One of Written Out Loud’s founding principles is that by using stories kids already love as teaching examples, we jump-start the creative process, welcoming a flood of enthusiasm that will carry our students past what would be boring, theoretical conversations about storytelling.
But I’m often surprised how often my students say that we shouldn’t borrow elements from these stories: they think that because Iron Man has rocket-boosters on his feet, their characters can’t. They consider it plagiarism, probably a product of their (totally valid) lessons on stealing ideas in school.
But the truth is that artists steal from each other all the time! Countless writers, composers, and musicians testify by the method we teach. Paul McCartney even says that he’ll make a song thinking, What would this band do? This is how the very best among us grow—they reach beyond themselves and use their heroes as learning tools.
It’s basically the artistic equivalent of learning how to speak: by trying to imitate others’ voices, we find our own.