Lyn Gala

One writer's journal through one version of reality


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Submissives, fanfic, and an Apology to Jayne

code4Well, I finally updated my webpage, and I have to give up on Firefly.

No, don’t get your panties bunched. I still love the show. I still love the fanfic I have done with the show, but I just don’t write that much fanfic with it, so my fourth slot on my main page switched from Firefly to Stargate.

You see, the only thing I miss in Firefly is a sexual relationship between the characters. I started with Thoughts Colored Ugly where River’s telepathic powers allows her to see Jayne’s submissive nature, but she accidentally drives him away before she can step up and claim her man.

I then did Old War Horses, which I loved. Jim (The Sentinel) had been a Purple Belly government officer who had been turned into a government experiment. While fleeing from arrest, he runs into Mal and the Serenity, who have very strong Browncoat feelings. I loved watching these two try to continue a war when both of them had lost the war so long ago, and it let me play with my favorite dynamic—the strong submissive.

I love kick-ass submissives. I love the idea of someone having power and choosing to lay it at the feet of the person they love. I think you can see that in Liam and Tom and Ferro, and so many of my submissive characters.

Jayne is the ultimate strong submissive. When I see how, in canon, he was willing to accept his death if it came at Mal’s hands, when I saw him follow Mal into certain death with the Reavers when he couldn’t follow any other captain through a simple trade… I knew him. He was my strong submissive.

I thought I would be able to play with Jayne forever.

So I started Big Damn Dog, and I realized I had run out of fuel in the tank.

You see, there’s really nothing else I can change or fix in the series. Once I have my beautiful submissive Jayne settled, I’m happy with Joss’ world. I’m done. I don’t feel the call of any more epic stories—I can just go watch the series and be sated.

But Stargate? Oh, yeah. That’s just a hot mess.

The Not in Kansas series lets me totally stick my fingers in both SG1 (to poke Jack’s all symbiotes are evil button) and in Atlantis (to poke the let’s run this like a base and not the colony it is button). Face it, both ideas are pretty dumb. No species is evil as a whole—there’s just some other definition of right and wrong going on in that alien head. In my universe, the goa’uld are what happens when a perfectly sane symbiote has the bad luck to join with a psychotic/sociopathic ancient race and learn all about power and pain. And when Gibbs and Tony move to Atlantis in not one but two 100K epics, that poor city never saw it coming!

The Magical Cage let me poke at the Wraith/vampire connection by pulling Buffy in. The Shadows Universe let me use The Sentinel and their fear of government as well as La Femme Nikita to point out that the SGC is a scary covert ops world, we just see the friendly face of all the scary. We see that again in Dr. Sandburg Finds a Sentinel.

Dark Still Water gives Teal’c the voice he never got in canon, and lets the SG1 folk torture Jim (The Sentinel) for his most assholish season 4 behavior.  Airman Harris lets me poke at all the psychological damage these people take that rarely gets addressed in canon.

Yep, the Stargate universe feels more flawed. It ignores the very ideas I want to explore. It’s more interesting because it’s more flawed, so Stargate has now officially bumped Firefly off the main page.

I’m sorry, Jayne. I still love you!

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The Claimings sequel… coming soon… hopefully

GalaClaimingWell, the Claimings sequel is done and off to the betas. In two weeks, I will be turning that puppy in to Loose Id.

I’ve titled this one Assimilation, Wars, and Other Human Oddities, but we’ll see what the publisher calls it.

The first novel flew out of me as fast as I could write it, but this new one… oy! If I hadn’t promised fans of the first book that I was working on a sequel, I would have walked away.

So, in the reviews, people complained Liam was too much of a pushover. Wait. He’s a linguist, a soldier, a man who walked away from a long-term abusive relationship (which takes balls). Anyway, I started writing, but I think their complaint got in my head because I did two chapters, and I realized… wait… THIS Liam is a pushover. Where is MY Liam?

This is why I suck at sequels. It’s like the feedback gets in my head. That never happens with my fanfic. My god, my Igigi series (NCIS/SG1/Stargate Atlantis) is over 200,000 words with hundreds if not thousands of comments now. But I never feel pushed by feedback because Tony is Tony. You can’t push my interpretation of Tony.

Alas, Liam needed time to settle in and get his feet under him, so I read the first book again and set the sequel aside. So, a while later (that would be while defined in months, not days), I picked up the sequel again. Okay, so I wanted to show more humans. I would have a human ship crash land and Rownt are not terribly interested in mounting rescue missions so Liam and Ondry would go.

This sometimes happens to me when I’m writing. It’s called a really bad idea. I mean, Rownt are technologically advanced. They have a network of satellites. They have ordered humans to land only at one place, and considering that humans are in their own civil war, no commander would give a shit what some primitive society thought unless he could see the space weapons.

