of a book as I routinely do. Some people actually get into them--and many of these people have high ranking places in publishing, it appears.
Stealing first came to my attention when I started watching Akira Kurosawa films. I saw Ran when it first came out and I really liked it a lot. When I mentioned this to a friend, he suggested that I check out Seven Samurai. I did, and the rest is history.
But the more I watched these and other Kurosawa movies, the more I became aware of how much they had been ripped off by Hollywood and elsewhere. Now, I realize 'rip off' and 'stealing' are highly negative and may sound harsh, and other people have nicer words or less stigmatized phrases for what I mean here, such as 'borrowing' or 're-imagining' or 'derivative' or even 'inspired by' or 'homage to.' But what this comes down to is the extent to which the original source material has been mined.
By way of colorful contrast, Kurosawa himself stole liberally from Shakespeare for the scripts to his films--after all, if you're going to loot, why not plunder the best? But to me there's a big difference between, say, Kurosawa taking the story of Macbeth along with plot devices from Hamlet, Richard the Third and Henry the Fifth and him coming up with Throne of Blood as compared to another major studio ripping off Yojimbo for the nth time to come up with the latest wise-cracking hero action adventure Bruce Willis/Sylvester Stallone/Arnold Schwarzenegger et al. vehicle.
Another example of what I mean is the source of where I ripped off the plot to my latest completed novel--Gall Force, which is an animated Japanese series of movies that didn't get a wide release in this country. In their version, the scientist on the moon who finds the ancient aliens' data chip simply announces it to the world--and is subsequently aghast when everyone starts fighting over it. I thought, Hm--suppose he didn't tell anyone--how would this play out? I was off and running.
I mention the Gall Force series specifically because I'm not the only person to have stolen from them. James Cameron, the man behind the Terminator movies, who also did Titanic, stole actual dialog from Gall Force Earth Chapter 3 for one scene in his third Terminator movie. This is bad. Borrowing plot ideas is one thing, but when you can't even write your own dialog, this exposes to me the shameful bankruptcy of your creativity for all to mournfully witness.
But enough of my soap box. Beach report: mostly sunny with lots of people having fun on Labor Day. No baby sea turtles but some actual honeys were sighted. Fisherfools vastly outnumbered fishermen in Juno. The sky was so beautiful that words cannot describe it, nor can mere photographs do it justice, but I thought I'd include one, just for the heck of it. Before I left for my eight-plus hours of walking, though, I found and corrected one mistake that I discovered in the manuscript for the 'completed' book--in a part I had gone over with Klara but neither of us had spotted the typo--an omitted 'd,' reducing God to Go. And they say women's work is never done.
This is why James J. Kilpatrick in his weekly column would always lecture us aspiring writers to Read Your Copy--and then Read It Again. Repeat as necessary. World without end. Amen.

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