Chapter 46: Copyright Confusion – what the hell can I write?

As previously mentioned in this moan-a-thon, commas have done my head in throughout the writing process sending me down a rabbit hole of even more confusing masses of internet articles, posts and fiery debates from ranty academics who don’t get how we all don’t get it – to seven year olds executing writing law like literati.

Alas, me no computie the proofreadie and I look forward to the day when I can afford to hire someone else to worry about the time tinkering – why-can’t-you-leave-well-alone-&-just-let-me-write pain in the arse rules of grammar and punctuation.

Cue its aggravating, vaguer than fCk cousin – copyright.

Just a general disclaimer on the purpose of this post – it’s not a Twilight toss. I was never a Twi-Mom (though I loved both books & films), and initially resisted the hype until I told my friend I needed to find a book to read while breastfeeding my son in the early hours of the morn. For a more in-depth reflection on how the series affected me and the reading Mum’s of the world during that period – click this – We Should Give Stephenie Meyer a Break.

This post explains the impact a few poignant scenes had while writing my tale of that time. I was so immersed in referencing the resemblance that until very recently I overlooked my ode to Twilight could be considered copyright.

This was a period when I felt grossly foreign within my own skin & a stranger to my new Mumming life. I recognised myself in Bella & it was comforting at a time I was anything but comfortable. I related to many of the nineties nods Stephenie Meyer gave her characters – particularly Bella’s grungy, depressing, big booted, plaid shirted, stretched cuffs, anti-everything attitude – which was relative to me and clearly half the worlds women that fell for the series. Meyer reminded us all who we once were & Stewart channelled it like a true gen X.

This excerpt was from So You Are… Pregnant! The scene is a hugely powerful one that even now takes me back to the exact emotional soul sucking shitfest I was feeling at the time.

In a very famous scene, from a very famous book, made into a very famous movie, a very famous character sits emotionally broken as the changing seasons shift around her. The entire time she remains stagnant, gripped with an overwhelming sorrow she is powerless to overcome. This is you right now.

In the book, New Moon, where Bella is a munged out mess after Edward abandons her – I remember reading and thinking – wow, this is really powerful.

I hoped that I was fainting, but, to my disappointment, I didn’t lose consciousness. The waves of pain that had only lapped at me before now reared high up and washed over my head, pulling me under.

I did not resurface. 

Stephenie Meyer, New Moon, Chapter 3, Page 84

The blank pages that followed with only the month written on them – was like looking into my mind. With such a simple effect she had reached beyond the page and extracted the exact emptiness and nothingness I was feeling.

The film version was even more so. Kristen Stewart’s dishevelled performance; Lykke Li’s haunting song Possibility; and the cinematic effects of that one scene, I believe, were the best of the entire series.

Credit: TheVincenzoblue

It was a mainstream view of mental health and a very familiar state of depression for me both visually and mentally. It really was an important moment. From a female perspective of an unconventional female, one I had been at the characters age via suppressed grief, heartbreak and youthy drama (oh the brutal tragedy of rejection) – and later on as an adult mirroring that level of sorrow and loss a few days after giving birth.

So, when I started to write about my babyless homecoming the imagery of Kristen Stewart like a shadowy little potato – was the first thing I thought of. It was not out of laziness that I wanted to reference that particular scene, more a nod of respect to Meyers and the films creators who took her bang on description and upgraded it into something that so many could relate to. A powerful piece of well known fiction that resonated to the powerlessness of my own experience.

We had returned from the hospital without our infant who had been misdiagnosed and forced to remain behind until tests results came. I was hormonally imbalanced, emotionally mutated and flat out fCking exhausted. In this dark, dark state it felt like my baby had died. I sat in our black Ikea rocking chair next to our Christmas tree, staring out the window, silent, still and oblivious to everything going on around me.

It was Christmas, so the house was bustling and magically manic. My husband kissed me goodbye, went to work. Mum was in and out, checking on me, cranking out festive preparations, cousins came and went, the sun rose and set, my husband came back, kissed me again, meals were left uneaten, cups of tea barely touched and the only time I left the chair was to empty my boobs, reluctantly go for a wee and deal with my wounds that never seemed to stop bleeding. I barely spoke, though said enough so they wouldn’t worry – but both my body and my mind were screaming in pain. Hence the reference to the second scene.

In another equally powerful scene the character makes a dramatic transition where her poor body suffers excruciating pain, yet appears normal. This is also you.

When my Mum read this her reaction was strong. She too was oblivious to any of it. We had a lovely chat, but my literary mind couldn’t help but think how effective the scene must have been from a writing perspective. This was nothing to do with the imagery I borrowed from the Twilight saga, nor my re-wording to relate it to my experience in order to drive the trauma home. This was a Mum hearing the voice – albeit in descriptive detail – of her child in pain. She has never read, nor seen Twilight. I had kind of done my job. Right? Evoked emotion?