So, how is it that Rownt, who are predatory and who have a finely nuanced understanding of deception, would allow a ship of humans to land without either A) challenging them or B) blowing them out of the sky on the off chance the ship is a weapon?

Yeah, that didn’t work. So I set the story aside for a while. Do you see how I’m using that word “while” again?

So finally I had a good idea. I have a new character who can come down. After all, Liam mentioned that he wasn’t a real linguist by training. Well if things with Rownt had turned interesting, then shouldn’t Earth send a real linguist, a first contact specialist? So Captain Susan Diallo was born and I finally started writing chapters I liked.

And then my mom had her first stroke.

Can we just say that my writing suddenly became a whole lot less important to me? My mom was in and out of ICU, multiple surgeries, and finally she came home. My sister came to live with me for a few months because I was trying to not completely fuck up my day job. I learned lots of nifty new skills like taking blood pressures and blood oxygen levels, changing dressings, and assisting the elderly in personal hygiene.

A fun time was not had by all.

But then she started sleeping through the night and moving around the house without a walker. My sister went home, and I started tinkering with the sequel again. I got several chapters written. I was feeling good.

And then one of the boys in my class had a catastrophic drop in grades. He turned surly when he was a great kid. I came down on him like a ton of bricks to keep his grades up and not lose credit, but he would not talk to me. I called home.

And found he didn’t live at home.

He was gay.

His religious parents found out.

Oh boy. So I called him in after school and we talked. He was living with a friend. I hooked him up with the social worker, who will explain things to his parents like they legally HAVE to support him until he’s eighteen so they can pay frikkin’ child support. The family that took him in was awesome, and he did get the credit in my class (although I know he failed at least one other).

And I was so angry. I wanted to go hit his parents with the biggest stick I could lift, only the police frown on that sort of thing, and I’m really not cut out for prison.

I was so fucking pissed that I could not write lovey scenes between Liam and Ondry if you paid me.

I couldn’t.

So I started an angry story. Dallin Mecham was kicked out at sixteen. He went to the nearest big city to lose himself and ended up a whore in Phoenix. But that was ten years ago. He’d crawled out of the gutter, started up a small business, and started making a life for himself. And that’s when the economy tanked. So he was homeless and clinging to the edge of losing everything when he went back to his old pimp and got set up with a long-term client who would help pay the bills.

Of course William has his own issues, but the part that was cathartic for me was writing Dallin.

He got kicked in the teeth over and over, and yet he was in there swinging. He set the rules and if people didn’t live by them, he would spit in their eye and walk away. And of course his family shows up at some point. I had to get my rage out somewhere.

But all that meant that Claimings was in the back seat AGAIN.

I swear, this sequel is cursed.

But finally I worked out my rage (and boy did I write Two Steps Back in a hurry… turns out that rage is a good motivator for my muse). So, I was ready for something softer.

I went back to Claimings, and this time I didn’t post chapters for my writers group. I didn’t let any voice get in my head but Liam’s and I wrote.

Yesterday I finished the story and posted to my group asking if anyone in the reader’s group still wanted to read it and give feedback for any revisions before I sent it off to Loose Id. It’s done. Finally.

In two weeks it goes to Loose Id, who already has Two Steps Back.

Hopefully the title will join the “Coming Soon” page in the near future.


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Blog Tour

habeas corpseI often avoid writing about writing because I don’t want to bore everyone. But Nikki Hopeman invited me to do a little blog hopping. She writes some very sharp plotty stuff, and she has a way of bringing old subjects new life. Metaphorically anyway. Habeas Corpse is zombies like you’ve never seen them before. You should definitely check it out.

So, it’s time to tour. I have four questions here:

1) What am I working on?

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

3) Why do I write what I do?

4) How does my writing process work?

 

1) What am I working on?

That’s a difficult question. I am trying to finish the Claimings sequel. Once I get “distracted” from a story, it’s hard for me to pick up the threads again, and my mother’s recent hospitalization definitely interrupted the creative process, so I’m just now trying to get back into the swing of the story. Right now, I have the sequel tentatively titled Assimilation, War, and Other Human Oddities. Ondry and Liam are doing well, but the human base has sent a new trader—a linguist expert—to try and forge a stronger alliance between humans and Rownt because the universe is changing. Captain Susan Diallo will be joining the cast as the government’s new head negotiator.

I also have a couple of books that are well into the process, but I’ve managed to lose interest or lose the threads of the narrative long enough that I don’t know how to pick them up. Desert World Immigrants follows Verly Black and Naite Polli from the Desert World universe. Customary Miracles is about a geeky, unlucky-in-love author who meets an equally geeky professor of comparative religions from India.

