Jessica Faust got me thinking this week with this post about product placement in the e-books, and as always happens, my brain started skipping all over, taking various tangents, so I thought maybe we'd explore together what exactly author integrity was. There are easy lines and hard lines and a lot of gray area in between... ready for a trip?!
The EASY Line
No plagiarism, ne? Easy peasy line. Never take credit for anybody else's stuff. And it's always great to have your own totally original book... every thought from your own brain. Never wrong, right?
And what about people who write gossip about other peoples' lives? Is that okay? Only if they get permission? If it's a public figure? If the person is REALLY obnoxious? If you do it in SECRET and you call it FICTION?
What About the Ideas?
It would be SO SO wrong to sit in a coffee shop and overhear a writer telling her BFF about her great new idea and then go write that book. Even if you felt sure the writer was LOUSY and couldn't execute it, it is STILL wrong to steal the idea.
We read. We watch. We talk. And over time the stories become a part of us. It would hardly be fair to disallow anything that had some prior iterations. If Romeo and Juliet disallowed West Side Story and Grease... sad. Though we also wouldn't have Twilight, so that's something *shifty* I think that is one of the functions of the publishing industry... filtering out the 'not fresh enough' new versions of old stuff from the new enough twists.
This gets into that whole product placement discussion... it is of course widespread to include the name of a product in books. Characters drink Coca-cola, or chew Excedrin, or eat Krispy Kremes. It is what real people do. It would be an unrealistic expectation to leave all of that out. But to put them in on purpose in order to get paid by the manufacturer? How would that work? Would the manufacturer request it from certain authors? Or would authors write in products left and write hoping for an endorsement after the fact? When there is product placement on television or movies, then the manufacture often gets approval rights, or it has to be removed. Does the book industry want to enter that quagmire?
What about special requests? Do you incorporate a story twist or a character because somebody wants you to?
So Because I Can't Help Myself
My opinion on the matter is that as long as we are learning and growing, then what we write is good for us. YES, there are times to consider pen names and such, if you have 'higher aspirations'... The fan fiction I started with uses someone elses' characters... hit a couple plot points... and developed and grew. I am going to watch the product thing. It depends on how obtrusive it is... a hyperlink might be okay, not a flashy ad. My opinions aren't quite as lenient for the side USING ghost writers... I can live with it if there is credit, but I don't think I quite approve. But from the WRITER'S end... we do what we need to to grow, and if we can find a route to get paid in the process, I'm okay with that. I also think we should give credit where conscious decisions were made to use ideas from here or there--ESPECIALLY from any living author's work or living person's suggestion. It's just the right thing to do.
So what are your opinions? What are the lines you won't cross? Which ones are okay?