Does anyone else feel weird using already established, legendary characters like Santa Claus?

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The Second Moon

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First of all I mean no hate to people who use already established characters in their books. I have enjoyed books like that, but am struggling with doing it myself.

I am writing a MG book in which the characters, ever once in a while, interact with the legends of holidays (Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Cupid, Saint Patrick, Etc.) I even made up a few, like "Jacalynn" the Spirit of Halloween and "Jones the Turkey" for Thanksgiving

I really like the idea, but I fee l like I'm stealing these characters from the original creators (but who knows who created Santa Claus anyway?)

In the world of my WIP, all of these legends have retired and are living in a nursing home in the North Pole, so they aren't doing their intended roles. For example, the Easter Bunny no longer delivers eggs and Cupid no longer makes people fall in love. That would be the job of the MC and his mom. These legends also go by different names, too. Saint Patrick is now "Pat" and Santa is now "Nick".

Is feeling this way silly? I know there are MG books with Santa in them, but I just feel weird doing it. Does anyone have any reassuring words to help me overcome this feeling?
 

TulipMama

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Well, aside from these characters being in the public domain, and therefore free game legally, I don't think there's anything that should be felt of as 'weird' in using them in the way you describe.

Personally, I avoid 'big' names in my work when it draws on legends, largely because I don't want to overuse things. I'm not pulling in Santa because the guy is prolific in media, and finding a new, interesting way to portray him is hard.

If your story has these legends, I think the main thing would be to try and make it a fresh take (nursing home Easter Bunny definitely strikes me as new ). So long as it's YOUR Easter Bunny, YOUR Santa etc, I don't think you should have any issues using these characters, because they're your characters. You draw on the mythos, have the same name, but the crux of the character is yours to fill in, so it's a non-issue from my standpoint.
 

Tazlima

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I haven't tried it, but it would probably feel weird to me, too.

I imagine it's difficult to strike a balance between what's "known" about the characters while still making them memorable and unique within your own work. Stick too close and they're cookie-cutter copies, stray too far, and they're not the original characters any more, or else the story may end up being about how/why they're different or receive a lot of backlash from fans of the original version. (Sparkly vampires anybody?)

I can't remember which movie it was, but I read an article once about a goofy comedy that bought the rights to Darth Vader for a particular scene. The only catch was that all the lines and everything had to be approved by someone whose function was to maintain the integrity of the character. They literally had someone on set to observe the filming and be like "nope, nix the silly dance. Darth Vader would never do a silly dance (or whatever). "

I imagine writing Santa and the Easter Bunny would be like having that same kind of thing, only in my head.
 

Friendly Frog

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I shouldn't be too concerned about using figures like Santa or Easter Bunny. They're practically folklore figures and belong to no one in specific and everybody. Considering the likes of Tolkien or Pratchett already went ahead and did it too, that's not bad company to be in, IMO.

Avoiding to make them too much like previous incarnations will be the harder bit, I think.
 

Laelia

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I don't think you should feel weird about it. From your description, it sounds like you're using it as a good way to put a new twist on things. It's inserting characters and ideas that kids are familiar with but subverting them slightly in a fun, unpredictable way. In some ways, it's really like you are writing your own characters but the readers happen have knowledge of their background without having to be told.
 
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The Second Moon

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Thank you all. :D

I'm glad that it isn't too weird of a feeling. The majority of you agree that I should make my legends unique and not cookie-cutter. I believe I have put some unique spins on the legends. Saint Patrick flirts often with the elves that run the cafeteria. Cupid is very clumsy. Santa has a terrible memory when it comes to names. Things like that.
 
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ChaseJxyz

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Santa and the Easter bunny have so many iterations, there really isn't one "canon" version of them. Even in different countries, Santa looks and operates totally differently than how he does in America. So making another version isn't all that weird since people do it all the time. The one challenge would be relying on cultural assumptions based on certain pieces of media that your target audience might not have seen. Like I think those classical stop-motion holiday specials are now owned by Apple, so Kids These Days probably aren't going to see them on tv (or VHS or DVD), so if you reference those, today's kids might have no idea what you're talking about.
 

Chris P

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I would feel weird because I would be expecting purists to shower me with distain for not following some canonical understanding of the character. "Santa would never say that! Everyone knows the Sinterclaus legend as recorded in 1609 dates back to the late Middle Ages and clearly proves that he would actually be riding on a travois pulled by aurochs and not a sleigh by reindeer." Just look at the backlash authors get whenever they put a new twist in werewolves, vampires, etc.

Why yes, I do let unreasonable fringe positions dictate my life. Why do you ask?
 

