Our First Literary Theft: A Declaration of Principles

Ladies and gentlemen…boys and girls…and everything in between: Welcome to Great Writers Steal.  Here’s hoping that we all enjoy taking a closer look at the literature we love.  (In all of its many forms.)

What will happen here?  Well, folks, I will be posting with some kind of regularity what writers can steal from other creative works.  I do mean “all kinds.”  The poet can certainly borrow from the nonfiction writer, just as that nonfiction writer should understand the way a poet combines words to make them sing.

To some extent, we should all be cultural omnivores.  You may not be a country music fan; goldurnit, there is at least some country music that will mean something to you.  Maybe horror movies aren’t your thing; that’s fine.  But you should still understand why the men and women who write them do what they do.  One day, you will read about what you can steal from an episode of a popular sitcom.  The next, you will read about a poem from a small literary journal.  Literature and art are the means by which we become human; shouldn’t we strive to be as complete as possible?

It is true that there are no new stories to tell; even a genius like Shakespeare knew that.  What makes the difference is how you tell your story and the methods by which you communicate your thoughts and feelings.

It seems altogether fitting and proper that we begin by stealing an idea from one of the best films ever made: Citizen Kane.  In the film, Orson Welles plays Charles Foster Kane, a trust fund baby who decides it might be fun to run a newspaper.  As he embarks on his new enterprise, he tells his colleagues that he wants the paper to be as important to the city as the gas that fuels the lights.  He therefore begins with a Declaration of Principles that will be plastered on the front page: a set of ideals that will guide him each and every day.  In that spirit, I offer…

A Declaration of Principles for Great Writers Steal:

1) I will provide the literary community with a resource that I hope will inspire writers and readers of all interests and levels of experience.  From the beginning screenwriter to the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, there will be ideas here that you hadn’t previously considered.

2) I will serve as a tireless champion of the great works that mean something to all of us.  There are great techniques to be stolen from art ranging from Beowulf to the new single from The Band Perry.  That said, I consider it a duty to convince readers to appreciate a wide range of art and not to ignore the timeless classics.  (I beg you, don’t die having seen Honey Boo Boo and not having seen Citizen Kane.)


Kenneth Nichols



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *