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Adoptables are a collections of threads that appear annually in the NaNoWriMo forums. Historically, these have appeared in the Plot Doctoring forum, usually organized by a moderator in a sticky at the top of the page. Beginning in 2010, there has been a dedicated Adoption Society forum: "All the adoptables you could ever need. Find an abandoned plot, a character, a title, or even a catch phrase! Your One-Stop Adoption Shop!" Each thread is a collection of unused or unwanted plot devices, characters, novel premises, dialogues, titles, lines, deaths, motives (and many, many more) that have been placed up for adoption because the original creators have no use for them.
Adoptables threads are user-generated, and old standbys such as "Adopt a Plot" and "Adopt a Character" are brought back year after year by experienced Wrimos as soon as the forums have been rebooted at the beginning of October. Others are added as the month progresses. To have an adoptables thread added to the official adoptables list, the thread's creator must PM the link to the thread to a forum moderator, who will then add it to the sticky thread. Thus, the adoptables list is slightly different each year, depending on which threads are created by users. As of 2011, a new theme in Adoptables is 'Writing Buddies' which are to encourage Wrimos to write. These include Word Count Dragons and Writing Angels as well as Hellhounds.
Adoptables Usage Rules
One of the stickies in the adoptables board states the following:
Please note that ALL adoptables posted here are considered to be given for free, no strings attached, to be used as those who adopt them see fit. Once you post, you are accepting that others may use and abuse your idea as they see fit. Any number of people may adopt a single idea, and no one who posts here may determine how their adoptable ideas may be used. Once offered, they are considered public domain!
Therefore, adoptables do not contain any copyright and you can use them for any purpose, even something that has nothing to do with writing!
Despite the lack of usage restrictions, proper etiquette when using an adoptable does include letting the other writer know that you're going to use an idea and how you're going to use it. Although the other Wrimo has made it clear that s/he is fine with anyone using their idea for any purpose whatsoever, writers are sometimes very attached to the tidbits that they share and would like to have some inkling of where their "baby" is going. This can be done by quoting the idea you want to use and posting on the thread (a simple "I'm snagging this for ______________" will suffice). However, since this sort of post tends to clog up the thread and because Wrimos may not always check the thread to see if their idea has been taken, the most efficient and simple method is to send the other writer a private message saying that you're going to adopt the idea in question. Some writers may ask to see the way in which you choose to use their idea (this often happens with characters or stories that s/he have a vested emotional interest in). There is absolutely nothing the writer can legally do to get you to meet this request, but if you're feeling generous, you're defintely welcome to show them excerpts of whatever you used their adoptable in.
Many adoptables pass straight from the creator to the user. Nevertheless, there are inevitably items on an adoptables thread that will prove intriguing to a number of people. The good news is that, unlike a puppy, a character or story can be adopted by multiple Wrimos. Although you may be irked to discover that someone else will be writing something based on the exact same premise as you, take comfort in the fact that your individual style and unique background will make the story completely yours, regardless of the fact that it sprang from the same idea that inspired a similar story. NaNoWriMo Staff have confirmed throughout 2011 and 2012 that having the same plot as another participant DOES NOT make you a rebel unless you actually write (as in actually typing it yourself into the actual novel file) some part of that other participant's novel DURING November.