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Using characters I didn't create?

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Dragoncat, Dec 13, 2013.

  1. Dragoncat

    Dragoncat Minstrel

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    A person I know on another site has posted an introduction of his story's world and plot, and allowed people to submit characters. He'll give full credit when the time comes. I myself am thinking about doing this, so...

    Would this be okay, legally and for publication? If so, would it be better to credit in the book itself or on its official site/other related media?
     
  2. buyjupiter

    buyjupiter Maester

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    I think you'd have to be very confident that a credit on the acknowledgments page would be enough. Otherwise, I can see lawsuits happening.

    It would be worthwhile consulting an intellectual property lawyer in your area. They are better served to advise on matters like these, and might save you a whole bunch of heart ache in the long term.

    I might also keep in mind that it's harder to write in character for a character you haven't created. I don't do fan fiction, because of the difficulty I have in making sure that Eowyn stays true to her character. If it were up to me, I might have her be a little more choosy about the men she dates and go off and have adventures rather than stay at home and pop out babies. Which would piss off more people than it would make happy.

    And I think that's where you could run into trouble. Unless you're doing a joint venture and everyone has equal say in direction and development, you're going to make somebody mad. It may just turn into a reputation thing, but it could also go into legal issues.

    None of the above is legal advice.
     
  3. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    Personally, I'm a bit squidgy about this idea. I don't know the legal stuff, but given the trend in the early 90's for "Shared World" fiction and the alarming amount of fan fic out there is must be some sort of fuzzy wiggle room.

    My issue is artistic. I write with a partner, have for 20 years, and there are characters we share - and some we don't. When I write in the voice of a character that lives in her head, no matter how hard I work to put myself in that character's skin, it's just not a perfect fit. There are differences - the character changes, usually in subtle ways. And this is with the advantage of having daily, hourly creative contact with the person who "owns" the character.

    I can't imagine how it would even be possible to maintain cohesion of the character's voice and personality through something as remote as a website, where you just talk via text about characters. The characters could be expected to change on a fundamental level once they hit the narrative. But, our stories are very character driven, so their emotional lives and internal workings are vital to our stories. Maybe it would work differently for someone else.
     
  4. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

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    The writer in question is asking for others to submit characters for him to use in his writing/novel, and will acknowledge on a page in the novel who gave him the characters? Does this mainly mean other folks are to post names and traits of the characters he might use? Does the individual hope to publish the novel and earn money from it?

    I guess I am a little confused as to what is being done and what those involved hope to accomplish.
     
  5. Dragoncat

    Dragoncat Minstrel

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    The submission form includes names and etc, also if people have a specific role in mind, they include that. If not, the author comes up with these things and the submitter is okay with it. I'm pretty sure the end result will be published.

    The submitters know that creative license will be taken...pretty much, it's just to help get character ideas.
     
  6. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    In other words, he's making you do the work of character creation instead of doing it himself.
     
  7. Dragoncat

    Dragoncat Minstrel

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    Well judging from the responses I've gotten, bad idea?
     
  8. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    I've seen two computer games do this. In both cases, the game dev took payment to write about the characters, and in both cases, he allowed the submitters creative veto power--the characters wouldn't do anything the submitters didn't want them to do. In both cases, writers started cropping up who were incredibly possessive of their characters--for instance, a farm girl with no combat experience had an obvious personality conflict with a trained warrior, but the dev couldn't let it go anywhere because the farm girl's creator insisted that all characters either like her or lose fights against her. In addition, the more the games started to be about the submitted characters, the more they lost sight of their original focus, and I believe that this is how the games gradually turned into unplayable garbage.

    To be clear, these games were made by different devs in different styles, and yet the same things happened to them when they opened up submissions.

    Then again, the Wild Cards universe apparently gives creators veto power as well, and it seems to be doing okay. Then again again, you don't just submit the characters--you have to actually write their stories, and they have to be accepted. George R.R. Martin has said he mostly just uses the veto to say "No, your character can't rape my character; I don't care how 'powerful' you think it would be."
     
  9. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    Sounds pretty lazy on the part of the guy taking the submissions.
     
    GeekDavid likes this.
  10. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    Pretty much, yes.

    I imagine he'll eventually discover as hard as writing is with characters that sprang out of your own imagination, it's far harder with characters you had little or no hand in creating.
     
  11. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    ...like something of a publicity stunt, something to get others to take interest in the work and help promote it: "hey, check out this book, I designed this character that appears in it."
     
  12. Dragoncat

    Dragoncat Minstrel

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    Exactly...
     
  13. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Legalities probably aren't going to be a huge issue. Characters have to be pretty well fleshed out to get copyright protection. If you suggest that the author write a mercenary named Sam and he does, there's not much of a claim you can make to that character.
     
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