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Oakdale Confidential:
An As The World Turns Novel

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


The literary world continues to twist in a tizzy over Kaavya Viswanathan's novel, "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life," asking questions like:

What exactly did she plagiarize? Who helped her do it? Where does the Harvard student go from here?

Me? I only have one query: Why steal when making stuff up off the top of your head is so much easier?

Think about it -- in order to plagiarize from authors as diverse as Megan McCafferty and Salman Rushdie (with a stop into The Princess Diaries along the way), Kaavya first had to read all those books. Then she had to identify passages that could work with the outline of the story she'd created. Then she had to copy them. Then she had to make them fit one into the other.

Oy. It reminds of the (probably apocryphal) story about Dustin Hoffman staying up for days to play the torture scene in Marathon Man, and Laurence Olivier telling him, "Dustin, dear boy, did you ever consider just acting?"

Writing Oakdale Confidential was particularly difficult for me because I couldn't just make up anything I wanted. I had to stay consistent to the character's voice, looks, history and abilities. For instance, Katie couldn't suddenly be (say) of Polish descent merely for storyline purposes. I had to stick to Oakdale's geographic limitations (no oceans or volcanoes in the middle of Illinois), too. These are parameters I don't have while writing my original novels with wholly made up characters and sometimes equally fictional locations.

So why in the world did Kaavya go through the extra work of stealing (and from multiple sources, at that!) when the real slacker's shortcut would have been to just make stuff up?


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