The Words (movie) and Plagiarism


My husband and I watched a movie last night, The Words, on the recommendation of two people who I work with at my library.

WARNING: If you’ve never seen the movie, this blog containers spoilers.

The premise is that a writer has written a book he is told is very good but it isn’t garnering him representation or a contract.  He has to get a regular job to support himself.  On their honeymoon in Paris, his wife buys him an old bag which he later finds has a manuscript in it.  It’s a masterpiece.  He retypes it and passes it off as his own.  Then the old man shows up and tells him he knows what the young man did because it’s his story, but he doesn’t want anything.

This movie didn’t really work for me, for two reasons.

First, I’ve been in a writer’s group for a few years now.  All of us would love to make a living at our writing.  Hell, we’d love to be bestselling and rich!  But, we would continue to write whether we ever sell it or not, because that’s what we do.  We write.  We’re writers.  We want to write and share through our writing.  What is the point of selling a piece of writing if it isn’t yours?  You’re not a writer, if you do that, you’re a publisher or an agent.  We writers live to create.  Did he think that if he just published the book he’d suddenly begin writing to that caliber?  We all know that’s not going to happen.  Good writing takes time and work.  The point is not to sell, the point is to create.

Maybe it’s just me, but in his place I think a lot of writers would have rather had the adventure of trying to find the person who actually wrote it.

Second, he says that he’s not where he’s supposed to be in life.  That’s not possible.  Wherever you are is where you’re supposed to be.  Life is a journey.  You have to let go of what you thought your life would be in order to find the life that’s waiting for you.  Maybe that just sounds like a platitude but it’s what I’ve found to be true and I guess I expect other writers to have that perspective but probably many don’t.

Okay, then you’ve got the whole Dennis Quaid storyline area that just doesn’t work.  Supposedly he’s written the book that tells this whole story of the young man’s plagiarism and old man, and he’s reading part of it at an award ceremony.  A young woman shows up who seems to know what is going on.  Now, if he’d published a novel before to critical acclaim like the one described in this new book, wouldn’t people recognize it instead of just this one girl suspecting that the new book was really what was going on in his own life?  Plus, she comes in with this all knowing attitude.  How?  I don’t think so.

Some of the cinematography was beautiful.  There was one shot that I had to go back and look at again, about a third of the way into the movie, with the Fall trees, the street and the sky line fogged in the background.  I would love to have that as a picture on my wall.  The soundtrack was beautiful too.

In the end,  The idea was interesting but the plot was not well executed.  I enjoyed it for the acting and the cinematography.  3 stars from me.  I am guessing that someone wrote this as a screenplay to be a box office smash with Dennis Quaid and Jeremy Irons.  (I went and checked, it was written by the directors.  They could have used a good writer’s group to poke holes in it before they turned it into a movie.)

What do you think?  Did you see the movie?  What about plagiarism?  As a writer, what’s the point?

Free Verse Poem – My Facebook Feed

I don’t seem to know what to say so I’ll just offer this poem that was inspired today, a rough draft, take it for what it’s worth.


My Facebook Feed

My head hurts from the cold that lingers
and the recriminations of a tiny person
who cannot express herself sufficiently.
Are any of us so very different?

So much I should be doing –
I am tired and I sit.

My Facebook feed today shares –

Outrage once again for Trayvon Martin.
Outrage, finally, for a woman given 20 years
after firing shots meant to warn.
Outrage over the chemicals in our foods
and a missing warning on an anti-inflammatory drug.
Two separate ATV crashes killed man and woman.
A friend mourned a motorcyclist.
Many remembrances of a woman who had passed –
friend, wife, mother, aunt, sister – so much to all.

Birthdays, memes, encouragement and humor
seem outweighed by outrage and pain.

At lunch today, the profound climate change came up.
North pole has packed up and moved but why?
No one denied it, no one sought to place blame. It just is.
Yet the oil industry almost seeks to hasten it.

Has the world gone mad? Or did becoming an adult and parent simply wake me up?

Injustices and perplexities confound me.
Frivolities… taste stale and unprofitable.
A fortune cookie today admonished me –
When up and down seem impossible, try moving side to side.

Outrage, outrage, outrage
must be combated by humor and art.

There is a long view out my front porch
a tar road, a green field, trees, a hill and
blue skies reaching up to into white clouds, lilting sideways.

What do you really NEED to write?

What do you really need to write? This question occurred to me as I was driving home last night. Unfortunately, I hadn’t set up my digital recorder so I pulled off at an exit and got it recording before I drove on.  (It helps me to remember.   Before I had it, I had to just, well…  remember.  It’s a great tool.)

This month is Camp NaNoWriMo again and though I am not participating this month it reminded me about reading Chris Baty’s  No Plot, No Problem.  It’s a really funny and enjoyable book.  He suggests a bunch of things you might want to have handy before you start to write.  There were some physical things like setting up your computer file, treats to reward yourself for keeping going, your favorite drinks, your favorite pens, pencils and notebooks, reference books you might want to refer to our use to jog your mind.  It was mostly things to make you more comfortable and help ease the task.  Some people write character sheets and plot everything out ahead of time.

Then there are intangible things like time, sufficient sleep to be coherent, quiet and space.  But people have done without those time and again.  (Though I do suspect that when people say they got up an hour early before going to work every day to write, they are largely getting sufficient sleep to suit them.)

I personally like a notebook or a bound journal and a really good pen.  I use my laptop a lot.  I have the Scrivener software but I haven’t actually used it, I use OpenOffice.  I have recorded things on my little digital recorder and used Dragon NaturallySpeaking to transcribe the dictation.  I use the Internet for research.  I always liked Diana Hacker’s A Writer’s Reference for checking grammar and usage but more often I turn to Internet sources these days when I’m concerned.  All of these are great tools to make writing easier.

I like a sufficient amount of sleep but I find myself creating things at three in the morning while I’m rocking my daughter.  I like a quiet room and time to myself but most of the time I’m writing surrounded with people or at least while taking care of my daughter and being interrupted constantly for attention.

What really got me thinking about this topic was a blog post by a fellow writer.  He said that he had lost most of his vision and would continue writing as long as he could see to do so.

My brain screamed, “Nooooo!”

Thankfully, another writer responded with what I felt – you don’t need your eyesight to write.

It might make it a bit easier but all you really need is your mind.  Everything else is a tool to record what you’ve written and communicate it.  Think about it.  There is a great oral tradition that backs writing – storytelling.  People made up their stories, practiced them and shared them.  If that is all you can ever do then you are WRITING!

The point is we all have obstacles to our writing.  Sometimes they are external and sometimes they are internal, but there is nothing that can keep us from writing if we really want to.

Randy Pausch, in Achieving Your Childhood Dreams, said that “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”

So, what do you really need to write?