Plagiarism Questions

In my book, the protagonist will be a writer. I want to give this character some goofy stories to write about in the book. My questions is, if any of these “stories” are based on, say, urban legend or goofy news reports I’ve read, is using those stories for ideas considered plagiarism? I would of course NOT copy and paste anything or write anything verbatim, just get the idea from an existing urban legend or goofy news piece I may have read.

According to, plagiarism is “the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work.”

Writers use real-life stories all the time as inspiration for fiction, so doing that is fine. However, you should change enough details about a story to protect yourself from some money-hungry person who might accuse you of using their story for profit. Unfortunately, some people think every author is rich and who wants to be dragged into court if they don’t have to be?

Your email made me want to share a favorite website of mine, News of the Weird. See:

Whenever I’m bored or need a laugh, or just feel like a guffaw or two, that’s where I go. Fiction writers can find inspiration from some really, really weird news stories there!