When Another Author Writes a Scene You Thought You Invented

During one of my book-buying binges, I came across a review where the reviewer speculated that a multi-published author potentially copied a story theme/premise/outline from another book written by another author—two decades ago. The reviewer compared similarities in the current story to the one written Two Decades Ago. She couldn’t name the specific plagiarism crime, but similarities in one person’s mind can get an author accused of copying someone else’s story in a posted review!

Now, I’m not saying plagiarism doesn’t happen. There are proven plagiarism cases where one author copied identical text from another author. A publicized case in the romance industry occurred between two established authors in the romance genre about 14 years ago.

But, what happens when, in the course of reading a book other than your own, dear author, you come across a scene that is similar to one in your own story? Phrasing? Verbiage? While the scene unfolds from a different character and author perspective, do you go ‘Ah! Great minds think alike’ or do you jump out of your chair believing that your words have somehow been stolen?

Here’s the deal. In my experience as a long-time reader, and now a new writer in genre of erotic romance, a writer might be hard-pressed to find scenes that haven’t been written before. To find phrases that haven’t been used before. Sex scenes, for instance. People have been having sex since at least the Middle Ages, so if a writer thinks they’ve got the 411 on a ravishing sex scene or sensual act that no one has thought of before, they’ve got another think coming.

Sensual hands on activity? Some scenes are more common, some less common depending on the sub-category you read, or write. Menage/multiple partner scenes, oral, toys…as long as I’ve been reading romances from sweet to erotica romances, and straight-up erotica—done, done, done. In my case, being married for 19 years has also yielded its happy share of sensual hands-on research.

Most authors know that their voice and style puts a different spin on the telling—and showing—of a story, or a scene. But I know of instances of authors who’ve felt their work, or ideas, were copied by others. There’s reluctance by some newer writers to have their work critiqued, or entered in contests. They fear their ideas will be lifted by someone else.

Food for thought: The chances of a writer wanting to steal someone else’s story is slim. Writers who are serious about their craft are too busy trying to finish their own tales to bother with anyone else’s. It’s more important to get an editor to want to read your story. Good luck with that if a writer doesn’t have their work properly critiqued by eyes other than theirs.

If a writer can think it, chances are the story has already been written. But, what makes a story unique and original is the author’s unique take—the showing, the voice, the style.

Unfortunately, there have been writers quick to jump to conclusions when they see a scene out there that strongly resembles theirs. That’s like saying nobody else has a voice. That nobody else has half a brain in their head. That nobody else can tell a story that’s unique. That nobody else has a life of experiences and adventures that can be portrayed in their words.

If that were true, there’d be no romance, since everyone would be falling in love the same way. There’d only be one cowboy story, one magnate story, one secret baby story, one bondage story, etcetera, etcetera. As a writer, I’ve seen instances where a verb I’ve used that I thought was so unique had already been used by another author.

As a reader, I’ve seen terminology used and commonly echoed. For instance, breaths that “hitch” and heartbeats that “kick” are common usage in romance.

Writers learn from other writers. That’s why we have conferences, and writers groups. To learn. And just because one writer used a word that another writer used (that can also be found in a dictionary or in daily urban usage) doesn’t mean there’s copying going on. It simply means that writers use similar tools, or have had similar experiences to be able to tell that story.

There’s plenty of room in the sun for a story to shine, in the writer’s style, their voice, their way. If a writer has a grasp on his/her own writer’s voice, they should feel confident that any work they put out there will stand on its own merit and hold to the author’s own unique style of prose, and story-telling.

This concludes my blog, dear reader. I shall go forth now, and write that fabulously hot missionary position scene that I’ve been dying to get on paper that surely no one else has yet to write… 🙂

This entry was posted in Erotica, Fiction, New Books, Promoting, Romance, Romance Writers, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to When Another Author Writes a Scene You Thought You Invented

  1. Jane Wakely says:

    Hi Lelani!

    Exactly!! 🙂

    As a writer you have to be crazy to think that no one else in the world has thought up the same story idea! Ive read many, many books with the same story lines and never took it for copying. There are so many different ways to tell the same story–and we each do it in our own way!

    Excellent post! 🙂



    • Lelani Black says:

      Jane…always so sweet of you to stop in. Thank you, and yes, you would think, right? But there are authors I know that won’t even critique outside their circle because of the potential for someone to say, this multi-pubbed author stole my idea. One category romance author says she doesn’t read anyone else’s work because of any potential it might have to affect her voice (my interpretation, not her words). But, as another author put it, that’s like a chef not tasting anyone else’s food. In one instance with one of my current releases, there was another book in the same line released a couple of months earlier that had a similar sensual scene, a sexy voyeur scenario, but each was done differently. Now with the way the publishing industry works, a book is “locked” months before, so when I read another author’s works at that point, it’s too late for me to go to my editor and say can I add to or change this to make it even more different? But each scene will be different anyway, due to the portrayal, the voice, the style. I’ve changed something in my story in mid-edits, too, to avoid any comparison. By golly if I can change something at the 11th hour, then I will! There is just so much talent out there, and a writer has to work very hard to cultivate their words and voice so that their story will stand out.


  2. To steal one of my favorite lines from Ecclesiastes: “What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”


    • Lelani Black says:

      Great quote, Anna! Thank you for stopping by. One of my much older relatives told me she has yet to watch James Cameron’s Titanic. I looked at her aghast, and she said because the story has already been done. But not like that, I protested. And also Pearl Harbor with Ben Affleck, she won’t watch that either because there’ve been so many movies about Pearl Harbor. Again, but not with Ben Affleck, ha-ha 🙂


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