After that, I have dozens of ideas, some of which are more likely to hit the paper than others. Saddled, Ghosts of the Living, Exposure, Asymmetrical, Vicissitudes of Magic... they are all alive in my head, and I have no idea when or even if they’ll hit the page.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Wow. Okay, that’s hard to answer. I do think I am plottier than a lot of writers. The sex isn’t the most important part of the story—not even close. I like poking the characters’ psyches. I have an advanced degree in international relations, which includes a lot of sociology and psychology. I think that comes out in my writing. Of course, sometimes that’s not a good thing. I remember I had a reviewer shred Gathering Storm because of how unrealistic the characters were. I laughed a little at the thought of a few years undercover being unrealistic. My bad guy was larger than life, sure, but the news is full of stories of how psychopaths will engage in stalking over for years. That’s what they do. And at the time I wrote Gathering Storm, I was working on a set of classes related to the Middle East and the spy-fest of love that Israel and her neighbors had during the Cold War era. Wolfgang Lotz spent four or five years just setting up his cover before going into Egypt. Avri El-Ad had his circumcision reversed, which was a dangerous and painful surgery in the 1950s. Seriously… who does that? Then of course you have his buddy Philip Nathanson who set fire to his own pants on accident while trying to firebomb the Egyptians so Israel could blame the Moslem Brotherhood (look up the Lavon Affair… it’s really kinda pathetic). Anyway, I think that background makes my characters a little bigger and broader. I won’t say they’re bigger than life because they aren’t, but I draw from a weird part of life that I don’t think many people know.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I write a bit of everything… if you add in my fanfic, I don’t think there’s a genre I haven’t touched. I’ve done gen and romance. I’ve written het couples and gay couples. I’ve done mystery and sci fi and fantasy and contemporary. I like writing everything because life is everything. I get bored doing one thing too much, so I want to be out there exploring new ideas and new psyches. I find myself particularly drawn to stories where I have to research because that lets me get out there and learn something new myself. I spent a lot of time reading research about the Sioux when I wrote Drift because I wanted Shank’s family to have some real connection to the people they would have called ancestors. I read on Jewish culture for Urban Shaman and I read some truly depressing pieces on front line psychology for Turbulence and Claimings. I like exploring the world.

4) How does my writing process work?

When I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

Seriously.

Some stories flow out. I literally can’t write fast enough to keep up with my ideas and I can sometimes get in 10,000 words in a day. I’ve had a number of fanfic pieces like that. Claimings was like that as was Shepherd, Slave and Vow.

Other stories come with the dialog first. In Mountain Prey and Turbulence, I wrote most of the dialog first. I could “hear” the guys talking so well that I would just type as fast as I could as they sniped at each other, and I would go back and add in the action later. Desert World came to me in images first. I wrote out scenes of the desert and of Shan’s bike sliding down the dunes long before I wrote any of the interactions between the characters.

When I write, I always know where I want to end up. Always. Everything else is up in the air. Every book involved a different process. I have figured out one thing though. If I outline a book, I’m sunk. That’s it. Once a book is outlined, I can never work on it again because I either try so hard to follow the outline that I screw myself or my characters refuse to fit into the neat boxes I’ve made and I get writer’s block. So outlines are a dirty word around my house.

 

Now I should have found other authors (published or non-published) to carry this blog post forward. You know… link back to the person you got it from and then answer the four questions. Yeah… I know I’ve mentioned how much I try to avoid asking people to do things because social interactions aren’t my thing. So if you want to, do. I’d like to see what you guys come up with.

Leave a link to your post in comments so I can read it!

And now I’d like to invite you to visit these other authors to see how they view their work and learn more about their writing process.

Scott A. Johnson writes in several genres including nonfiction and horror. Visit his blog at Write Stranger.

Kerri-Leigh Grady is an editor and a writer of dark fiction. She blogs here.

Ann Laurel Kopchik writes fantasy, both of the elvish and bedroom kind. Go see her blog here.

Madeline Price writes dark and sexy fantasies. Find out more about her books and her writing process here.


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Branding

vicissitudesHave a brand.  That’s the advice I hear on the business end of writing.

If you’re going to do femdom, do only femdom.  If you’re going to write fantasy, stick to fantasy so those fans will find you.

Clearly I suck at this.  I write all sorts of genres and I like them all.  Well, I don’t like “Long, Lonely Howl,” but that’s more because I wrote it during one of the darkest points in my life when I honestly thought I might be in the sort of serious trouble that leads to someone being homeless.  *shrug*

But my point is that I’m all over the place.  Claimings is soft scifi. Blowback, Drift, Turbulence, the two Desert World books are all hard scifi. Mountain Prey, Fettered, Gathering Storm, Out of Balance, and Lines in the Sand are contemporary.  Long, Lonely Howl, Insistent Hunger, Urban Shaman and Shepard, Slave and Vow are all fantasy.

Some books are BDSM, some aren’t.  Some are het, most aren’t.

I’m all over.

