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Fanfiction or Original Universe:

I'm in the planning stages of a comic and I'm conflicted about whether or not I should create my own universe. Originally, when I conceived this idea, I was planning on using the Mass Effect universe as a setting. But then I started thinking of the disadvantages:

1. It might be difficult to find an audience for the comic. People already have negative associations with fanfiction and since my idea doesn't incorporate any characters from the Mass Effect games fans of the series my be turned off. I don't have any illusions of becoming even moderately popular, I'm kind of doing this to learn the craft after all, but I would like to have a few readers.

2. Its technically illegal, though I'm not too worried since I'm not trying to make money off of it.

The problem is that vital part of the story are wrapped-up in the Mass Effect Universe. Specifically, I wanted to have a space-opera world which has undergone a devastating war that's left millions homeless and left millions more isolated from the rest of the galaxy. Now, obviously this can be done in an Original Universe, but then I would be forced to either use lazy cliches (ie. Mysterious Alien Invasion) or spend a lot of time worldbuilding in a story I want to focus on characters.

I guess the whole point of all of this is: should create my own universe or is it okay to use someone else's.
 
 2 Editor Pall Mall, Wed, 10th Apr '13 3:08:36 PM from United States, East Coast
Don't Fear the Spiders
It is always better to write original fiction than to write fan fiction. So yes, do create a new setting. As for world building issues; you seem to already have developed the context for the story which has not been overplayed (a galaxy torn apart by war) so I would not waste time world building. Instead, focus on the plot and characters. The details can come later.
Keep it breezy!
 3 Ars Thaumaturgis, Wed, 10th Apr '13 3:50:57 PM Relationship Status: I've been dreaming of True Love's Kiss
I don't think that you need spend a lot of time on world-building even in a setting of your own, and even without resorting to laziness. Indeed, elements of world-building not related to the plot — perhaps especially in a character-focussed story — can likely be omitted entirely if desired.

For example, decide on the nature of the war, at least in broad strokes. Then, if it happens to come up, have it mentioned in however much detail it's appropriate that it be covered in that context, even if that leaves things vague. Vagueness isn't necessarily a problem in an element not related to the plot, I feel.

To expand the example, you might have a scene in which two characters are talking about their ship: John grinned. "Yeah, it's nothing special, but it'll do. It's all I could get anyway, what with the shortage of civilian ships." Brett scowled at that last. "Yeah..." He cursed. "Those Ventri. What sort of man...?" A silence descended over the pair. Eventually, however, John spoke up again: ... And so on. We may already know that there was a war. We now also know that there was a faction called the "Ventri", and the implications that they were human and that they may well have targeted civilian ships. More might distract from the plot.

 4 Night, Thu, 11th Apr '13 5:26:20 AM from PSNS Intrepid Relationship Status: Drift compatible
Who you are does not matter.
[up][up]Get out. That's a blanket statement without any kind of proof or defense, on which any kind of proof or defense probably can't be made considering its blatantly elitist nature, and as such can only cause trouble.

Never underestimate the amount of worldbuilding that any serious effort at working with a world, even an already constructed one, will entail. Movies and games and books rarely deal in all the details you're going to need.
"Let us look less to the sky to see what might fall; rather, let us look to each other...and rise."
 5 Major Tom, Thu, 11th Apr '13 6:03:08 AM Relationship Status: Barbecuing
Eye'm the cutest!
^ How many webcomics are made of existing universes again? 95% of them? Fanfiction has become a trite, weak and to be brutally honest nearly worthless source of inspiration and creativity anymore.

And it wasn't a very good one to begin with.
Endless Conflict: Every war ends in time, even supposedly this one.
There are some times when fanfiction can achieve a certain effect, especially if you're dealing with iconic characters. In my experience it's also a good way to boost your ego, since a lot of fanfiction readers have rally low standards.

I would say that, even if you consider them to be artistically equally valid, you should still favour original fiction, because then you don't have to worry about intellectual property laws.

