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In my story, there is a sidestory and character arc for a minor supporting character. Due to a war happening in the fantasy world, the character is drafted into the military, and is sent through basic training as a soldier. I was thinking about parodying the first half of Full Metal Jacket, with the cruel drill instructor, but I an not sure if it is a good idea. How far could a reference go, before it is just downright copying and not funny?

Note: It is just the beginning training that references the film, but for the rest of the character's storyline, it is its own original story.

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  • Are clichés ever funny? Don't you need to subvert them somehow to be funny?
    – wetcircuit
    Dec 17, 2022 at 3:49
  • @wetcircuit I think there are other ways to make a cliché funny than subversion. Exaggeration. Piling them up. Deconstruction. It isn't unheard of them to be unintentionally funny, too.
    – Divizna
    Dec 17, 2022 at 19:21

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There are potentially 3 issues here: Trademark infringement, copyright infringement, and good story-telling.

If you copy the name of someone else's story or characters, and you create the possibility that, at least potentially, readers might confuse your story with the original, or think that it's an authorized sequel, you could be sued for trademark infringement.

If you copy exact words from someone else's story, or closely parallel their words, you could be guilty of copyright infringement.

Both of these are fairly easy to avoid by just making your own story distinct enough. You can have a character say, "Wow, boot camp is like Full Metal Jacket!" and have some similarities. There's a special exception in copyright law for parody, so if you copy Full Metal Jacket in a way that makes fun of it, or reset it to a fantasy world, etc, you're probably safe.

Of course "you'd probably win if you got sued" is not at all the same as "you don't need to worry about being sued". If a big operation with a hundred lawyers on staff decides to sue you, just defending yourself could wipe you out, even if you win.

But frankly I think the bigger question is good story telling. Copying someone else's story rarely makes for a good story. Readers are going to say, "This is just a rip-off of Full Metal Jacket." If you make it a parody and you do it well and it's funny, maybe you pull it off. But in general I think you're much better off to be original.

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  • Do not worry, it is very distinct enough, and not an exact copy
    – Crafter
    Dec 17, 2022 at 15:50

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