And now my muse wants to add horror.  I was poking around thinking of a Nano to work on (the promise of a new project always makes me finish old ones, and Drift is almost done.  Jacqs and Zeke are back in the narrative).

My twisted muse came up with Vicissitudes of Magic.

David is a computer tech who helps run a detective/fix-it/protection agency with his best friend from high school, Rosaline.  The third partner is her magical mentor Ulric.  Wizards in general have very little patience for “mundanes,” a term David loathes, but he and Rosaline are close despite all the discrimination from this secret sect of society.

However, a new player has come on the scene, and he has plans for all of them, but especially for David and Ulric’s own teacher, a handsome man named Faulkner who is dark and deadly and utterly uninterested in anything mundane.  One little spell and David finds himself a prisoner and a pawn as good guys turn bad guys, as bad guys turn worse guys, and as the wizard world threatens to rise up out of the shadows and destroy everyone. David figures he can survive the torture, but the threat of being used to destroy his world tears at his soul like no pain every could.

This is definitely too dark for Loose Id.  Maybe.  I don’t know.  I’m only on chapter one, and it’s not exactly fluffy and light.  I think I like Gary from Fettered (the rapist) more than I like some of these assholes.


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Finding your Muse

I rarely have writer’s block. I’m more likely to get buried under ideas.  I’ve read all sorts of posts from other writers (usually in professional self-help books) about how to find the muse.

Some advice is amusing; some seems downright dangerous from a writing point of view.

So, what do I do? I follow my muse wherever she wants to go.  Generally that means I go to dialogue first because that is my favorite part of writing.  When I really get going, I can almost hear the voices, and I don’t bother with quote marks or physical action or anything… that’s part of revision.

I think every author should do that.  No, I don’t think everyone should do dialogue first… I think everyone should write what makes them happy.  You should start with the part that you love, and then you create something others can love too.

Take this.  This might never be more than a snippet on my hard drive.  I may come back and write this later.  Who knows. I only know I loved writing it.  If I want to do more with it later, then it becomes work. Right now, this is pure joy as Avery, a die-hard feminist raised by two lesbians tries hard to reconcile her independent nature and her unexpected reaction to Fifty Shades of Grey.  Her husband is just confused.

 

Old Married Kink

Okay, either I’m losing my charm or something’s wrong.

Nothing’s wrong.

Well, that’s actually a little upsetting because the logical conclusion would then be that I’m losing my charm.

Of course you’re not, you giant stud muffin of studliness.

Damn right. Right now, I’m going with the assumption that something’s wrong because my studly powers are at full strength.

You’re a dork

Guilty as charged, and I have the Babylon Five soundtrack to prove it. Now, if you’re through avoiding, maybe you can tell me what’s wrong.

Okay, but you can’t laugh.

Not my first thought. I’m actually starting to worry.

Rachel loaned me a book. A really stupid book, but I can’t get it out of my mind.

A book? Why would I laugh about a book?

Because of what book it is?

What? You read one of those Harlequin romances with that long-haired douchebag on the front? Oh crap. You didn’t, did you? Not that I would judge. Much.

No, I didn’t. They stopped having douchebags on front back in the nineties, anyway. You know, I could make an argument that those covers were at least a salvo in the battle of the sexes. Women have been objectified forever, but for men, Fabio was a new phenomenon. None of us wanted to hear from him. We wanted him to shut up and look pretty. God, that’s actually really pathetic. Instead of trying to change the objectification of human beings, we just spread it.

I think that was the Harlequin people, not the feminists.

Probably. Most feminists were running as far from those books as they could get, which is why I considered them prime rebellion material. God, my mothers would have spontaneously given birth to puppies if they’d known I was reading those.

Wait, you’re admitting to reading cheesy romance novels, but you’re still embarrassed about whatever Rachel loaned you? You have now successfully distracted me from sex with my beautiful wife.

Well that’s ironic.

Okay, talk or I’m sending a strip’o’gram to your office.

Rachel would worship you if you did

Rachel is a fruitcake so I would prefer she worship someone else. Now what did she loan you?

Fifty Shades of Grey.

That sex book?

Wait, how do you know about it?

Hell, all the guys at the firm are talking about getting their wives and girlfriends to read it because they want to have kinky sex and they don’t have balls big enough to ask for it straight up. Oh shit. Do you…

I have balls, even if I don’t have balls.

I’m not doubting it. I’ve seen you make accountants cry.

This is stupid.

What this are we talking about?

Do you know how sexuality is turned into a weapon against women?

Did we change the topic?

And now women are just handing over their power because they think it’s sexy. They expect the man who ties them up to magically turn into Prince Charming with his billions and his jet.

I don’t think Prince Charming had—

Christian Grey is an ass. He’s an abusive son of a bitch who uses his privilege like an ax, like an ax he doesn’t even know he has because he’s Christian Gray so of course the world bends itself into a pretzel for him.

