“I use Grammarly’s plagiarism detector because, as Stephen King said, “good books don’t give up all their secrets at once.”
In general terms, academic writing, as the name implies, is writing done for teachers and professors in schools and universities. Also, it refers to the rules that research papers and articles for publication in academic journals and magazines are expected to conform to.
The writer of academic texts develops proficiency by carefully studying the type of writing that scholars in their field do, deducing the rules or conventions to follow, and then closely emulating this style.
Creative writing, as the name implies, is writing that shows originality, innovation, the bringing forth of something new.
Historical fiction merges the academic and creative writing into something that is new. The old, the historical, serves as the basis for the new, where the imagination of the writer is allowed to coexist with past events.
Readers of historical fiction experience conflict. One part of their psyche calls out for the new, the original. Another part of the psyche knows that a previous context, already in fact existing, both in words and deeds, must be used. If this were not the case, we would not have historical fiction.
In other words, if there were no historical fiction, in its absence, the reader must be content with one of two options.
The first option is the historical, reported as it happened, true to the experience itself. Logic and reason dictate that every experience of man, at war or in peace, is subjectively experienced. Two people who report on some historical event, yet with different loyalties, different preferences, different prior knowledge, must report different stories of the same event.
When this historical event is war, then it is absolutely logical that the winner of the war, the conqueror, will tell a completely different story than the loser of the war, the conquered.
Let’s turn to the second option I spoke of, creative writing. With creative writing, readers have the expectation that everything springs from the imagination, creatively brought to life by the writer’s ability to see what others have never seen before, and then to tell the story.
In this scenario, the merging of the real (historical writing) and the unreal (creative fiction), we ask the question: What is to be considered plagiarism? All writers grapple with this issue, plagiarism, and there exist many solutions.
Before I talk about Grammarly, the world’s best plagiarism detector, I have to talk about Grammarly, the world’s best grammar checker. Not only is it an excellent tool for writers, but it is a great tool for readers. Writers use it obviously, to check for plagiarism, grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes, especially the ones that get past your computer’s spell checker.
Readers could also benefit from its plagiarism detector. Let me give one example, taken from a reader review of my historical fiction story about Queen Boudicca, called, Boudicca: Her Story. According to the historian Tacitus, this woman was probably England’s first female ruler, before England was England.
Tacitus, the historian, is cited by the Encyclopedia Britannica (Sources of British History) “Tacitus, Annals, Book XIV, Chapter 30 (The Druids at Mona Island). In this chapter there is a battle between the Romans and the Druids, which Tacitus reports:
On the opposite shore stood the Britons, close embodied, and prepared for action. Women were seen running through the ranks in wild disorder; their apparel funeral; their hair loose to the wind, in their hands flaming torches, and their whole appearance resembling the frantic rage of the Furies. The Druids were ranged in order, with hands uplifted, invoking the gods, and pouring forth horrible imprecations. The novelty of the fight struck the Romans with awe and terror. They stood in stupid amazement, as if their limbs were benumbed, riveted to one spot, a mark for the enemy. The exhortations of the general diffused new vigour through the ranks, and the men, by mutual reproaches, inflamed each other to deeds of valour.
Here, the phrase, “The exhortations of the general“, can be understood as a battlefield speech. In writing this incident as a piece of historical fiction in Boudicca: Her Story, here is what I wrote:
“I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the hearts of men. The day may come when the courage of men fails. But it is not this day. This day we fight!!!“
Here is the customer review my writing provoked a reader to write, in response to my efforts:
“I’ve been interested in reading about Boudicca, the Celtic queen who wreaked havoc on the Roman army in approximately 60 AD, so purchased several books that reported to tell her story. This was one of them. It’s a short piece, rather cheesily written but does tell the story, more or less. What I didn’t like about it was the borrowing of several ideas. The “herstory” rather than history, an ok idea, but not at all original. The opening lines, the whole bit about history being written by the victors, is just like the opening lines of the movie “Braveheart.” But what really ticked me off was the exhortation of General Suetonius to his troops in about the middle of the book. “I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the hearts of men. The day may come when the courage of men fails. But it is not this day. This day we fight!!!”
