View Full Version : Fanfiction to Novel?

11-01-2008, 11:38 AM
Have any of you taken a fanfiction you've written and tried turning it into a novel? I'm considering it with one of my earlier works (if it can be called that), and other than the effort involved I'm wondering if it's even legal. I mean...the fanfiction is based off of someone elses work, no?

Fox The Cave
11-01-2008, 12:10 PM
As long as you remove it COMPLETELY from the universe that it was originally based on, its totally legal.

I wouldn't recommend it though.

11-01-2008, 12:43 PM
There are numerous problems with attempting to adapt fanfiction to original fiction. First, you need to remember that you can't just change the names and call it your own--you're still using someone else's characters, and as long as they are recognizable as such (through their backstory or whatever), you could be in copyright trouble. So you've got to rework each character.

Likewise with the setting, and this is possibly an even bigger problem. Typically you want the setting to play into the story in essential ways--problem is, if you're using someone else's setting, you're again in copyright trouble. So you'd want to rework the setting and do a lot of invention to make it clearly your own, which would by necessity impact your story.

And if you're using the actual text of your fanfiction, you're in even deeper shit (pardon the french). Most fanfic I've read operates under the assumption that the reader already knows everything relevant about the setting and characters, and doesn't bother to deal with pesky things like "exposition" and "backstory".

One thing I will say is this: Within your fanfiction, you may have had some good ideas and may even have a pretty cool basic plot that is your own. The best thing to do in that case is to take the parts that are your own and invent a totally new story to use them in. New characters, new setting, new text. And don't skimp on invention, either--actively try to make it different from the world and characters of the fanfiction story.

11-01-2008, 03:52 PM
It's totally doable - and I speak from experience.

The base I started with was a Matrix fanfic series, 20+ stories, a whole swath of original characters, a new spin on some canon elements and some completely new elements.

Three world-builds later, I have an urban fantasy series that bares no resemblance to the stories I started with (other than my own original elements, which weren't dependant on their setting).

It's really hard work, I'll tell you that from the get-go, but it can be really, really rewarding. You will notice, when you go back and read your fanfic, that for instance, you pushed Canon Character A in a certain direction - perhaps within the limitations of their canonical portrayal, sometimes not - run with that new direction, it's one of the very easy steps to help separate your character from the character you've been borrowing.

You may not be able to change genres the way I did, but at least put a new spin on it - the first iteration I did for my original-verse still ran with the "reality isn't reality" angle, but changed it dramatically, from "machines are evil, lol" to an "ark/time-capsule because humanity killed itself off" deal. Whatever your original canon is, there's always a new way to change it, and doing that helps you bring in a lot of new elements, and refine other, smaller elements that you'd already brought to the table.

Another trick is to focus on your original characters, and let canon characters that you don't really have a need for fall away, or - if the canon characters aren't well-explored in canon, and you've added to them, run completely off the elements that you brought to the table.

Invent new characters for an archetype that you need to fill - this helps energise a story, as working with a complete unknown helps you think on your feet about world-building elements that you may not have considered.

PM me if you want to chat. :)

11-01-2008, 04:57 PM
I'd guess it all depends on how you wrote your fanfic.

I'm also considering adapting one of my fanfics into something original--but the parts I am considering adapting are all original. I had taken the canon characters into a new setting. I added a few more original characters. What I'd like to do is take the setting and the original characters, and add more original characters (not just the canon characters with different names), and reconstruct the plot.

But I have another fanfic that is in the canon setting, and the plot is driven by the ideosynchasies of the canon characters. That seems unsalvageable to me.

11-01-2008, 05:51 PM
One of my "get to it someday" projects is potentially an adaptation of a series of fanfics I wrote. The only thing I intend to use is the basic plot and one of my original characters--everything else I'll be rebuilding from scratch. The story itself is easily adaptable into an urban fantasy setting.

11-01-2008, 06:44 PM
Fanfic spans everything from sticking with the original characters to alts to crossovers to uber.

Yes, you started ith someone else's premise and characters then you set them on a different path.

Many alts & ubers are recognizable only in the core conflict or romance of the MCs. Names are different, the setting is different, the supporting characters are different, etc.

Once you've reached that level, it's yours.

11-01-2008, 11:39 PM
Hi Dark --

Folks do use characters and fictive world from classic, out-of-copyright stories all the time. Look at the spate of novels taking up where Pride and Prejudice left off.

This is legal because the works are out of copyright.

It's ethical because these authors acknowledge the source of the characters and settings they've lifted. They don't claim the whole creation as their own.

Now with modern works,
you can't lift characters and situations and setting elements out and change 'em a little bit and publish it as your own. The copyright protection makes it illegal.

And -- it being illegal -- you can't acknowledge all this lifting and messing you've done with somebody else's fictive world.
When you put your name on the book, you claim everything inside is your own creation. If it isn't, that's where you get unethical.

So ... unless your fanfic has morphed to a degree that it's basically your own creations, I'd set it aside as a trunk novel and write something from scratch.

A practical reason for starting afresh with new ideas -- rather than retreading old fanfic -- is that the editors who would be interested in your story are likely to be familiar with the original sources. They won't be amazed to see another more-or-less-disguised Full Metal Alchemist /Naruto/Death Note/whatever take-off, but they just won't buy it.

Liosse de Velishaf
11-02-2008, 01:41 AM
Well, I used an original concept as an addition to a fanfic, and the concept has developed into a series of stories I have on the back burner.

But, I have to echo others and say that it might not be the best idea to use a fanfic as a novel basis. It's very hard to remove all the canon aspects, and make it truly your own.

11-02-2008, 03:04 AM
What the others said: you MUST file off all the serial numbers so there's no trace of the original work. Sometimes a work is so specific, it's all but impossible.

It can be done, so long as you do a good enough edit. You don't want someone saying "This is good but it sure reminds me of that TV show ____."

Lois McMaster Bujold's first novel Shards of Honor, started life as a Star Trek fic called "Mirrors" about a Klingon and a Fed officer stranded on a planet. They have to work together to survive. Kirk and Spock weren't even in the original story.

Lois excised all Trek universe from it, did a LOT of rewriting, and sold it, and eventually began winning Hugo awards from her Miles Vorkosigan books.

It you want to see how to do it well, READ those books!

11-02-2008, 05:23 AM
Have any of you taken a fanfiction you've written and tried turning it into a novel? I'm considering it with one of my earlier works (if it can be called that), and other than the effort involved I'm wondering if it's even legal. I mean...the fanfiction is based off of someone elses work, no?


I'd say: not advisable.

If you really like the plot of the story, recycle it, but I wouldn't keep plot, setting, or characters in any recognizable form. To be honest, any fanfic that could be easily changed into a non-plageristic novel probably wasn't a fanfic that was very in-character or true to the series. So it'll make either a good fanfic or a good orginal story, probably not both.

And in the case of the link above, neither.

11-02-2008, 09:46 AM
This is all fantastic. I thank goodness I was introduced to Absolute Write, everyone here is wonderful helpful. I love you guys.