Okay.

Ana needs to grow a metaphysical pair. If you ever talked to me the way Christian talks to her, you would be in search of a therapist or a divorce lawyer, depending on my mood. But I wouldn’t go sighing and weeping away.

Note taken

I mean, I love the shit out of you, but I would kick your ass up between your shoulder blades.

Uh-huh.

It’s like the feminist revolution never happened, and I am not talking about the kink. If people want to be kinky, that has no bearing on their actual power.

Really.

Did you know there was a study showing that people involved in kink were actually mentally healthier? They faced the hard psychological work of accepting themselves and didn’t get caught up in defining themselves by how the society defined them.

You researched this?

Of course I did. I research everything. But that’s not what we’re talking about.

Right now, I could really use some bullet lists.

I liked that stupid book, which is stupid.

Stupid, check. Now, when you say you ‘like’ the book…

Women have fought to get their power back, and just handing it over like that feels… wrong.

Power?

The sex in books never even approaches reality. The whole submitting thing is probably just bullshit.

Submitting like tying up?

Why would that make the sex better? Sure, I can imagine that it reduces performance anxiety. You can’t be blamed for something going wrong if you’re tied up, that that is so dishonest. The whole ‘lay back and think of English’ bullshit is part of our history. Of course, if certain people have their way, women are going to be right back there again.

Stop. I’m getting seasick here.

And us. We’ve been married four years. I’m good at sex, so it’s ridiculous to think I need an excuse to… I don’t know, lay there and do nothing.

Seriously, Avery, I’m starting to really get lost here. Are we talking about spicing up the sex life?

Power games are fine for people who need them.

And they’re fine for people who are just playing around.

Really? Would you lie down and let me tie you up and ride you?

Okay, the little head is voting yes. And you sound like you’re trying to use feminism to guilt trip yourself.

Hey, don’t bash feminism.

I’m not. I’m bashing the idea of using feminism to make yourself feel bad. If you want to spice up the bedroom, I am not going to turn you down.

You think we need spicing up?

There is no answer I can give without digging myself a hole to China. However, I will say that I am a man, and as a stereotypical, testosterone-driven male, I will take sex any way I can get it.

Even if it involves rope?

Oh hell yes.

You’re supposed to be making fun of this book with me. I mean, I never thought about this stuff until I read that book, and now I can’t think about anything else.

So, we try something. Either we like it or we don’t.

Or one of us likes it and one doesn’t.

Let me repeat—I’m a man. I like sex. I’m going to be good either way, but when you’re enjoying yourself, I have a lot more fun. So, if you like it, we keep doing it. If you don’t, we don’t.

That’s totally unfair to you.

Seriously, Avery. Stop overthinking it. In my mind it goes sex equals good.  Any sex. So tell me one thing you’re thinking about. Just one. Please.

 

 


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Reader first

ImageWriting isn’t about writing. It just isn’t.

Writing only becomes significant when it is read. If I write a masterpiece, but I do it in a language that only I can read, I’ve failed.  I’ve failed to use my words to entertain or enlighten.  I’ve failed to take anyone on an emotional journey.  So that brilliant story written in my special code is an utter failure.

What is important is how people read a text.

I am the first to make fun of 50 Shades of Grey.  Truly that book is… yeah.  However, it is successful, and not because of the money.  Okay, not only because of the money.  Face it, that book convinced women to open their minds and explore their own sexuality.  That is powerful.  And the power doesn’t come from the act of writing—all the power comes from the reading.

I never intended the message of Fettered to be that SSC is wrong.  I meant to show that it’s not the only philosophy out there, and by putting Guard in the plot, I hoped to show that everyone had to find their own dynamic. Guard would be the better partner for most subs, just not for Dylan. However, the reader who takes it as an attack on SSC isn’t wrong because that is the interpretation they took from the book, and I can even see where it came from.

My intent is not the ruling factor in understanding my books.

It’s like C.S. Lewis who didn’t intend to write an analogy of Christ, but his children’s book The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, is exactly that.  His intent doesn’t matter as much as the message the reader takes.

But that leaves writers in a difficult situation, especially since for some authors, the line between author and work is dangerously narrow. We all put ourselves in our novels, even when we claim we don’t. So when readers seem to look at our book through a different lens (not wrong, just different), it’s hard to stand back and let that happen.

I know that some authors avoid the review sites because they don’t want to see how others are taking their work. They want to hold onto their own pure image of the text and the tangle of conflicting interpretations strangles their muse.

I’m not so good at avoiding reviews, though, so I have to go into every new review remembering that my books aren’t me.  Readers, reviewers and even my friends have a right to dislike my work. Given that I range from action to scifi to contemporary to paranormal, there’s a good change that any given friend will dislike at least one thing I’ve written.  Add in fanfic, and I’ve run the range from rape recovery fic to pony play to bukkake. Yeah, don’t judge. It was for kink bingo, and I actually made it about the woman-power.

