Honor Among Thieves

So this is a picture of me standing in Stratford-upon-Avon beside the birthplace of William Shakespeare, probably the most recognized name in all of literature. Why? Because, without him, we would not have so much that we take for granted today. Words, phrases, sensibilities, jokes, etc.

But good old Will was a thief. Now, before the Shakespeare die-hards rip my heart from my chest, let me explain. He got most of his ideas for plays from other sources, including ancient stories. Does that mean he didn’t write every word of his plays to reflect his own interpretation of the story? Those who believe he isn’t even the author of the plays would argue “yes,” but that’s a completely different conversation. If we assume he did write them (which I’m inclined to believe), then we are simply looking at the content now. The basic plotlines of the plays were often taken from older stories.

Does that really make him a thief?

Does that make Stephanie Meyer a thief for writing a story about vampires based on the idea of Romeo and Juliet?

Is Disney stealing when they make a movie about a young lion cub whose father is murdered by his uncle and must fight to expose the villain in true Hamlet fashion?

Of course not. I’ve spoken on this before, and how the idea of archetypal patterns affects us and our stories. Every story is somehow, in some way, based on something else in whole or in part. And that’s okay. Every writer, at every point in time, works incredibly hard to create their own little piece of wonder. Including Shakespeare himself. He may have borrowed the ideas, but his style and his skill with words is truly amazing. You can see the blood, sweat, and tears in every play (well, maybe not Titus Andronicus). Can you create an entire play using iambic pentameter in every line (10 rhythmic syllables to put it simply for the non-English geeks). He.put.ten.syllables.in.every.line. Yeah. Try it. Not easy, I promise.

So we’ve established that writers work exceptionally hard at their craft in order to give birth to what is essentially a living, breathing entity. And here’s my rant. Are you ready? Why, oh why, do so many people feed off of the hard work of these artists? Obviously, since I’m not yet published, I’m not speaking about myself. A friend of mine recently did a free giveaway for her book in hopes of getting a review. Instead, the winner immediately turned around and put it up for sale. Unbelievable! Yet it’s not. I’ve seen it happen to others before. Maybe she will get a review from whomever buys it. At least someone who wants to read it will buy it. Yeah, that all sounds great, but aren’t we allowed to be PISSED off that someone else is making money off something we worked incredibly hard for? Sure, it was theirs to sell. But how about the read and review that the author expected from them before doing so? Authors don’t give away books for the hell of it. A review is expected, even if it isn’t a good review. That’s okay. I have been leery of free book giveaways since the first time I heard someone say this happened to them. Will I do one? I want to say no. I’m so mad about this, and it isn’t even my book. I just don’t know. This whole thing leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But then I think about my Kickstarter backers, and my heart fills up again with a little faith in humanity. Maybe there is hope. Maybe.

2 thoughts on “Honor Among Thieves

  1. Lisa M. Green

    Yep. They won it. Fair and square. Yet… it’s always understood by the people in these arenas, whether stated or not, that the author is giving away their work in the hopes of spreading the word about the book. Period. This person won it, therefore, it was theirs to do with as they pleased. You are absolutely right. But it’s a matter of common human decency. Entering these contests, knowing the expectations, with no intention of fulfilling them, is wrong in my opinion. Just my opinion. Some people are just like that. I get it. It’s just wrong. It’s mean. But that’s life. I’m just complaining. Blah.

    And I look like I’m 20 in almost every picture. Or younger. My students never believe I have a teenage daughter and gray hairs. Till I forget to color my hair 😛

  2. Dean Stride

    Is there honor among bandits, or is there only swag?

    I don’t know the full details of the story, but to play a little devil’s advocate here, from the point of view of the winner, they had every right to sell the book. The author didn’t give it away with a condition, they just gave it away. You really can’t blame the winner for wanting to make a buck out of it. I mean, they may have never intended to read it at all, and if that’s the case, then they are in their own right to do what they intended to do.

    Then again, being an author yourself, and knowing how much effort goes into producing something worthwhile, it’s completely understandable why you’re so pissed.

    By the way, you look like you’re 20 in that photo.

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