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I am currently writing a novel which I noticed is based on ideas from many books that I have read. I noticed that what did I do is get an idea from a book, get another ideas from (many) other books, tear them apart and rearrange it carefully so that it looks different and new, and then put it all together into a whole new story.

Let me make an example to make it clear. (Sorry if I have bad English.)

  • I read a book about a boy who saved the world from the darkness using a sword hidden in a secret cave. And, boom! I got a girl who wants to save the world from darkness using a secret axe hidden in a secret forest.
  • I read a book about a betrayal of a father who is actually doing it on purpose to save his son. And, boom! I (I mean, my MC) got betrayed by a brother who is actually doing it to save herself from the darkness.
  • I read a book about a person who live in a world where the moon is collapsed to destroy the earth, and the MC is about to go to a space station for a virtual dream machine, but turns out the virtual dream machine sends him back to where his world is with the past timeline, so he tries to tell the government about the moon to prevent it from exploding. And, boom! I got an idea to make the girl failed to save the world so she tries to go to a space station for a virtual dream machine, but turns out the virtual dream machine is actually the same world with past timeline, so she tries to save the world once again, even if it's only at her dream.

And from that, I got :

A girl who wants to save the world from the darkness using a secret axe hidden in a secret forest, with his brother all alongside with her. But throughout the story, the brother betrayed her, so she killed him, as it turns out that the brother was just trying to protect her from the darkness itself. After that, she tried to beat the evil darkness lord, but she failed and the earth just got eaten by the darkness. Luckily, she already escaped to the space station and entered the virtual dream machine, but the dream she had is the same world where she lived earlier. And because of that, it is her chance to save the world from the darkness for the second time, even if it just her dream.

Is that considered plagiarism?

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In short: Everything you just listed is completely fine.

There's nothing wrong with taking a specific plot point in a book and then having your own unique spin on it. Nobody can plagiarize you for having a similar plot in the story. If this were the case, most fantasy-based or sci-fi genre boarding schools could be copyrighted by J.K Rowling, places on surreal adventures can be taken down by Lewis Carrol's family, and any books dealing with unfair racism in the 20th century can be struck down by Harper Lee (or Scott Rudin).

The thing you don't want to do, however, is take the whole thing and just make your own story out of it.

By this, I mean literally taking the world the author already had and making a slightly different story. I'm actually going to use Harry Potter for this example because it's a classic.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Let's pretend that you're inspired by Harry Potter and want to make your own boarding school for magical people. The idea itself is completely fine because no author owns the idea of schools for students with superhuman capabilities. What they do own, however, is the world themselves.

So if your story is:

A girl named Rebecca is destined to be a part of the magical school Noah's Academy, founded by the world's greatest wizard. After thirteen years of anticipation, she is finally accepted. However, she finds that the magical place also has a deal with keeping only the best of students: the ones with wit, creativity, and ways to get past life and death situations

Then you won't be subject to plagiarism. The reason being is because, despite Harry Potter and your book having similar schools (heck, even semi-similar origins) it's your own unique spin on a less unique concept.

WHAT YOU CAN'T DO

BUT if your story is:

A girl named Rebecca is thrilled when she gets an announcement to be in Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry! She meets Harry Potter and Ron Weasley on the way (Hermione had lost her spot to the much wittier girl) and they both travel across the world to unlock the magical secrets of Africa.

Here, you're using the plot from an established story and just adding characters and making up your own story. This story would definitely be subject to plagiarism.

BUT

If you do it in the form of fan fiction, then this work would be tolerated. As long as you do not attempt to publish the book and put it on a website without intending to make money off of it, you can probably do it.

(Sometimes authors may not permit fanfictions of the world, but this varies from author to author.)

The takeaway: Authors don't own things such as "character takes the sword from a stone" or "a child goes to a magical boarding school", but they DO own "Dillain takes a sword from the mouth of the Chilianed Dragon in the depths of the waters" and "Harry Potter is accepted into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry". Basically, they own the world, not the skin-and-bones concept that the world is based on.

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  • We might want to note about the Harry Potter example, that the one you presented as "what you can't do" can actually be done in the form of fan fiction. You just won't be able to sell it for money. There are several Harry Potter fan-fictions around, a few of them quite good, and the author herself stated she's OK with them as long as they acknowledge in a disclaimer that she's the original author of Harry Potter, and that the fan-fiction writers don't ask money for what they write. – vsz Oct 31 at 12:04
  • Yeah, you're right. Fanfiction can indeed be done. But that's not really what the question's asking. I'll add that as well anyhow. – Sister Student Oct 31 at 12:16
  • Not all authors allow fanfic. – NomadMaker Oct 31 at 15:41
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    Fan fiction isn’t any more “legal” than other forms of copyright infringement, it’s just tolerated as mostly harmless. – Django Reinhardt Oct 31 at 21:56
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    @DjangoReinhardt: Eh... a copyright license is just a very fancy and formalized "promise not to sue." Rowling has informally said she has no problem with (noncommercial, I assume) fan fiction, so I'd argue that it's only illegal in the most technical and pedantic sense. Also there are folks like the OTW who maintain that all fan fiction is fair use, but I'm somewhat skeptical that the said doctrine is flexible enough to apply to every single case of fan fiction without exception. – Kevin Nov 1 at 4:23
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If you break it down enough, every story is built up of other stories. Chances are, most parts from your story can be found on TV Tropes under a different name. Before you go beating yoruself up about how you have four books in one, compare Harry Potter with Star Wars. They're pretty much the same in different settings. Both have magic powers, the chosen one, the need to save the world(s), a whiny MC, a mentor who dies in the end, etc, etc, etc.

So you should be fine unless you're copy + pasting chapters from the other books and just changing pronouns and names.

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