But the point is that someone is going to dislike a story. It doesn’t mean they dislike me.  I had a creative writing professor who put it this way—you have to put your kid on the bus and let other people call him ugly. If you don’t, that story will never grow up and find his way into the world.

Great advice, but not that easy to take.  I think I’ve had it easy because I came up through fanfic.  Say what you want, but fanfic is a playground in more ways than one.  Sure, you make sandcastles out of other people’s stories, but you also learn about the playground rules.  And trust me, there are some nasty playground fights in fanfic.

If you can’t learn to enjoy fandom and shut off some of the nastier comments, you’re going to get driven right back out.

So it’s easier for me to put my kids on that bus. It’s easier for me to have other people call them ugly. It’s easier for me to separate myself from my stories and to step back when someone calls my kids ugly.  Sometimes, I’m even willing to admit that I’ve birthed a few ugly children.


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How to Plagiarize

writing pen artistic

Pulled to publish fanfiction. A dozen different books that feature a bazillionaire with sex issues falling for the innocent virgin.  Plagiarism.

These are the key words that are designed to make reviewers’ hearts skip a beat.  They rail.  They pound the keyboards in fury.

What is an author to do?  Simple.  Plagiarize well.  Yep.  You need to know your plagiarism rules.

Rule 1: Setting

If you’re ripping off something (your work or someone else’s), change the setting.  No, that does not mean go from Washington State University Vancouver to University of Oregon.  It means you change the whole reality.  You move from contemporary to science fiction, from fantasy to historical.  You really get off your ass and move that entire reality.

Let’s look at a confrontation from my fanfic “Butterfly Kisses” where Xander learns that his former mentor nearly got him killed while plotting to kill their former enemy turned ally and lover—Spike.

“Honey, we’re home,” Xander called as he walked in the door, bellowing like a sitcom father.

“Xander. Oh thank god,” Giles said. Giles’ smile vanished when Spike followed.

“Evening,” Spike said, narrowing his eyes in warning. He wanted to kill, and Rupert needed to understand that the soul wouldn’t stop Spike—not when he faced an enemy. As far as Spike was concerned, putting Rupert down would be a favor to Buffy and Xander.

“Spike.” Giles’ voice was utterly devoid of emotion.

“Funny thing happened on the way to the forums,” Xander said with a mock cheerfulness that reminded Spike eerily of Angelus, “and now it’s time for all the little Watchers to get the hell out of my house.”

“What?” Willow had been sitting in Spike’s chair, a huge book in her lap, but now her head snapped up like a poppet’s.

Being fanfic, this is set in the world of slayers and vampires and watchers created by Joss Whedon. I really can’t copy that setting. So how about turning this into a hard-core science fiction?

There are no slayers, so to give Buffy’s character authority and leadership responsibility, we can have her be the captain.  Giles, her former mentor, can then be a retired captain she served under for years before having to ask for his help. And the reference to Angelus won’t work, because the setting has changed, so we’ll have to be more explicit there. That could work. So, let’s run the text through that filter.

“Honey, we’re home,” Xander called as he stepped up the ramp into the loading bay proper.  He bellowed the words like some sort of sitcom father from those old vids from Earth.

“Xander. Oh thank god,” Captain Giles said. His smile vanished when Spike followed.

“Evening,” Spike said, narrowing his eyes in warning. He wanted to kill, and the captain needed to understand that the fear of getting arrested wouldn’t stop Spike—not when he faced an enemy. As far as Spike was concerned, putting Rupert down would be a favor to Buffy and Xander.

“Spike.” The captain’s voice was utterly devoid of emotion.

“Funny thing happened on the way to the forums,” Xander said with a mock cheerfulness that reminded Spike eerily of his old captain when he’d run with the pirates.  That man had seen a good disemboweling as art, and right now, Spike was starting to think that Xander might have that same violence in him. “Now it’s time for all the little ex-Captains to get the hell off of my ship.”

“What?” Willow had been entering data onto the deck console, but now her head snapped up like a poppet’s.

Rule 2: Characterization

Now we’re getting somewhere. It’s starting to feel a little better, but it’s still nowhere near acceptable because the characters are still clearly fanfic characters, especially Xander.  That inappropriate humor is totally Xander, and I need to give my original story original characters.

Okay, so my Xander is going to be a little darker, edgier and a man of fewer words.

But wait.  If he’s all danger-boy, then why would he need to make an alliance with a dangerous ex-pirate Spike?  Why would Giles be surprised that Xander survived?  Okay, this changing personality thing is harder than it looks.

