There was a review of The King’s Own where the reviewer claimed that I’d “borrowed” the name Chadde (the Keeper of the King’s Peace) and Laurel’s vile tea from another author’s book. However, the problem with his claim was that I’ve never read any of this author’s works, let alone that particular book. Chadde was just a name I came up with (coincidences do happen) and the vile tea was first used in Covenants—and that came from my father’s stories of growing up during the time when cod liver oil was considered good for what ailed you. Apparently it is so nasty that whenever he became sick, he would hide it as long as possible to avoid getting a dose. Nothing like the bubblegum, cherry, and grape flavored stuff they gave us when I was a kid. Then, I did get penicillin shots (there were times when my backside felt like a pin cushion), so I guess it all evened out in the (hah!) end.
So Rabbit’s torment by tea is all my doing. Not that I don’t borrow from other authors. Or, maybe a better word for it is study. When I read, I’m following the storyline, sure. But I’m also looking to see what works and what doesn’t (and why), and what’s particularly effective. Not just plot line and character development, but also structure: Does the scene flow? How much backstory does the author provide? Is it enough? Is it too much? Is it in the right place or does it impede the current story? (A big concern in a series.) And there are the plot devices—techniques used to advance the story. Again, do they work? Or are they clumsy? Or, worse, clichéd? A posse heading bank robbers off at the pass would be a hard sell to any reader. Unless it’s a spoof, and even then it’s been done so many times that the writer would have to be careful.
This is why writers should always read books similar to what they’re writing—fiction and non-fiction: biographies/memoirs, textbooks, cookbooks, self-help, what-have-you. Through them, we get a broad range of solutions to whatever creative issues we might have, and learn what to embrace and what to avoid like a dose of cod liver oil. Or Laurel's vile tea.
So, no, I don’t lift names and ways to torment right out of other books. But I just might boost that transition sentence.