Yesterday I read a post from a fellow writer, hurt and disappointed to discover that a writer he supported was copying the work of others, claiming it as his own. We aren’t talking a simple idea that may have somehow crept into his subconscious and escaped in a story by accident. We are talking about a case of copy/paste plagiarism.
To make matters worse, this guy was selling writing workshops and critiques, profiting from a fake reputation he built on the coattails of other writers. I feel for those who were taken in and may have lost money to this guy (not to mention the damage he may have done to their writing).
Today I feel compelled to voice a warning. Why? Not just because this guy fooled people, but because there were signs that he was not someone to be trusted.
The first time I had a conversation with him, I attempted to make polite conversation about the project he was working on. He went into grand detail about his story, and polite comments from me like “that sound interesting” were met with “I know, it’s amazing” and a lot of self congratulation on his brilliance.
After some time, he asked about my project. Already turned off, but not wanting to be rude, I gave him a little description. He proceeded to demand a logline, telling me what my logline must have, and giving his opinion (stated as absolute law) about the story, telling me the fact that I couldn’t (or more accurately wouldn’t) deliver a logline to him showed I obviously didn’t know my story and needed to start over.
I changed the subject and let the conversation fizzle. I didn’t know this man from Adam, so I started to poke around his blog, heading first to the About Me page. Here is what I read:
On a mid-summer’s day in 1982, the many universes in the ominverse produced a being. A being which would harbor the foresight to look into many worlds and beyond them all. That being was me. Terrell Mims. I am a writer.
Like most people born with special abilities, at age 12 my powers began to manifest. I began to see worlds different than my own. Worlds filled with angels, demons, armor clad superheroes, aliens, and globe trotting super rich teenagers. These visions filled me in my waking day and in my dreams.
I needed answers. I needed to know why I could see so many places and people. At age 20, I was led to a university where I studied under many wise sages and one told me of a prophecy. “A male shall be born. He shall see the worlds and proclaim their existence.” The sage didn’t know what to do so I left to find my answer. My quest took me from the jazz and Mardi Gras streets of New Orleans to the rainy mountainous Pacific Northwest down to the tropical beaches of Miami. No answer came.
Along my travels, I came across a black-robed figure. I didn’t know if it was a demon, fallen angel, or elf in serious need of a wardrobe update. He urged me to stop my quest. He claimed it to be as fruitful as searching for the legendary Phoenix.
I ignored his words and pushed forward ultimately coming to Dallas, Texas where I met others of my kind. Others who were born with the gift to see into other worlds, yet when I told them of what I saw they proclaimed “He is the one. He shall see what lies beyond.”
I stayed and studied and discovered my destiny. I was to tell the world of what lies beyond. I began to work, but the figure returned. His name was Failure. Failure sought to deter me, to push me from my goal, but I pursued. I needed to be what the world needed. A writer. A force to proclaim stories of other worlds.
I fled across the world, but the Failure kept behind me until he caught me. Our struggle lasted for months. Blood, sweat, and tears were shed yet I bested him. He retreated, but swore to return. I welcome his challenge.
As I looked around me, I saw where I was. I was surrounded in light. Creative power. I spoke out into the light, “Here I stand. At the path of Angels. The center of the Universe”
When I stopped laughing (at, not with) alarm bells went off. Could this guy be serious? The world “needed” him? ”The Center of the Universe”?
The alarms continued as I read some of his blog posts, including one where discussed climbing a mountain as a drawn out metaphor for reaching his goal of being a NYTBSA. Aside from the post being a trite rehash of something I’m sure he heard or read, in this particular post I found this gem:
Who’s here to help me climb and who’s here to congratulate me on the climb? Those going on the climb are coming with me and the others are relegated to “see you on Facebook.”
That’s right folks. He may grace your Facebook wall with his presence, but don’t expect him to bring potato salad to your next barbecue.
It always was about his success, and your support didn’t mean much unless you were going to be just as successful (so he could use your success to push himself higher).
He presented his work with self-adulation and over the top confidence. At best, he was someone who was trying to bury his own insecurities, at worst, he was a narcissist, someone with a “willingness to exploit others and an inflated sense of self-importance”*.
I don’t present all of this to beat a dead horse, but to warn others. I’ve heard a lot of “but he seemed like such a nice guy”. He played a part. He flattered those he thought could get him somewhere, he used other writers credentials to promote himself as an expert, and he always spoke about himself and his work with great confidence.
Do you know what the “con” in con man stands for? Confidence.
*text in quotes in this sentence taken directly from Wikipedia article on narcissism