I am still no closer to a decision on a story I found. Technically, and for all creative purposes, the story is mine. The problem with it is that it was based on a very vague story about a boy dying written by my niece. I could finish the story and publish it as my own, since the actual inspiration is nowhere in the actual story in question, at least not in the same way.

The story, as it stands, is now over seven thousand words. My niece, now a mother with children, has long forgotten about the story and could probably care less. If I were to set aside a portion of the proceeds from the book on her behalf, I would not give the money to her directly, but rather save it so that one or both of her children could go to college when they got old enough. This is because my niece cannot save money to save her own ass. She has trouble paying her bills on time, often having to beg someone else in the family to lend her money.

The other thought was to use her portion of the royalties from the book to pay my mother, her grandma, the money she owes. Basically, I would be setting all of the royalties aside to repay my mother all the money she loaned to my niece. Either option is good, although the last is actually the best.

Still, I cannot seem to make a decision. Should I publish it? Should I not? If I do, what do I do? I mean, I would acknowledge the fact that it was a short story that  inspired the novella/novel, but that the stories are only similar in their ends, not their main content. But the actual story is my own. My interpretation of three pages of badly written story that would have just gotten thrown away by their teenage writer because uncle didn’t think it was good enough.

I never tell an aspiring writer that their story isn’t good enough, even if it sucks. I see the potential of the story. I encourage creativity. If I do tell them that it needs work, I will tell them where and why I believe it needs work. But I always end with it is still a good story.

So I have a story that I could finish writing and even publish. It was based on a three page short story by my niece, but is not the same story. Her story is one dimensional and vague. Mine took on a whole new life with characters she never wrote into her story, situations she had not thought to create, and basically put together a solid plot. Thus, I have a story I wrote that vaguely hints at a story she wrote.

So whose story is it? Hers? Mine? I was told that I could have legal problems on the technicalities. But, technically, there are no real technicalities…at least, not that I can see. I wrote the resulting story. It has little resemblance to the original.

What is the general consensus here? What do you think?