I recently parted ways with a writing partner, and while untangling the issue of who gets to keep what material, a nagging issue has surfaced, to which I cannot find a satisfactory answer.
I decided I wanted to go ahead and complete a script we had both outline, but the premise of which was his. I contacted him, and after discussion, I changed my mind. However, I decided to use only a single character from the script we had outline (and only the basic character outline, such as “prison guard” or “starship captain.” I devised an entirely new premise, dependent not all upon his initial story.
My ex-partner informed me I could not use such a character in my piece without some type of concession on his behalf. Is this true?
It’s “true” in the sense that he won’t be satisfied. Both of you think that something about this character has value, even though it’s purely speculative at this point.
Without knowing the specifics — and both sides of the story — I can’t offer any strong opinions on the legal or ethical issues involved here. But from a practical perspective, if you try to write this story that has some connection to the work you did together, you’re going to be dealing with this pissed-off person (or the chance this pissed-off person will reappear) for a long time.
My advice: Figure out what it is about this story/character/world that intrigues you. Then come up with something wholly your own that scratches the same itch. Maybe you think you’ve done that with your new story, but you wouldn’t be writing in if that were the case.