Right then, what if Xander is a bookish sort, sick from childhood with lungs still prone to pneumonia?  The rest of the crew are family, and they’ve sheltered him, and only Spike—the newest on the ship—notices that Xander has a coldly dangerous mind.  Okay, that fits.  Let’s run that through.

“We’re back,” Xander called as he stepped up the ramp into the loading bay proper.  His voice rasped, but given their recent adventures, it was hardly surprising. At least he’d gotten control of the coughing that had racked him earlier.

“Xander. Oh thank god,” Captain Giles said. His smile vanished when Spike followed.

“Evening,” Spike said, narrowing his eyes in warning. He wanted to kill, and the captain needed to understand that the fear of getting arrested wouldn’t stop Spike—not when he faced an enemy. As far as Spike was concerned, putting Rupert down would be a favor to Buffy and Xander.

“Spike.” The captain’s voice was utterly devoid of emotion.

“You won’t guess who we ran into on dock,” Xander said with a mock cheerfulness that reminded Spike eerily of his old captain when he’d run with the pirates.  That man had seen a good disemboweling as art, and right now, Spike was starting to think that Xander might have that same violence in him. “Now it’s time for certain ex-Captains to get the hell off of my ship.”

“What?” Willow had been entering data onto the deck console, but now her head snapped up like a poppet’s.

Better, but not okay. Spike still sounds awfully Spike-like.  Okay, so we know he’s a pirate, right?  Well, ex-pirate.  He’s a bad guy turned good guy who still has a lot of the bad going for him, but if he was a space pirate and all-around bad-ass, when did he have time to learn words like “poppet”?  Yeah. Never.  So, through another filter we go, this time for Spike.

“All clear,” Spike said, narrowing his eyes in warning. He wanted to put a blaster in this asshole’s gut and pull the trigger.  He desperately wanted to see flesh rip and burn as Giles’ collapsed with his hands clutching at his stomach.  And the captain needed to understand that the fear of getting arrested wouldn’t stop Spike—not when he faced an enemy. As far as Spike was concerned, blasting a hole in Rupert Giles would be a favor to Xander and Captain Summers.

“Spike.” The captain’s voice was utterly devoid of emotion.

“You won’t guess who we ran into on dock,” Xander said with a mock cheerfulness that reminded Spike eerily of his old captain when he’d run with the pirates.  That man had seen a good disemboweling as art, and right now, Spike was starting to think that Xander might have that same violence in him.

“Now it’s time for certain ex-Captains to get the hell off of my ship.”

“What?” Willow had been entering data onto the deck console, but now her head came up like a gun turret snapping into position.

Whoo hoo.  Okay, that sounds good.  But wait.  Xander and Buffy Summers and Spike and Giles?  Yeah, the names have got to go.

“We’re back,” Hill called as he stepped up the ramp into the loading bay proper.  His voice rasped, but given their recent adventures, it was hardly surprising. At least he’d gotten control of the coughing that had racked him earlier.

“Hill. Oh thank god,” Captain Courvier said. His smile vanished when Mueller followed.

“All clear,” Mueller said, narrowing his eyes in warning. He wanted to put a blaster in this asshole’s gut and pull the trigger.  He desperately wanted to see flesh rip and burn as Courvier collapsed with his hands clutching at his stomach.  And the captain needed to understand that the fear of getting arrested wouldn’t stop Muller—not when he faced an enemy. As far as Muller was concerned, blasting a hole in Rupert Giles would be a favor to Hill and Captain Bolton.

“Muller.” Courvier’s voice was utterly devoid of emotion.

“You won’t guess who we ran into on dock,” Hill said with a mock cheerfulness that reminded Muller eerily of his old captain when he’d run with the pirates.  That man had seen a good disemboweling as art, and right now, Muller was starting to think that quiet, bookish little Hill might have that same violence in him. Hill smiled maliciously as he delivered his next line.

“Now it’s time for certain ex-Captains to get the hell off of my ship.”

“What?” Della had been entering data onto the deck console, but now her head came up like a gun turret snapping into position.

Rule 3: Plot

The plot has to be changed enough to fit this new setting and new characterization.  If you change it enough to do that, trust me, you will change it enough that no one will catch you copying.  Right then, if we’re in space, the big bad is clearly not the First.  And honestly, I’m bored with the all-controlling government as the big bad.

So, let’s make the big bad a mining conglomerate called the Viking Company that is trying to monopolize the jump gates.  Hill and his Captain Shelly Bolton are a small family ship trying to fight back when the company goes from lawsuits (which they lose) to hiring pirates to drive off the other ships.

Muller comes into the plot when he jumps from pirating to the Bolton family ship to try and save his sister.  His sister doesn’t appreciate his attempts to get her out of the path of danger, and she tells him to fuck off before shooting him in the leg, leaving Muller to either crew up with the Boltons or get spaced when his old enemies catch up with him. That seems at least as believable as the subplot with Drusilla, and no, we’re not even going to discuss the damn chip.

