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According to Plagiarism.org,

copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not

is considered plagiarism.

Now let's say that I am writing a novel about a certain person's life and everything that this novel is based on is the events as described in the person's journal. Note that I will not be copying the journal word for word, but will instead only be using the facts and events as described in the journal as the primary and most probably the only source of my novel.

Is this considered plagiarism? If so, is there a way to get around it?

Info based on a previous answer:

Well see, it will actually be a novel as I am not writing a factual account of the person's life, but in fact a fictional story based on the given facts. The journal given is merely an explanation of the events and listed facts while my novel will be in the form of a fictional story. Also, the journal was written in the 18th century, some 250 years ago, meaning that I cannot ask for their permission.

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    Here's a great example of someone taking almost everything that somebody else wrote and republishing it without it being considered plagiarism: xkcd.com/1589 – Andrew Brēza Dec 16 '19 at 20:31
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It sounds like what you're writing is effectively a work of historical fiction derived from a work that, given its age, is almost certainly in the public domain.

As such, copyright isn't much of a concern. You would still want to mention the source in your preface, but as long as you're only using it as an outline for your narrative, it's no more plagiarism than the numerous modern adaptations of the Sherlock Holmes stories.

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Sometimes plagiarism isn't about the source, it's about not mentioning the source. When people write stories "based on true events" or historical novels about old kings, even when they use old journals or historical sources it's not considered plagiarism. The more obvious the sourcing, the less likely you have to mention it. If it's based on the events of something like the American revolution, even if you lifted complete speeches from the founding fathers, it's not considered plagiarism.

It sounds like you are wanting to write historical fiction.

Historical fiction is defined as movies and novels in which a story is made up but is set in the past and sometimes borrows true characteristics of the time period in which it is set. A novel that makes up a story about a Civil War battle that really happened is an example of historical fiction.

And this sounds like exactly what you are doing. The fact that you are focusing in on one person doesn't matter. I would write a small introduction about the person it is based on, or how you found the source material if they are not a known historical figure.

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You seem to have got yourself lost in the weeds somewhere. A novel, by definition, is a fictitious account. The story of a real person, based on the events written in their journal, would be a biography or memoir.

Publishing a story about a real, living person without their permission is likely to get you sued. However, if you their permission to use their journal they are unlikely to allege plagiarism.

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    Well see, it will actually be a novel as I am not writing a factual account of the person's life, but in fact a fictional story based on the given facts. The journal given is merely an explanation of the events and listed facts while my novel will be in the form of a fictional story. Also, the journal was written in the 18th century, some 250 years ago, meaning that I cannot ask for their permission. Sorry for not including this in my question. – Jacques Marais Dec 16 '19 at 14:24
  • @JacquesMarais If this is your passion and the hill you want to die on - go for it. Unless you have some form inherent rights to the story, you'll end up in hot water. The contents of a 250-year-old journal could affect generations. Google 'Ben Affleck' and 'Slavery'. Unless controversy is your marketing tool - leave it it alone. – Surtsey Dec 16 '19 at 22:57
  • @Surtsey, you mean like how Michael Crichton got in hot water for using the journals of Ahmad ibn Fadlan as a basis for the first part of Eaters of the Dead? Or how the wolves are baying at the door of Stephanie Marie Thornton for her novel American Princess: A Novel of First Daughter Alice Roosevelt? Or how Michael Punke ended up in hot water for his novel based on Hugh Glass, better known for the film Revenant? There's a reason "biographical novel" is an entire subgenre. – Keith Morrison Dec 18 '19 at 16:12
  • @KeithMorrison. I'm sure these people didn't go online to discuss the matter beforehand. We all get our 'inspiration' from 'somewhere'. Jaques Marques needs to come clean and obtain permission or 'change the names to protect the innocent'. He's inviting a gazillion lawsuits which he will likely lose and the costs will render him, his children, and grandchildren poor and homeless for the foreseeable future, – Surtsey Dec 18 '19 at 16:26
  • A lawsuit based on what? – Keith Morrison Dec 18 '19 at 20:33

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