There’s nothing more agonizing then writing a truly terrific line in your novel, and then, later, realizing you lifted it.

In the first draft of my as-yet-unnamed third thriller, I wanted to convey that a CIA covert operation went very, very poorly. I was looking to take an existing cliché (“the wheels fell off”… “it went south” … ) and turn it on its ear. What I ended up with is, “the operation went to hell in a speedboat.”

Excellent. Clean, fun, turns a cliché on its ear. I loved it.

Then I rewatched the pilot of Aaron Sorkin’s “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” and there’s the character Jordan McDeere saying, “…America is going to hell in a speedboat.”

I couldn’t believe it.

I had subconsciously lifted a line from one of the great dialog writers in all of Hollywood. (Hey, if you’re stealing, why steal from a hack?) Naturally, the line had to be exorcised from my manuscript.

It’s a problem. I store great bits of dialog somewhere in what passes for my brain. When I write a real gem, I have to ask myself: Is that you being a good writer? Or you hacking up Joss Whedon or Quentin Tarantino?


About danahaynes

Dana Haynes is the author of ICE COLD KILL (2013), BREAKING POINT (2011) and CRASHERS (2010) from Minotaur and St. Martin's Press.

Posted on November 26, 2010, in Blog and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I expect that you meant
    747, not 737?



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