Okay, this has some possibility.

“We’re back,” Hill called as he stepped up the ramp into the loading bay proper.  His voice rasped, but given their recent adventures, it was hardly surprising. At least he’d gotten control of the coughing that had racked him earlier.

“Hill. Oh thank god,” Captain Courvier said. His smile vanished when Mueller followed.

“All clear,” Mueller said as he scanned the deck behind them for danger. It wasn’t like the Viking Company to give up on an opportunity to sabotage a ship, particularly the Bolton’s Highflyer. It made Muller wonder what fee Courvair had gotten in return for trying to betray him to his old crew. On pirate ships, he would have expected betrayal, but being on the Highflyer was making him soft because it fucking hurt to think that this asshole had tried to sell him out.

He wanted to put a blaster in this asshole’s gut and pull the trigger.  He desperately wanted to see flesh rip and burn as Courvier collapsed with his hands clutching at his stomach.  And Courvair needed to understand that the fear of getting arrested or of getting tortured by his old crew wouldn’t stop Muller. As far as Muller was concerned, blasting a hole in Daniel Courvier would be a favor to Hill and Captain Bolton.

“Muller.” Courvier’s voice was utterly devoid of emotion.

“You won’t guess who we ran into on dock,” Hill said with a mock cheerfulness that reminded Muller eerily of his old captain.  That man had seen a good disemboweling as art, and right now, Muller was starting to think that quiet, bookish little Hill might have that same violence in him. Hill smiled maliciously as he delivered his next line.

“Now it’s time for certain ex-Captains to get the hell off of my ship.”

“What?” Della had been entering data onto the deck console, but now her head came up like a gun turret snapping into position.

Rule Four: Erase the fingerprints

So, what do you think? Have I successfully plagiarized?  How much of the original text is still there?  You need to shove the original and your new version into something like textdiff.com and see what you are dragging with you.  You need to check for fingerprints, meaning phrases longer than three or four words that might betray you to those pesky plagiarism checkers and rabid reviewers with their keyboard pounding.

called as he  …  the  …  oh thank god  …  said  …  smile vanished when  …  followed  …  his  …  wanted to  …  and  …  needed to understand that the  …  as far as  …  was concerned  …  would be a favor to  …  and  …  voice was utterly devoid of emotion  …  said with a mock cheerfulness that reminded  …  it’s time for  …  to get the hell   …  of my  …  what?  …  had been  …  but now her head  …  up like a  … 

Oh my. I have some phrases to change.  Let me try this again.

“We’re back,” Hill called as he stepped up the ramp into the loading bay proper.  His voice rasped, but given their recent adventures, it was hardly surprising. At least he’d gotten control of the coughing that had racked him earlier.

“Hill. Thank the merciful gods of merchants,” Captain Courvier said. His smile faded when Mueller followed.

“All clear,” Mueller said as he scanned the deck behind them for danger. It wasn’t like the Viking Company to give up on an opportunity to sabotage a ship, particularly the Bolton’s Highflyer. It made Muller wonder what fee Courvair had gotten in return for trying to betray him to his old crew. On pirate ships, he would have expected betrayal, but being on the Highflyer was making him soft because it fucking hurt to think that this asshole had tried to sell him out.

He wanted to put a blaster in this asshole’s gut and pull the trigger.  He desperately wanted to see flesh rip and burn as Courvier collapsed with his hands clutching at his stomach.  And Courvair needed to know that fear wouldn’t stop Mueller, not fear of getting arrested or of getting tortured by his old crew. As far as Muller was concerned, blasting a hole in Daniel Courvier would be a kindness toward Hill and Captain Bolton.

“Muller.” Courvier’s voice was flat.

“You won’t guess who we ran into on dock,” Hill said with an almost cruel imitation of delight that reminded Muller eerily of his old captain.  That man had seen a good disemboweling as art, and right now, Muller was starting to think that quiet, bookish little Hill might have that same violence in him. Hill smiled maliciously as he delivered his next line.

“Now it’s time for certain ex-Captains to get the hell off of my ship.”

“What?” Della had been entering data onto the deck console, but at that her head came up like a gun turret snapping into position.

And now I’ve successfully plagiarized myself. At least, I don’t think I’ll get caught.

So, reviewing the steps, we start with picking a piece (and please pick well. If you feel a need to plagiarize 50 Shades of Grey, people will make fun of you, as they should).

Then follow the rules to filter that text.  Change the setting. Then redo the characterization and character backgrounds and names.  Third, get an original plot in there, and finally erase the fingerprints.

Then you can start editing for consistency and clarity and grammar and all the normal things you must do with a text.

Effective plagiarism, or even pulling fanfic to republish, requires no less. If you’re not prepared to plagiarize well, then I have another rule for you…

Don’t.