Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ethics Part Two

Happy Tuesday, good people of the blogosphere! Today is part two of my ethics discussion on the blog; I hope you're all enjoying the fun so far. If you missed part one, click here. Part two is all about fan fiction and ethics surrounding those novels that spring forth from other novels. Strap in and let's go for a ride, shall we?
Fan fiction, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, are novels that are based upon best sellers. Sometimes it encompasses the characters and keeps telling their story; but sometimes it only uses the basic plot idea. Many of these novels are then self-published.

But is it wrong?

Here's my thinking:
If you come up with an original story idea that has the same basic plot as another book on the market, then you publish it, you're in the right. There's nothing wrong with using the same plot line.
If you use characters from a story someone else wrote and write them in the same way (characteristics, attributes, location, etc...), you're in the wrong.

Oh my... I heard that all the way over here.

Why the collective gasp? Is it because I dared to say using someone's plot idea is okay? Or because I said using someone's characters is wrong?

Let me explain!
How many truly original plot lines are there? Let's do a quick rundown of the known ones:
  • Boy meets girl and falls in love but they have obstacles to overcome before they can be together.
  • Good king v/s bad king (or evil) and the land is in danger.
  • Something stolen must be retrieved.
  • Someone did something to someone else and revenge is sought.
  • Life and struggles therein.
  • Love triangles.
  • Right v/s wrong; a lesson.
  • Whodoneit? Murder mystery. Can also fall under revenge or life.
  • Crime novels. Can also fall under something stolen and life.
No matter what breed of person or creature you put in the story, the plot lines aren't really original. What is original are the characters and the specific types of obstacles they must overcome.

Yes, I agree, there's a fine line to be walked there.

I read some Twilight fan fiction last year and helped the author get it to the published state (editing, cover design). Why is it Twilight fan fiction? Well, she used the same basic plot line of two boys, one girl, and something between them they have to overcome. Girl can't wrap her head around just one of the boys. But instead of paranormal aspects, the author used sci-fi aspects to create the barrier between girl A and boy A. No vampires, no location similarities, and none of the same characters. I love the Canopy series by Crystal Lee and think her story is truly original. If you think you'd like to read some science fiction romance, go check it out. See what good fan fiction is like.

Canopy Volume One on Amazon. Just $0.99.

Now, I haven't read any direct knockoffs of major best-sellers but I know they exist. I don't think any form of parody falls into this class. There are actually specific laws about writing a parody; even down to being able to use the original cover/poster art. Go figure.

So, now you have another perspective on ethics when using someone's work.

Have you read anything fan fiction based? What did you think? Was it too similar? Where do you stand?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!



  1. Fan fiction is a hot debate right now. Some people flat out refuse to read it and have shelves on Goodreads like "Get your own damn ideas." I've read some books that I didn't even realize was fan fiction until later. I think if you use an original work as inspiration, but make sure to give it your own spin, I don't think that's a problem.

    1. I agree with you 100%, Heather! I think we all get inspired from something, somewhere. It's impossible not to. Thanks for the comment :)

  2. When I wrote Canopy, it wasn't one of my fan fictions, but you're right, Jo, there are only so many plot lines, and so a lot of it was similar to stories I enjoyed with love triangles in it.

    Although, I understand why many fan fiction authors will choose to publish a fan fiction story they've already posted and written, that's not something I choose to do. I only publish on Amazon, works that are completely original and my own invention. I want to stand on my own merit. Fan fiction I write merely for fun and to keep myself from getting rusty at writing. It's a great tool for writer's to stretch and grow so they can keep the creative juices flowing... I love fan fiction, but I understand why not everyone agrees. Thanks for sharing, Jo!

    1. Gotcha. :) It had the same basic idea as Twilight and that's why the reference. Yup, only so many plot lines. I think your love triangle ended up being a parallelogram for a while and then there was the other two or three love triangles going on at the same time. It really added depth to the series. I can't wait to edit the next one. :)


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