Writer got it wrong on creative imitation
By Yegon Roy
I beg to differ with the opinions of the writer of the essay ‘The thin line between plagiarism and creativity’, published on last week’s Sunday Magazine.
The writer seems to confuse plagiarism with creative imitation. Plagiarism is an act of appropriating the literary composition of another author, ideas or passages and passing the materials as own.
Creative imitation on the other hand is modelling one’s work along the same lines as one that of someone with more experience and whose methods are deemed successful. It is an entry point for a person to embark on a creative path.
Upcoming writers are often inspired and motivated by the works of others before them. The budding writer will most likely imitate the writing style and ideas and attempt to fit them into their context.
Source of inspiration
If a Nigerian writer wrote about corruption within the Nigerian police force and a Kenyan author relates the incident with the local police and retells the scenario within the Kenyan context will the writer be guilty of plagiarism?
It is not plagiarism in this instance when the scenario mirrors the society within which the writer lives in. Does it matter if inspiration is from elsewhere?
The essence of studying and reading other literary works is to gain inspiration and motivation. A writer can be inspired by a situation in another country that makes them think of a similar situation within their context. Similarity in themes does not mean the whole work plagiarised.
However, creative imitation becomes plagiarism when the imitation is similar to already existing work and does not fit within the context it has been written in. This is when imitation stifles originality and creativity.
For example, if a local romantic novel reads like western one in say description and characterisation, plagiarism takes the place of creativity. This is as a result of a failure by the author to repackage and deliver the content to fit the target audience.
Resource for upcoming writers
Perhaps with the advent of mass sharing of information and exchange via the Internet, plagiarism should be redefined to avoid confusion.
Creative imitation is good for upcoming writers when used as a departure point from which one moves through the path of creative writing. However, anything beyond this is something writers should avoid.
—The writer is a student in Moi University.
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