I would also say not to worry about worldbuilding; that stuff normally grows organically from the story you are telling, and in the worst-case scenario you can always clean up the fuzzy edges after the first draft - or, in your case (a webcomic), just define things better as you get further on.
Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
Easily entertained
Without commenting on artistic merits of fanfiction vs. original universe, I'll just point out that the majority of writers here (myeslf included) are working primarily or exclusively on Original Universe fiction. So it's to be expected they will suggest doing likewise.

edited 11th Apr '13 7:16:54 AM by KillerClowns

 8 Khantalas, Thu, 11th Apr '13 7:16:08 AM from ((Not actually a creepy adorable little girl.))
Creepy adorable little girl
There are some cases where writing fan fiction is better than original fiction, such as Keychain of Creation, because the writer can work on the readers' knowledge and expectations. But those cases generally involve stories about established settings, rather than about other stories.

edited 11th Apr '13 11:10:43 AM by Khantalas

"Be mine, dear big brother."
 9 Major Tom, Thu, 11th Apr '13 7:19:12 AM Relationship Status: Barbecuing
Eye'm the cutest!
There are some cases where wri

Oh dear. I'm afraid I'm going to have to give you an Incomplete for the course.
Endless Conflict: Every war ends in time, even supposedly this one.
Use your own universe you already have a pretty nice and orginal idea especialy for space-opera, and no matter how helpfull and interesting things setting can bring ultimately it should be there to support story, and as people said, setting will come up when you will write story.
 
 11 Editor Pall Mall, Thu, 11th Apr '13 8:59:13 AM from United States, East Coast
Don't Fear the Spiders
@Night: My opinions are my opinions. You are welcome to disagree with me. But I hardly see how that makes me an elitist.

The number one problem with fan fiction is the "fan" part. You are not writing something for the reader; you are writing something for yourself. This leads to indulgent nonsense that most people will not give a damn about (biggest case and point would be the endless shipping). Additionally, a writer who does not write original content (coming up with his own plot/setting/characters and other ideas) will stagnate. There are numerous other problems, but I do not intend to start writing in-depth analysis about it.

I will give fan fiction some credit. It can be a useful tool if you are starting out writing, but I would not try to put it out for display on the internet.
Keep it breezy!
I need a drink
Not to cause an argument Editor, but isn't one of the tenants of writing: Write what you would read about?
Theres sex and death and human grime in monochrome for one thin dime and at least the trains all run on time but they dont go anywhere.
 13 Editor Pall Mall, Thu, 11th Apr '13 9:24:06 AM from United States, East Coast
Don't Fear the Spiders
[up]Absolutely. But you should also keep in mind you are writing for others as well. Otherwise, what is the point, not only in writing, but also talking about any of this?
Keep it breezy!
Pretending to be human
The number one problem with fan fiction is the "fan" part. You are not writing something for the reader; you are writing something for yourself.

And this does not happen with original universes? I find this statement very suspect, honestly. Not to mention writing for oneself isn't necessarily a bad thing.

As for the OP: If you're not using the Mass Effect characters, it would seem you'd have an advantage making it an original work then. Because for me at least the core of most fanfiction is the characters. Using only backstory and events from an established series could get you the worse of both worlds: a bunch of characters that people don't recognize means fewer readers when hanging around ME fanbases, and copyrighted material means you can't get it published.

edited 11th Apr '13 9:42:04 AM by Exploder

My Sonic fanfic series.
 15 Night, Thu, 11th Apr '13 9:46:14 AM from PSNS Intrepid Relationship Status: Drift compatible
Who you are does not matter.
[up][up]That in no way clashes with the possibility of writing fanfiction. One does not have to forget oneself to write for the audience, and should not. Your argument is insufficient on its face. Indeed, not being much of a fan of shipping myself, I must nonetheless acknowledge that a crapload of people do in fact care about shipping, so it's not only insufficient, it's untrue in the examples as well.

Your other example in no way logically follows either. Stagnation? Perhaps if you tell the same story using the same characters over and over again...but there's no requirement to do that with fanfiction any more than there is with any other kind of fiction. Plenty of authors stagnate without needing fanfiction to do so. Plenty of them go on to widely varied writings within the confines of fanfiction.

edited 11th Apr '13 9:47:19 AM by Night

"Let us look less to the sky to see what might fall; rather, let us look to each other...and rise."
 16 Editor Pall Mall, Thu, 11th Apr '13 9:46:56 AM from United States, East Coast
Don't Fear the Spiders
[up][up]Original universes and otherwise non-fan fiction can get indulgent as well. In the case of fan fiction, though, you are far more likely to do this because of your attachment to the work your story is based around. You can see this happening in almost all fan fiction.

