Turning a dervitive work into an original one

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Turning a dervitive work into an original one

#1 Post by EKG-heartbeat » Sun Jun 24, 2018 10:08 pm

For my first visual novel, I'm going to take this Homestuck fanfic idea and turn it into an original story. I figure the universe is so alternate it might as well be an original story that I could monetize. But how do I write these human characters without picturing their alien source? I want them to stand on their own. (You don't need to know Homestuck to answer this. Might be better if you don't.)

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Re: Turning a dervitive work into an original one

#2 Post by Jackkel Dragon » Sun Jun 24, 2018 11:48 pm

This is a tricky and to some a potentially loaded question, the way I see it. Firstly, it depends how heavily the story and characters rely on the original source material of the fanfic. Sounds like the setting may not be a problem for you, but the characters may need to be reworked to do what you want? The more connections to unique aspects of setting or character, the harder it would be to de-couple from the original source without plagiarizing or looking like a rip-off. You'd have to take each aspect and decide how important it is to keep, then try to find new reasons for the elements that you decide need to stay.

Another potential difficulty is that, by its nature as derivative work, a lot of fanfic doesn't provide a lot of exposition or basic character development for canon material. So you'd have to keep in mind what is most important for the audience to know, and then make sure you include that information if it didn't exist in the fanfic. This may mean anything from an expanded description to entirely new scenes.

A risk you'll always run into with this sort of project is that it could be considered a dolled-up fanfic rather than a truly original work, no matter what you do. This is especially true if it is widely known that the work was based on a fanwork. (For instance, 50 Shades is often put down as originally being Master of the Universe, a Twilight fanfic. This shouldn't be relevant in insulting the series; there's enough to mock without that. But people love to toss that out there as the "reason" it's bad.)

For your specific example of turning alien characters into human characters, you'd need to provide us with more details to understand the potential issues. Particularly human-like aliens may need no changes aside from site of birth. Aliens that live twice as long as humans and have mandibles would require a closer examination of what you feel is most important about the characters and what might or might not need to change.

To give an example of some of these concepts at work, I'll bring up a fanfic I wrote a few years back, then re-wrote into an original story. The original fanfic focused on a canon character and their relationship to an original character, showing how their friendship changed the canon character into a better person before everything ended in tragedy. When cutting ties with canon, I had to keep most of the characterization of the borrowed character, so I primarily changed cosmetic things about the character (their first name, some distinguishing marks, etc.) The settings were very similar already, but I still made sure to highlight some of the key differences when I had the chance. To make sure that the expy of the canon character was developed in a way that was clear to a fresh audience, I changed the perspective to the other lead and swapped their roles in the ending. (This also helped disguise some of the canon character's traits, since they were no longer the viewpoint of the story.) By having the borrowed character as the one who dies at the end, the characters will more obviously branch away from the characters of the original source material, allowing them to stand on their own.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you can borrow elements from a work in a fanfic-like manner as long as you make sure to do something original with the resulting characters. For instance, I'm told that the title characters of Rick and Morty are meant to be based on Doc and Marty from Back to the Future. But the resulting stories are so wildly different and the characters go in such different directions that it would be difficult to call Rick and Morty a "fanfic" of Back to the Future.

Hopefully some of that helped. This might be a bit of a can of worms you decided to open.
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Re: Turning a dervitive work into an original one

#3 Post by Draziya » Mon Jun 25, 2018 7:17 am

Considering this is Homestuck we're talking about, a webcomic that I can't begin to wrap my head around, you'll really need to make sure your universe can really stand on its own two feet. Do your character's motivations still make sense if you strip away all of the stuff that won't be able to be included without length explanations? If the answer is "no" that's all the better. Finding new reasons why characters do what they do will help flesh your characters out better.

I'd definitely write out character profiles for each character. It might seem excessive, but since their source material has heaps of information on each character, you'll want to know enough of each character that you don't default to the answer that their counterpart would have. This will hopefully also get you attached to your characters, not just their sources. You might realise things about these characters as you write as well!

I'd say that you should change the characters appearances, but I suppose you're already doing that since you're going from Trolls (I assume) to Humans. Consider changing up the hair colours and hair styles of some characters. Maybe change up who wears glasses etc. Homestuck has a lot of characters, which means I would also advise you to fuse some of the characters together. You're doing a Visual Novel for the first time. You probably won't want to have at 12+ characters with sprites. Especially if you end up getting someone else to do the art.
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Re: Turning a dervitive work into an original one

#4 Post by Mammon » Mon Jun 25, 2018 8:01 am

One thing that fanfic writers rarely recognise is that they don't sound like the original writer. In the way that they write, the mannerisms of their characters, the scene flow, the gimmicks, the very tone of their work. You may write a fanfic of a story that you really like, but you don't actually write like the original writer. Even if you think you do, or try to do so specifically.

A dragonball Z fanfic may imitate the artstyle of Toriyama, but its writing is usually vastly different. Goku will be more serious, focussed and protective of his comrades than in the original, because the fanfic writers see him as such and want him to be awesome at what he does. In the real series, that's far from the case and Goku's involvement is usually minimalised to the conclusion to ensure that the villain can rampage around long enough to call it a season. A lot of his tardiness and carefree demeanour to his friends being in danger is ignored by the fanfic writers because they don't want to see it and add it to their own stories.

The original superman was lawful good, but it's clear that new writers from Hollywood see him in a much simpler and more shallow light. He doesn't strive to overcome his challenges, he has a massive amount of powers that can steamroll over his enemies. And he loves to show it off. Also Jesus symbolism, because he's humanity's new saviour. Big difference because what comes down to a fanfic writer only writes the version they see or want.

I can give more examples, but I think you get the idea. My point is, you are almost guaranteed to write your characters different and with a different feel to them than the original story. If you strip away the likeness, name and worldbuilding corresponding to Homestuck, you will have a character only somewhat alike the original character regardless of your efforts. With a few well-placed changes, they can become impossible to be tied to the original, but that isn't even necessary. Chances are that they resemble another fictional character you might've never heard of more than the character you based them off, simply because that writer's style and story-preferences resembles yours more.
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Re: Turning a dervitive work into an original one

#5 Post by EKG-heartbeat » Tue Jun 26, 2018 8:00 pm

I'm only using three of the characters: Karkat, Sollux, and Aradia. They are fully human in this verse. I've renamed them Kunthur, Sam, and Alice but I wonder if I should change the names of Kunthur and Sam (Alice's name is already in the title). I like the idea of changing glasses and hairstyles. I think giving them different zodiac signs from the canon might help (not that the Homestuck trolls always fit their signs). Avoid symbolism and do what's right for THAT character.

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