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What Do You Do When Your Favorite Author is Accused of Plagiarism?

When Googling an author, I made a terrible discovery.

By Jade M.Published 2 months ago 3 min read

Many people consider Freida McFadden to be the queen of popcorn thrillers. I often describe her books as being like Lifetime movies, and I think it’s an accurate description. Her books are fast-paced, and they keep me on the edge of my seat, but they aren’t the type of books that tend to stay with you.

The first book I read by her was Never Lie. Kindle Unlimited suggested it to me after I read Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hiller. The plot is about a couple who are going to view the home of a missing psychiatrist. The home was complete with audio files on all her clients, including some who might have insight into what happened to her.

I enjoyed the short novel and went on to read more of her work, most of which I flew through within a few days. I’m currently reading The Housemaid, which led me to a deep dive into McFadden’s books.

Whenever I read a book and I think I’ve figured out the ending, I use Google to see if I’m right. When I googled The Housemaid, I found a post on Reddit claiming that McFadden’s book was almost the same as a book called The Last Mrs. Parish, which I haven’t read. The users were claiming that both books had all the same plot points and the affair between characters started the same way. The only thing that was different was the endings of both books.

Some users commented that Verity by Colleen Hoover and McFadden’s The Wife Upstairs are similar throughout, and both start with an accident or near accident. The husband gives both women his shirt before offering them a job.

As the discussion went on, people claimed she ripped off other people’s work. People accused her of copying both books and movies, including movies based on books like Psycho. One by One, another novel that I enjoyed was often compared to Agatha Christie’s work. I enjoyed One by One, and I haven’t (and won’t) read Christie’s work.

Reading the discussion left me with questions. Should I keep enjoying someone’s writing if they are copying the work of others? Where does the line between inspiration and plagiarism start? Should I read the original work people claim she copied? To be honest, I don’t know the answers to those questions.

I recently got into thrillers (I was an urban fantasy girl before), so I’m not sure if McFadden’s books are copies of other works. McFadden herself issued a statement when she noticed readers were accusing her of copying Verity.

While reading McFadden’s work, I did notice that her novella, The Gift was inspired by The Gift of the Magi. The Gift of the Magi is public domain, so anyone can use the work, and McFadden likely isn’t the first to have done so. McFadden’s version offers a twist on the tale, making it more of a horror tale than a love story.

Another of McFadden’s novels, The Inmate, seems to take its twist from the 1996 movie, Scream. I still found the novel to be enjoyable, and it wasn’t similar enough that I felt it had been plagiarized. It's difficult to compare the main character to Sidney Prescott because of her numerous poor choices.

McFadden’s own writing seems predictable, with all the husbands being irresistibly handsome with wives that are lackluster. The wives usually have their looks insulted, sometimes to the point of body shaming. Often the husband turns out to be too good to be true. Despite this, McFadden’s novels are as addictive as Lifetime movies, which is why I’d be disappointed if she copied someone else’s work.

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About the Creator

Jade M.

Jade is an indie author from Louisiana. While her first book failed, she has plans to edit and republish it and try again. She has a senior min pin that she calls her little editor, and a passion for video games and makeup.

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  • J. R. Lowe2 months ago

    I’m not on Vocal much these days but this one stood out to me and was well worth the read. I can’t say I’ve personally read any of the books you mentioned, but do get where you’re coming from with the accusations of plagiarism - it kind of makes you feel guilty for enjoying the reads. With that said though, as you mentioned here, there’s a line between plagiarism and inspiration and it’s not always clear. Nothing is really ever original, and often the most successful novels are largely inspired by/based on other well known novels and ideas - just look at Twilight and Romeo and Juliet (although I suppose a lot of the plot is quite different, so perhaps not the best example). I think the more a novel tends to lean on previously explored plot structures and ideas, the less enjoyable it is, regardless of whether or not it’s plagiarised, simply because it’s not longer surprising or new - but then again, changing subtle things like character’s personalities, settings, descriptions, etc. can create an entirely new feeling story, even if the plot is identical…. I’ve waffled on for a while now but I guess my point is - recycling plot structures isn’t necessarily plagiarism in itself, but this probably needs to be applied on a case-by-case basis, and a ‘good’ author will a) acknowledge the previous work that inspired them (Stephanie Myer certainly did this with Twilight) and b) find a way to make their work original, whether it’s through additional plot structures, changing characters/perspectives/settings etc., without directly copying anything word-for-word

  • So many stories are similar to others. I take ideas from people I have read and things that I see and have been told that my work is plagiarism, but I think music is a great example. Is using the same chords or notes plagiarism? When you start lifting the same words then it does became plagiarism. Excellent piece

  • Wow! I don't know but if you enjoy her novels then keep reading them. I would write her a personal letter regarding your experience of reading the negative connotation from the accuser. Perhaps she does not know that the accuser was so spreading rumors about her book. I would hope someone would write me a letter. So, these days I never know what to believe . Great story .

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