Rights of Fictional Existence

This is a very interesting idea to me. How far does an author “own” their characters/worlds?

Now, I’m not talking about copyright infringement or unauthorized sequels or published works of fanfiction or anything like that. Official, legal rights belong with the author, obviously.

I’m more talking about in the minds of readers. When it comes to each individual’s own personal thoughts, how much does an author have the right to argue for or against something a fan believes should be true?

I guess this probably sparks from the world of fan creations. Fictions, videos, art…these things are in abundance these days, and while some authors absolutely love them, others get very annoyed with fans for making these creations. Some authors are worried about legality issues, which I suppose is understandable. But I know there are also those authors out there that just don’t like people trying to argue that certain characters shouldn’t be together, or that so-and-so should have died, or that the whole story should actually take place in another century and on another continent.

What are your thoughts on this? Personally, I kind of believe there are sort of two planes to the creation of fiction worlds. There is the first author creation. This is what is down on the pages, or recorded on film. This is the story from the source, and no one can contest that, somewhere, this version of the story does exist.

But I also believe that there are other dimensions to fiction worlds. So that even while the originally story will always exist, the creations fans think up have just as much validity to be taken seriously as the originally tale. Yes, fans can’t get works published or make profits from their ideas, etc. But I don’t think, on a personal level, that their stories have the right to be shunned just because they are a re-working of someone else’s tale.

After all, how many people re-imagine old texts, or make films based on novels, or use characters from their favourite books and just disguise them for their own stories. That’s kind of how we work as humans. And, okay, some fan creations are sloppy and ridiculous and not well thought out. But any judgements about the value of these creations should be based on the writing/drawing/filming/editing/etc. itself, and not on the source content.

If I like a story, you better believe I start imagining how things would play out in that world, with those characters, in my own perfect version of the tale. I can’t help it. My brain does what it’s going to do. I don’t write these thoughts down or anything, but whole “original” stories based on published creations live inside my head at all times, and I am firm believer that my versions are just as valid and “true” as the original stories…just in a different, more private way.

So what are your thoughts? Do fan-made versions of stories have any validity as serious tales, or do you think only an author’s original work has the right to be called the “actual” way things in that world happen? Can characters take on a life of their own separate of what’s in a story? And what about the character lives in the world after the published story has ended?

One Response so far.

  1. Deshipley says:
    Dealing as we are with the realm of the imaginary, I'd say there's plenty of room for the creation of multiple realities within diverse minds — something similar to the kind of crazy confusing timeline-juggling that can happen when time travel's involved. X)

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