The Second Moon

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Santa and the Easter bunny have so many iterations, there really isn't one "canon" version of them. Even in different countries, Santa looks and operates totally differently than how he does in America. So making another version isn't all that weird since people do it all the time. The one challenge would be relying on cultural assumptions based on certain pieces of media that your target audience might not have seen.
Fantastic and interesting thoughts, ChaseJxyz. :unsure: I was going to use the American version of Santa since I'm an American myself. Though, I realize that even the American version varies from household to household. For example someone told me that Santa decorated the Christmas tree when he delivered presents on the night of Christmas Eve. In my house we decorated the tree a week or two before Christmas Eve.
 

frimble3

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Particularly 'Santa Claus', there are so many variations, you can pick what you want, I think. There's Santa Claus, Sinterklaas, Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas. From dignified old gentleman to jolly old elf.
There are a ton of alternative gift-givers, too, from Christian religions around the world. (Many not all that far from their pagan roots.)
I have a book somewhere...
But you probably don't want a ton of research - I say take what you want and go for it!
Santa Claus and Bugs, the Easter Rabbit, go to Pismo Beach! (Only use some other smartmouth rabbit, as I believe ol' Bugs is under copyright.)
 
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Catriona Grace

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In a world where living mystery writers use deceased mystery writers as characters in their books (one person uses Josephine Tey, for example), using the Easter Bunny and Santa is pretty innocuous. The book sounds fun and maybe a bit silly which can be a great attribute for this kind of book.
 

MaryLennox

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I don't think it's weird at all and I think your premise sounds new and fun - with the mc and his mom taking over for Cupid. They are public domain characters and people use them/re-write them all the time.

Everyone has their own little holiday traditions though, especially around Christmas/Santa. I used to be a mall elf and when my nephew asked if I really worked with the real Santa I wasn't sure how to answer...Some parents say it's the real Santa, some say it's one of Santa's helpers, etc. (Initially I said yes, of course it's the real Santa, and then found out they were a "Santa's Helper" family. lol) When I first started Elf on the Shelf wasn't a thing and then all of sudden one year all the kids were talking about their elves on the shelves. I was very confused my first day back. It just felt like this new tradition exploded out of nowhere. The people behind that book/marketing are geniuses. Very rich geniuses.

It did make me think of the Sherlock/Enola Holmes/Henry Cavill thing, but that's different because of something to do with not all of the Sherlock stories are in public domain...or something. https://screenrant.com/enola-holmes-cavill-netflix-sued-emotional-explained/

Apparently ten stories are still owned by the Arthur Conan Doyle estate and they believe Cavill's portrayal of Sherlock was too emotional...


P.S. It's also a weird mall tradition that Santa arrives in a helicopter...lol. Where are his reindeer?
 

Catriona Grace

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P.S. It's also a weird mall tradition that Santa arrives in a helicopter...lol. Where are his reindeer?

It's the whole "save the world from ruminant-related methane gas pollution" thing. There's also the problem of reindeer tending to poop where and when necessary without regard to crowds of people standing in a mall parking lot with faces tilted trustingly upward.
 

frimble3

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I don't think it's weird at all and I think your premise sounds new and fun - with the mc and his mom taking over for Cupid. They are public domain characters and people use them/re-write them all the time.

Everyone has their own little holiday traditions though, especially around Christmas/Santa. I used to be a mall elf and when my nephew asked if I really worked with the real Santa I wasn't sure how to answer...Some parents say it's the real Santa, some say it's one of Santa's helpers, etc. (Initially I said yes, of course it's the real Santa, and then found out they were a "Santa's Helper" family. lol) When I first started Elf on the Shelf wasn't a thing and then all of sudden one year all the kids were talking about their elves on the shelves. I was very confused my first day back. It just felt like this new tradition exploded out of nowhere. The people behind that book/marketing are geniuses. Very rich geniuses.

It did make me think of the Sherlock/Enola Holmes/Henry Cavill thing, but that's different because of something to do with not all of the Sherlock stories are in public domain...or something. https://screenrant.com/enola-holmes-cavill-netflix-sued-emotional-explained/

Apparently ten stories are still owned by the Arthur Conan Doyle estate and they believe Cavill's portrayal of Sherlock was too emotional...


P.S. It's also a weird mall tradition that Santa arrives in a helicopter...lol. Where are his reindeer?
Not just a mall tradition! I remember when I was a kid there was a story on the CBC news about Santa arriving at isolated villages up North, fishing hamlets, etc, by helicopter! Flown, not by elves, but by the Canadian navy or Coast Guard. I believe the excuse was 'weather too bad for magical reindeer' or some such.
Also, we don't have reindeer - Canada's North has caribou. Which people eat, so why would they bring presents, really?
 

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