[up]I believe you are missing the point. I said "It is always better to write original fiction than to write fan fiction.", not "Never write fan fiction because you will always end up with a terrible story." A writer, particularly new writers, are far more likely to get stuck in a pitfall when writing fan fiction then when writing original fiction.

edited 11th Apr '13 10:10:17 AM by EditorPallMall

Keep it breezy!
 17 JHM, Thu, 11th Apr '13 11:05:19 AM from Neither Here Nor There Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
@OP: If you have a premise and some basic ideas already, write an original story. You already have the ingredients to make something new, and it seems counterintuitive to me to reverse engineer a preexisting story concept to fit into another world.
 18 Jabrosky, Fri, 12th Apr '13 2:25:42 AM from San Diego, CA
Madman
There are some times when fanfiction can achieve a certain effect, especially if you're dealing with iconic characters.
This is the only reason writing fanfiction has any appeal for me. If you invoke established characters or settings that most people already recognize, you might attract more attention to your writing than making up your own universe that begins relatively obscure. Unfortunately that attention may not always be positive, especially if you take any creative liberties with the source material.

Come to think of it, the major problem I have with writing fanfiction is the sheer amount of canon you have to take into account if you want to stay faithful to the source material or avoid angry fans. Unless you're willing to do a total re-imagining of a given franchise, you don't have much creative wiggle room with fanfiction. At least you can mold your own original universes and their characters into any form you'd like.
Thanks for the replies everyone :)

I've decided to create my own universe, especially since the discussion here has reminded me that the fanfiction audience really isn't into all-original character fics. I do think that fanfiction can be good, if only in theory, its just that it mostly attracts people who are more interested in expressing their love for the work than writing good stories.
 
 20 Wolf 1066, Fri, 12th Apr '13 4:17:48 AM from New Zealand Relationship Status: In my bunk
Wolf1066
Nothing wrong with looking at someone else's 'verse and saying, "yeah, I'd like to do something like that". Whether it's Mass Effect or Star Wars or Star Trek or Middle Earth, they don't have the monopoly on their respective genres.

If you wrote a story with original characters set in a "Galaxy Gonne Madde" or torn by war or whatever, you can use whatever names you like for your factions, your planets etc and make it your own.

You may think "OK, I want this world to be rather like Tatooine" but when it boils down to it, it's just a desolate rock of a planet where people eke out a miserable existence, so you could call it "Foozbing" for all it matters and if you want to make departures from what the original Tatooine is like, you can (e.g. your world has a Crystal Spires and Togas type civilisation in one area, contrasting the subsistence-level Crapsack elsewhere on the planet) without breaking the canon of someone else's 'verse.

Original characters, original worlds, same basic idea/premise - be it Space Opera, High Fantasy, Noir etc.

I find world building can be like character building - it can just "organically grow" as you're typing/writing. Your mind's on the world and the characters and brewing away then suddenly you find you've written something that makes you think "aha, that explains why such-and-such is the way it is" or "wow, this opens up whole new possibilities for my characters".

Even easier if you're familiar with the genre as your mind will have a wealth of information about how things might "work".

Just keep notes as you go to ensure continuity/consistency. You don't have to sit down and plan every little detail about the universe or a character right at the outset - it works for some people but for others (like me), it takes over and rapidly becomes an excuse not to do any actual writing. Can't write that scene yet, I haven't finished working out my protagonist's equipment, skills, back story, romantic interests, personality traits...

Start with the broad strokes - which you have - and then add the details later as they become relevant or evident (going by what's just happened on page 24).
Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
 21 Tiamatty, Fri, 12th Apr '13 2:52:29 PM Relationship Status: Brony
Bieber My Balls
You could do what I did: Make an original universe that's a blatant rip-off of an existing one.

As far as world-building goes, one thing I would add is that, if you feel like there's stuff readers will need to know down the line, you can find a way to fit in the backstory once you've got the actual story up and running.
The system doesn't know you right now, so no post button for you.
You need to Get Known to get one of those.
Total posts: 21
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