Ethical thievery for your novel

Warning: Minor spoiler alerts for Renegade’s Magic.

I just finished reading Renegade’s Magic, Robin Hobb’s third book in the Soldier Son series, I enjoyed it so much that I read it in one sitting. It’s a big book, it took all day and I hardly moved from the couch. I’m stiff now.

As I got into the story I couldn’t thinking, “Two people in one body. Oh, I wish I had thought of this idea first.”

Holly Lisle wrote that when she reads something wonderful, her reactions vary from …

“… huge envious green goose bumps, because I know there’s no way in hell I could have ever written that book or story … sometimes I am moved to unenvious rapture —I love what I’ve read, but I have no desire to emulate it …[and] sometimes I am filled with passion and wicked larceny—what I read thrills me and catches at my gut and at my imagination and I just have to steal some part of it for myself ”

Holly Lisle, How to (legally and ethically) steal ideas

While I doubt that we will ever write a story about two people in the same body—especially after this blog—Holly Lisle gives some good pointers on How to (legally and ethically) steal ideas. The key is to take the germ of the idea that really grabs you, just the germ, nothing else, and to change everything else so that it’s really unrecognisable.

And that’s fine by me. Most of Renegade’s Magic brings out in me the ‘unenvious rapture’ of loving the story, but I don’t want to emulate it. Sometimes, while I am reading I think, “How on earth can Robin Hobb think up ideas like that? Look what she’s doing to poor Nevare now. How can she take the story in that direction and still make it work?” I cannot even imagine doing it myself.

No. If we came up with a two people in one mind story I doubt it would even be a fantasy. It would be science fiction. (See how my mind is ticking over with possibilities, even though my head is saying no, we’ll never do it.)

Our two definitely wouldn’t be a mage asundered, nor would they be two parts of the same person. No, our shared body story would have two distinct individuals, somehow thrust together into one container. The only things they would have in common with Hobb’s book would be the two minds in one body, and the fact that neither of them really liked it.

It’s what Holly Lisle calls ‘ethical thievery’.

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