I've been worrying about this for quite a long time.

So, for the past year or so, I've been working hard on a story I'm very passionate about. My biggest concern of them all is copyright issues.

I'm not going to bore you with the details, but I was wondering if there were resources(people or online. Technically, this site is really helpful and would count as a good resource for me online, but I want to go more in-depth) that look over my story, and compare it to an existing work that I think could be too similar, and then provide me with advice, so that I can be 100 or near percent assured. I'm not sure if I'm supposed to be asking an attorney, or even my friend, to deem whether my story is too similar to another.

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    Are you worried about a specific other work that you already know about, or other work in general? Commented Jan 12, 2021 at 11:49
  • @DM_with_secrets, a specific other work(s). Commented Jan 12, 2021 at 14:17
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    While a student can copy material and say it's original, that's untrue. But you know you did not copy Book B, so you can relax. As for copying ideas and expressing them truly in your own words, no worries there, either. Colleges have software to detect plagiarism, but that does not apply to you. Commented Jan 12, 2021 at 18:45
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    I'm also might consider traditionally publishing my story. Do you think that publishers will help with this sort of thing? Commented Jan 12, 2021 at 19:57
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    @Alexandrang They will absolutely help you! Commented Jan 12, 2021 at 20:59

2 Answers 2


This is a tough question to answer because, in many situations, there just isn't a way to be sure of something like this; it's subjective. Does In the comments you mentioned that there are specific works that are concerning you, so with that at hand I'd do these things:

  1. Break down the elements in question -- character archetypes, plot points, and worldbuilding flavor are all good places to look. Start with the big picture and work down to figure out the most crucial bits from each work, including your own. For plot, I'd go with: concept --> overall narrative --> specific story beats --> scene-by-scene. For characters, I'd do: archetype --> appearance --> personality --> motivations. (These are very generic models, though, so if there are specific parts that worry you, I'd focus on those first).
  2. Compare them. Put those important pieces next to each other and measure them as thoroughly as you can, from every angle that you can. Getting a friend who's familiar with the works you're worried about to help would be ideal, but if not you should still be able to do this one solo. Be honest with yourself, but also try and be charitable; some things are sufficiently generic that they become endemic to any given genre, so you shouldn't worry too much about those things that could just as easily be coincidences.
  3. Revise your story. Once you've broken it down and compared it to the objects of your worries, you might realize that some characters are way too similar, or that a piece of someone else's worldbuilding snuck into your narrative, and so on. Could those be mistaken for theft? Maybe, maybe not. The art of writing is all about abstracting things you've already seen or experienced and making them into something new, so there's bound to be intersections here and there. Just rework those potentially problematic elements as much or as little as they need to be more solidly your own.
  4. Repeat steps 1 and 2, but this time with the new version: are the same elements still concerning you? Are there new things you didn't notice? If yes, repeat step 3 again too. If no, great! You should be all set. :)

It's also good to keep in mind that theoretically similar concepts can have wildly different characters & narrative bodies; it's all about the execution. Writers are like sponges, but as long as you're not going out of your way to replicate someone else's work, there's a good chance you're just absorbing and reinterpreting information in the regular way that most writers do.

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    REALLY helpful answer with really good advice. Thanks so much! Commented Jan 12, 2021 at 19:55

I'm not sure this will help you, but as long as you aren't using Copyrighted characters, like Mickey Mouse in your stories, I think it'll be okay. There are a lot of stories that copy off each other. Changing names and making plot changes means it's NOT plagiarized. Also, you can't use lyrics to songs. That's a no-no.

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    "Changing names and making plot changes means it's NOT plagiarized." That is not necessarily true. I couldn't take Harry Potter and change Harry's name to Jack Smith in Hogwarts and add a few plot twists and be able to legally claim it as my own story. Commented Jan 15, 2021 at 19:22

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