I have been a terrible writer this week, and completely missed my update schedule, and not really for any good reason, beyond a lack of anything worthwhile to say (true, it could be argued most of these blog posts weren’t needed, as other more insightful people have made most of the points I do, but still!)
What I have been doing instead is working on some art from the hobby that got me into writing – role-playing.
And that has led me into something that maybe is worth talking about: handling ideas and intellectual property belonging to others.
First, let me come out and say: Please do not ever use someone else’s ideas without their express permission, or peddle something another created as your own.
That said, there are occasions where the thoughts of others have come into my writing. Heck, I started out collaborative writing, which requires such, and as someone who likes to tinker with art, I have also attempted (not always well) to depict the characters and events others have described.
Sometimes they come out well though!
(And in deference to my above statement, this image uses a free stock prop that I did not make!)
Most recently, I have been working on my gothic novel (I know, I know… I’m sorry, Hevna!), and that entire work is based on and inspired by the large, sprawling and extensive tales told between no less than five people at any given time, over a matter of years.
Those people are still my best friends, the most important to me, and thus depicting characters based on their ideas and thoughts that helped to build the story is very important, and to be handled with due care.
Care that started with letting them know I was even constructing such a thing.
Someone Else’s Dream
My memories of what occurred and what was most important at any given point don’t necessarily always gel up with what was most memorable to the others from all those years ago.
To that end, I do very much try to get the input, remembrances and thoughts of whoever played the character I am currently writing as, as I go.
It is then critical, of course, to run the completed scene past the original writer, check they are happy with both the content and the prose, the tone and the dialogue (if applicable).
In many ways, its fun to try and get the characters right and to put myself in someone else’s headspace that I can get actual accurate feedback on. It’s also wonderful when the original author praises the work and your understanding of what they were trying to convey (especially remembering it this far into the future!)
I very much feel, as I write the current novel, that I’m collating other people’s dreams and thoughts alongside my own, and that’s great.
A Story Shared
For all I, of course, want to make sure I am true to what others remember and are happy with regarding their characters and thoughts, sometimes there is a line that needs to be drawn.
It’s been fifteen years since we began our journey as a group, and we have all matured and changed a lot in that time. Some things which seemed so important or clever at the time do not stand up modern scrutiny, nor who we see ourselves as now. Sometimes, things have to be cut, either for the desire of the original creator or in the service of the story.
Generally, I like to avoid conflict, and I think the only reason I am willing to try this project of mine is that the colleagues who helped with it are open, honest and approachable people.
The story is based on what we constructed together, however, I’ve placed myself at the helm and am very fortunate to have the trust of my friends to make the final calls on the project. What stays, what goes, how certain events are changed.
Naturally, I check all of it with them first, but occasionally, things have to be altered for a good flow, and a story that can be shared.
I would never, ever do this with someone’s work I did not know well, and honestly, I have no idea how comic book writers cope.
There’s an industry where writers come in and put their unique spin on very famous and well-known properties, changing stories, adding to stories, retelling stories, and it is a literal wasp’s nest of results.
Sometimes the work is adored, sometimes it is reviled, but no matter which, I know that I would not handle the levels of expectations in such a field.
Huge shout out to all the actors who step into roles very attributed to another, too. It is not easy to be creative in someone else’s head.
When It All Goes Wrong
Sadly, I have been on the other side of this topic, of respecting the ideas of others and using them appropriately.
I had the misfortune, about five years ago, of discovering the set up, names and ideas we had all worked on had been usurped and subverted by a player on another website, one who certainly had no respect for a) sticking to the ideals of the characters and setting, or b) listening to and seeking approval of the original writers.
As is so often the case when someone is caught doing something they knew intrinsically to be morally gray, the person in question failed to act in a respectful manner when confronted, and the only solace I can take from the matter is that he ‘moved’ his own creative work on to no longer use the intellectual property of my group.
Despite that, it genuinely stung, and I will never be entirely satisfied with how little there is to be done when someone has systematically twisted your own words and misrepresented you, especially without your knowledge or consent.
It is probable that as a result of that, even knowing I could likely get the permission of my friends and colleagues on completion of this work to use it, I will never publish the book I’m working on.
It is much more likely to be a gift between friends, a reference given to those who have a reason for interest and nothing more.
Maybe that’s just a degree of paranoia from having been burned creeping in, or maybe it’s the best course of action.
Either way. The 30,000 plus words I have written in the last few months stand as a testament to some very special gentlemen, the creative intent of many, and the pleasure that I know people who trust me enough to handle their names.