How To Make This Not A Blatant Copy??

So in my creative writing class we were told to write a short story/screenplay using a prompt from a list she gave us. The prompts were all pulled from things she’d read before—lines or chunks of text that she wanted us to include in our writing and build a story around. The prompt I chose was I’d be lying if I said [insert name]’s misery has never given me pleasure. With that prompt I produced a dystopian fantasy script for a fiction podcast and wrote an entire first episode. From there I’ve fleshed out a world, countless characters, and a prominent narrative arc. I think I might actually want to do something with it. I even have theatre kid friends who’ve volunteered to voice-act. I really think this could go somewhere, and I wanna see where it takes me.

The problem is that because I followed the prompt, the first line isn’t mine. It’s the first line in Avni Doshi’s Burnt Sugar, which is a memoir. The original first line is “I’d be lying if I said my mother’s misery has never given me pleasure.” My first line is “I’d be lying if I said Sylvia Halloway’s misery has never given me pleasure.” I’ve never run into this problem before, because I only ever use prompts like this in classes, but I need to figure out what to swap my first line for while keeping the same sort of energy. I love what I’ve written—I don’t want to use someone else’s line. Any help would be greatly appreciated!!

First few paragraphs of my script!!

I would be lying if I said Sylvia Halloway’s misery has never given me pleasure. It’s not that she was a cruel woman, or an especially bad person, but there was something so exquisite about the way she suffered. A strange sort of beauty. I remember her, sometimes, on quiet days like these. What I wouldn’t give to see her blood paint the grass red, to hear her screams split the still air. What I wouldn’t give to have things the way they were.

But Sylvia Halloway died years ago, and her life and the misery that came with it are tangled in the past, and there’s little point in dwelling on it now. The sky is so blue, the water so green, it seems a shame to waste time reminiscing. It’s a beautiful day, lost ones. The sky is blue. The sky is so, so blue…

You really only have to re-word it. Something like “It would be a blatant lie if I told you I didn’t derive at least some sort of pleasure from Sylvia Halloway’s misfortune,” or any variation thereof.


Or you can go for a blatant quote. Put the original and source as the header for the chapter, then go into a paragraph about how that resonates with you.

Direct quote:
Man, every time I read that line, I think about Sylvia Halloway. It’s not that…

Yeah, I’ve been trying that, and I actually really like your variation!! I just don’t want to copy another work too closely, and as well-written as that line is, when you put it up against the original it’s still painfully clear they come from the same source.

That may be true, but that quote is actually a fairly common phrase too, so most people wouldn’t automatically assume you are taking inspiration from that specific quote, rather just using a sentiment that a lot of people feel on a regular basis. There are only so many word combinations in the english language, so you aren’t going to get much better than that. It’s not plagiarism to reword the same concept that someone else has used.

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