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For years I told a short story in my kindergarten classroom. It was written and freely shared by the writer. I rewrote the short story (2-3 pages) into a middle grade chapter book, expanding the plot, naming the characters, creating more clearly defined settings. It was a fun writing exercise that now I want to publish, but is that crossing a line? I've tried to track down the author of the original short story, but can't. I did find she was inspired to write her story based on a somewhat known poem. So am I plagiarizing or infringing if I publish my mg novel based on someone else's short story?

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You should consult a lawyer.

Generally, you cannot expand a short story into a novel. You are infinging on the author's copyright if you do so. If, on the other hand, your own work is "transformative" enough, it could be argued that you have merely been inspired. Drawing inspiration from other works is commonplace and allowed.

How a court of law would decide in your case we can't even guess.

Personally, I would consider that novel a learning exercise, put it away, and start writing my own stories now.

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    It also depends on whether this story is public domain... Nov 28, 2023 at 16:00
  • How do I check for public domain? And are there suggested parameters for transformative enough to be possibly considered inspiration? TIA
    – HRWriter
    Nov 29, 2023 at 16:16
  • Public domain: Has the author been dead 70 years or more? If not, has he released the work into the public domain? (A note to that effect should accompany the work, if he has, e.g. a Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication.) Transformative: As I wrote, we don't know what a court of law will decide. You can try and compare your case to similar court cases or pay a qualified lawyer to do so.
    – Ben
    Nov 29, 2023 at 16:22

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