Thursday, December 23, 2010

Authors using other author's characters

A couple of days ago, Patti over Pattinase posed a question about authors writing fiction using another author’s characters. It’s not really bothered me one way or another and it’s not something I’m particularly interested in doing myself, but we’ve been house bound for the past few days due to the weather, so we’ve been watching some DVDs – Morse and Frost. So Patti's question got me thinking about these series. Whilst some of the episodes are based on the novels of Colin Dexter and R.D. Wingfield, others have been written entirely by other writers using the characters in their own story. The entire run of Frost consists of 38 episodes, yet Wingfield only wrote 6 novels. Similarly, there were 33 episodes of Morse but only 13 novels. It’s pretty difficult, to be honest, to know which episodes were based on the novels and which were written by completely different authors. Clearly in TV land, having lots of writers scripting stories using someone else’s creations is not a problem. There seems to be something different about using them in novels, but I’m not really sure what or why? Something about TV not foregrounding the author maybe?


Anonymous said...

Rob - There is a difference between TV and novels that way, isn't there? I'm not 100% sure why, myself. Perhaps it's because we expect a novel to be a new creation. Speaking just for me, I don't expect a television show to be a new creation.

Uriah Robinson said...

Rob- Roger Morris does this with great skill in his Porfiry Petrovich novels which feature the character created by Dostoevsky.

Bernadette said...

I don't know why either but I agree - it doesn't bother me with TV but I hate it when people do it with books (e.g. if one of the many people claiming to be channeling Stieg Larsson ends up publishing another 'Girl' book I shan't be reading it).

I think you're probably right = a book is very much the author's creation whereas we all know there are dozens of people involved in creating TV.

Or we're just being typically human (illogical adherence to a point of view)

michael said...

As someone who follows comic strips, books, and TV/Film this is a confusing question.

Cartoonists consider comics strips an art form and hate the "legacy" strips (strips done by someone other than the creator). Yet comic books that have an infamous history of screwing the original creators accept anyone's vision of the characters as long as the company gets the money.

TV is different because you do so many episodes in so short a time (write 22 novels in eight months). Yet many shows such as Star Trek and Buffy are known by the vision of the showrunner. Yet the issue of rebooting is becoming more and more accepted.

As I said over at Patti's, my one question is can't the writer tell his story with his own characters? Does the story depend on using other writers work?

I hated the Star Trek reboot. It existed just to make more money off the fans and then ignored what had happened to the characters before. Stop trashing my pop culture, create your own.

Yet I loved the recent reboot of Sherlock Holmes. I felt it kept the spirit of the original while improving the character. But I have always hated Holmes, agreeing with the Lupins of the world.

Finally, does the creator have to be dead before rebooting is ok? Or can I write a story featuring any character of a living best selling writer? Wait that is fan fiction, isn't it.

Rob Kitchin said...

I'm very ambivalent about this, though I'm not sure what I would think if someone else used one of my characters (as if that's likely!). UK and Irish TV series are not like US ones - typically they are written by one author and only have 4-8 episodes in a season. Morse and Frost only have a handful of programmes in any one year, each 2 hours long (inc. adverts), yet episodes were written by a number of people. I have to admit to liking clever intertextuality, which I guess is a form of homage without being anything more.