(Cue overthinking mentally taxing ghost-voice of Christmas past…)

But, did that happen because she remembered me sitting by the window dressed in black, a motionless stringy haired and hopeless vision? Or did my reinterpretation of Bella Swan really deserve the credit?

Who knows. I really need to shut that crazy-ass ghost whisperer down though.

So, why not just write my own version? My own story? (I did btw.) Because I really wanted people to relate so strongly and that was a visual I knew my audience would immediately get.

Here lies the moral conundrum. I view referencing other creative’s work as a compliment as long as it is set and executed with good intentions and elevation. Like making a taco – got your meat, got your guac, salsa, sour cream, lettuce, cheese, chilli, tomatoes – you build that taco author up for tasty results that benefits the creative, the reader, the message. 

But, I also see how it could be distorted into a negative and no matter how endearing – some creative’s may simply want others guacamole laden fingers off their hard earned taco’s… I mean work.

Is it simply re-formatting someone else’s creation to suit your own an agenda?
Is it wrong even if it comes from a good and well meaning space with all credit given?
Is it copyright?
Fck knows. Probably yes and even more likely yes to all.

This blog and this one (and about 5000 others I looked up) were both helpful and confusing AF and sadly as with so many beautiful references I had littered throughout my first draft – I concluded it’s easier to just give it up than take unnecessary risks, no matter how innocent my intentions. Because trying to find black and white answers on this rather vague subject, riddled with so many variables – is as exhausting as this post. 

Such a sad squirmy little stunter of cool creativity.

Throw a rather hypocritical spanner into the already confusing works in the form of  Fifty Shades of Grey (which bizarrely I’ve never read, nor seen the films) or rather –Master of the Universe – the fanfiction Twilight rip based on Bella & Edward’s kinky sex life. Other than change the characters names the author apparently did little to change the heavy borrow, made millions from her efforts and came out clean as a whistle on the other side. Stephenie Meyer has not sued!

While I don’t remotely put myself in that category and I really don’t understand the whole fan-fiction thing at all, am I much different to E L James if I’m trying to evoke the audience that was so taken by Stephenie Meyer’s work? Or like most things with me – am I wayyyyyy overthinking it and really, really wrong and typically thick. Very likely yes, still – best to err on the side of caution.

I am paranoid of breaching any laws or plagiarising anyone’s work. I am not a thief, nor do I need to bludge other peoples stuff because I’ve got enough of my own madness to draw from for the next 500 years. As a writer the most exciting thing is original creation. This was not a fan-fiction lift, nor a re-invention, nor an elevation. It highlighted much more than name dropping.

I see my tiny Twilight snippet as more of a comparison of similarities and a shout out of that common thread all women (men too) go through – suffering. The character suffered a heartbreak that looked identical to mine – though the circumstances were very different – the reaction and effect was the same. For anyone who has seen the movie they get the vibe immediately. The visual is clear, powerful and would smack the reader – predominantly female – immediately with all the sorrow and bullshit we endure in general, and in this situation I was describing after the birth of my child.

This was also a reference to my prologue which explains how the book came about – when I was reading Twilight while breast feeding my son in the spare room at the back of our house at 2:30 in the morning, I thought it would be cool to write a book about my mad pregnancy journey (see below).

But, opinions differ and currently run wild and interpretation is a tricky minx. Seeings as I most definitely hope to receive payment for my efforts, I honour the IP of others,  and have since scrapped it. Even if I wanted to ask for permission there is no contact to be found for Meyer anyway. So I chop again and continue on – still clueless with commas and the grey areas of copyright and my ever expanding pile of confusions flourish. I probably need a manager.

Regardless… onward.

The final copy in my So You Are… Pregnant! intro:

Dear Reader,

One early morning as the world slept, my son and I were tucked up in the spare room feeding and reading. In between the trials and angst of vampire love – I reflected on my own time of being a baby maker. Nobody would believe such a bizarre story, but with any luck the tale would give people a laugh and reassurance that they are not alone. A book I wish I had to read during all that joyful craziness, but also confusion, isolation and sadness. Of course it would be a roaring success, get picked up by a streaming channel and a hottie cast as my husband. I would reluctantly play myself (*note: insert multiple snogging scenes).

This is the original:

Dear Reader,

One early morning as the world slept, I was feeding my son and reading Twilight (hate/potate – that’s just where I was at). In between the trials and angst of vampire love I thought how cool it would be to read about the joy and madness of the last 10 months. Nobody would believe it was true, but boy would it make people laugh. Of course it would be a roaring success, get picked up by Netflix with Robert Pattinson cast as my husband, leaving me to reluctantly play myself (*Note to self: insert multiple snogging scenes).

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