You know there’s that moment when someone tells you something and you just want to scream. You know, you say things like:
“You can’t be serious!”
“Has the world really come to this?”
“Why would anyone think that was a good idea?”
I’m talking about someone getting signed to publish another Twilight fanfic. Yes, it has happened again. I had a few things to say about it when I did the Fifty Shades of Grey review. Let’s delve a little deeper, shall we?
I like my good old friend Wikipedia, they say,
“Works of fan fiction are rarely commissioned or authorized by the original work’s owner, creator, or publisher; also, they are almost never professionally published. Because of this, many fan fictions written often contain a disclaimer stating that the creator of the work owns none of the characters.”
Maybe I’m wrong here, but EL James must have found enough loopholes to make it so that she wasn’t stepping on Stephenie Meyer’s intellectual property rights or Random House’s rights. Bravo for her, right? She’s made tons of money now! They’re even making a movie! Good for her, right? …Right? Uh, no!
Don’t get me wrong here; I’m happy for anyone that has bettered their circumstances. However, as a writer/editor this makes me furious. I’ve spent what seems like eons working on developing my characters. I’ve worked on the plot that has progressed and exhibited these characters. I’ve cleaned up prose and deleted pages to make sure that their personalities were getting across to the readers.
As an editor, I’ve spent hours upon countless hours reading other writers’ works to help make sure their characters are well developed and portrayed exactly how the writer means for them to be.
So, when someone comes along and “borrows” a character and starts writing whole stories based off what someone else has struggled and worked so hard to create… well that’s fine. That’s what fan fiction is. Without fans I’d be out of a job. So would millions of other people across the entertainment and merchandise industries.
My gripe is when these fan fictions start financially benefitting from it. Now, I know how this argument is going to go. I’ve had this argument with myself…
“Fan fiction writers are writers, too. They have to work just as hard.”
“Yeah, they do. But, they don’t have to spend much time in character development.”
“Why shouldn’t they make money off their writing?”
“They should! But, not off of an idea that someone else has struggled so hard for.”
“But, it doesn’t affect the original author.”
“Of course it does! Stephenie Meyer gave one of the most generic comments about Fifty Shades of Grey probably because it would be bad PR if she didn’t. What if someone does a fan fiction of my work and I think it’s a destruction of what my characters stood for? How could I say anything about it without looking bitter? And if I look bitter in the media that will hurt my sales.” (Stephenie Meyers on having read Fifty Shades of Grey says rather flippantly: “No, that’s really not my genre– not my thing. I mean good on her, she’s doing well. That’s great.” She goes on to support The Hunger Games ardently.)
“Shouldn’t the author be flattered that their work inspired someone else’s?”
“Yeah, they are flattered. Think about it, every author says they have authors that have inspired them, but none of them say that exact characters are based on characters out of those authors’ books.”
“It does get more people to read.”
“I’ve not seen factual information supporting this, but I can’t really deny it either.”
I’d love to hear the community weigh in on this. Comments are open… ready, set, go!