Original, or not? Should I develop this idea further?

by Luci

Question: While watching a favorite television show of mine, I had a sudden inspiration. In the episode, it was revealed that in their version of Heaven, soulmates shared their "own personal Heaven." Everyone normally has their own Heaven, but soulmates are able to have one together.

I (sort of) expanded on that basic idea. In the plot I have for a story, it is more centered on soulmates, less on their heavens. My version of soulmates is that they do not have to be romantic. They are simply two people with a bond so strong that it has made them into something beyond casual friends. My main characters are best friends, a boy and a girl, but without romantic interests in each other.

First of all, is this idea silly? When I used to hear the word "soulmates" I would think of cheesy love stories aimed at teenagers. I now know that it's stereotypical and there is much more to it. I WOULD like to focus this on a teen audience, but it is more of a story about friendship instead of romantic love.

Second, is this plagiarism of any kind? If I do mention the bit on Heaven that I was inspired by, since that is most likely (as far as I know) a unique idea from the television show creator, would I be violating some law? If I developed it into my own idea, which I plan to do, would it be okay to use? I read another question that was answered on being original. It said that no story is truly 100% original and I believe that. Is this the case for the soulmates-and-heaven-thing, or is it too directly related to the show and would I have to cut out my version of the Heaven part?

By the way, I'm basing this in a fantasy realm of sorts, that functions like our own modern world.

Answer: Bearing in mind the usual caveat that I am not a lawyer and cannot give legal advice...

First, you cannot copyright an idea, only the particular expression of the idea in words. Since your story will be worded entirely differently than the TV episode you watched, there is no problem at all.

Second, doing a twist on an idea in order to breathe fresh life into it or to appeal to a group of readers who find the original idea cheesy is how great stories are born.

For example, Buffy the Vampire Slayer began as a twist on the horror cliche of the attractive but helpless young woman being pursued and threatened by a monster. Whedon's brilliant idea was to turn convention on its head and have the woman turn around and kill the monster. This appealed to a huge audience of young women who wanted to see an empowered female hero.

Of course, once you've thought of an appealing twist, you still have to find an intriguing plot and a character your readers will fall in love with...

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