Hello? This is almost word for word what Aragorn says in “Return of the King” when his exhausted army is about to storm Mordor. n.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Morannon
Unless the real Seutonius gave this pithy speech, and it was stolen by JRR Tolkien, I believe the author of this book has done a little too much “borrowing” from pop culture. Come on, T. Jerome Baker. Nerds don’t just sit around watching LOTR, sometimes we read history too.”
Not guilty. I have not plagiarised Mr. Tolkien.
I have not plagiarised pop culture.
Historical fiction, in Boudicca: Her Story, is the merging of history (Queen Boudicca’s Revolt) and creative writing.
Not guilty, your Honor. That is how I answer this charge of, “Plagiarism”?
Let us look at the evidence that my accuser has brought before the court. My accuser, Tara M. Lohman, has based his/her ( ? ) charge of plagiarism on the speech we find at Wikipedia, Battle of the Morannon, here: n.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Morannon
“Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends, and break all bonds of fellowship; but it is not this day! An hour of woe, and shattered shields, when the Age of Men comes crashing down; but it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!”
Again, my words in Boudicca: Her Story:
“I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the hearts of men. The day may come when the courage of men fails. But it is not this day. This day we fight!!!”
Is this plagiarism? No, it is not, but let’s look closely at what my accuser said: (Quote) “This is almost word for word what Aragorn says in “Return of the King” when his exhausted army is about to storm Mordor.” (End of quote)
Not true. Aragorn said: “I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me.”
Aragorn has referred to himself, using the pronoun, me. Take – the – heart – of – me.
In my book, I tell a different story. I use these words:
Take – the – hearts of men.
How is this different, if the words are almost the same?
How is this different, if the situation is almost the same? (In both cases, soldiers afraid to fight because something is terrifying).
First, we have a grammatical distinction, the singular “heart” versus the plural “hearts“. A linguist would say, the form is different.
Secondly, the meaning is different. This is much more important than the difference in grammar (singular versus plural). Again, the meaning is not the same, it is different.
Aragorn’s speech implies that he has evaluated the situation, and it is enough to “take his heart”.
The implication in my writing is that the situation is enough to “take the heart” of any man. Again, the meaning is different.
Next, in my defense against plagiarism, I call to the witness stand the world’s best grammar checker and plagiarism detector, Grammarly, to the witness stand. I have only one question: How can a writer avoid plagiarism?
Grammarly: “Avoid plagiarism by checking your texts against over 8 billion web pages.”
Thank you Grammarly. I have no further questions, because when I checked my text with Grammarly, only one match was found: my own.
I can not be guilty of plagiarising myself.
Let me be clear. After checking over eight ( 8 ) Billion webpages, my text matched no other webpages. That’s 0 out of 8 Billion.
I am innocent. Not guilty.
The defense rests its case, your Honor… I highly recommend Grammarly to writers, authors, teachers, and readers. Nobody likes a copycat, because a copycat is never as cute as the original.
In this case, the original storyteller is Tacitus, who provides my inspiration to tell Queen Boudicca’s story.
How do you resolve plagiarism in such an instance? You have a story more than a thousand years old, handed down to us from a historian.
You have Tolkien, who has a character who must motivate soldiers who are afraid to fight, not only to fight, but to fight and win.
You have my retelling of the same situation, soldiers afraid to fight. As I have demonstrated, I was able to give a new meaning to the form of the words, which is the task of the creative writer.
In conclusion, the words I chose to use in my book can be found in only one place on the internet, namely, in my book, and in no other place. That can only mean one thing: my book is the original story of a writer who attempts to let Queen Boudicca speak, and that can not, must not, be looked upon as anything other than what it is: originality and creativity.
Not guilty, Your Honor. The defense rests its case…
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