Earlier this week, someone posted a prologue to a children's story on a writing forum. Nothing unusual in that, you might think, except that when I read it, I realised it was similar - VERY similar - to Granny Rainbow and the Black Shadow, which was first published back in 2013 in Reading is Magic.
There were enough differences to make it not the same, but there were enough similarities to know that this was essentially the beginning of my story, adapted.
I'll be honest - my first reaction was "Flippin' heck!" (Except not quite so polite) "Someone's nicked my story!" I felt sick and could not believe what I was reading.
Then, I looked again. The writer appeared to be pretty inexperienced - there were lots of newbie mistakes in the writing that indicated the author was a fair way off being published. And different authors do sometimes have similar ideas - it depends on how you write the story that makes it 'yours'. So it IS feasible that someone else has had the idea of a baddie who leaches colour from the world...
I gave the author the benefit of the doubt; I responded by noting the similarities to the original story and offered some advice to improving their writing.
That night happened to be NIBS night. I told a couple of friends there what had happened and one remarked "You know you've arrived when you've been plagiarized!"
Plagiarism is a serious matter. I haven't lost money or sleep over it - unlike some authors whose work is shamefully pirated to the extent that they lose income, or others who see their own complete novels plagiarised by rogue authors. A little bit of me thinks that if a novice author thinks my ideas good enough to use as their starting point, I'm flattered.
Providing they don't make a habit of it or take something so similar to publication.
And anyway, how can I complain when, as an author visiting schools, the teaching staff and I have encouraged children (up to Y6) to use the framework of Granny Rainbow stories to create their own tales? For some children, rewriting the original story in their own words and with as few original elements as possible is as much as they can manage, yet still presents a huge leap forward in how much writing they can do. In a literal sense I suppose that's plagiarism too, except that in this case, Granny Rainbow is a tool in the classroom and no-one is trying to pass it off as their own. For all I know, the author of the plagiarised piece could have been a child - though I would not expect children to be present on the writing forum. Teenagers, maybe, although I don't use Granny Rainbow when I'm working with that age group.
So. There you have it. The first case of plagiarism of my work. We'll see what happens from here on in...