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Question about borrowing ideas from old texts for my WIP

730 Views 8 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  CraigInOregon
I don't know if borrowing ideas would be the right phrasing or not. I have an idea brewing in my mind that I want to start working on tonight. It's about a young woman who wakes up to find that she has died and gone to Hell. The whole thing is about her attempting to escape. I want to place an emphasis on comedy and action with this project (I know. Going to hell is super fun! Right? Right? Okay... Work with me on this.) but I also want to make sure I do the story justice with descriptions.

I had an idea pop into my brain, and I might want to run with it if it's acceptable. Would I be able to base my version of hell off the levels of Dante's Inferno? I'm not re-writing that book or attempting to plagiarize the text. I would make the levels my own and simply use the basic concept for each level  as the skeleton of my story's version of hell. I'm pretty sure that work is in the public domain now anyway. I'm certainly not using any of the text, any quotes from the text, etc. I would likely only use the names of each level.

The reason I thought this could work is that I know plenty of people who take that description of hell quite literally. I felt it would add a sense of realism for that reason. At any rate, this is going to be a dark comedy. The main character has a talking demon sword that's afraid of being swung at its foes, for crying out loud.  ;D

Advice would be much appreciated! If this is a "no no," I'll certainly figure something else out.
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Any work in the public domain is fair game, and the Divine Comedy (of which Inferno is the first part) is definitely public domain. So you're clear on that part.
That's what I like to hear! I know the work is hundreds of years old, but I like to make sure I'm not doing something horrible or unethical before I start working.  ;D
Dan C. Rinnert said:
If Dante's ghost decides to sue you, you're on your own.
If that happened, I would gladly consider my life complete. Well, maybe after starting a new religion.
Just think how many books, movies etc are based on Shakespeare plays! Sounds like you are doing a similar thing.
The Divine Comedy itself is based upon Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica -- there's truly nothing new under the sun. :) If we couldn't base fiction on previous works of literature (Greek plays, Shakespearan-era plays and manuscripts, the Bible, countless others) there would be a lot of empty shelves and ereaders. Why, Hemingway would never have written a word. ;)
There's no copyright problem. However, I'd recommend putting your own spin on those descriptions, both to match your own narrative style and to avoid getting hammered in reviews. :)

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Why not play up your book as an adaptation of Dante? Adaptations are very popular right now ... have been for a while.

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Well, the other question that occurs to me is this: why would one want to base their vision of hell on Dante's?

I mean, Dante's is already out there.

But it's not like hell is a place you can visit. Unless you mean here.


But, I mean, isn't that the joy of writing fiction? We can invent our OWN version of hell, rather than rely on someone else's! And who's to say we're wrong? There are no photos of Hell...

After all, it's not like the Hell Tourist Bureau is gonna sue you because you're giving the place a bad reputation... ;) ;D ::)
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