Monday, April 30, 2012

Creativity and Copyright

One of the common reasons copyright foes give for the evils of long copyright or any form of copyright is that it stifles creativity.  
Is this true?
My own feeling is that it doesn’t, particularly in fiction.
WHAT COPYRIGHT DOES AND DOESN’T COVER
Many don’t understand what copyright covers.  They think the ideas within a story are copyrighted.  They aren’t.  Anyone can write a story about angst-filled vampires and the girls who love them, and many have, but if you write and sell a vampire story where the vampires glitter, the main characters are Edward and Belle, and the plot and setting are very similar to the TWILIGHT series, you can expect a call from Stephenie Meyer’s lawyers.  
Any story or idea from other authors or sources can be used by an author as long as she makes the idea her own with her own characters, setting, and plot.  I have read a CAPTAIN BLOOD retelling as an historical romance, a Klingons-in-love STAR TREK inspired futuristic romance, and a paranormal romance that billed itself as HARRY POTTER for grownups.  None of these authors were sued for copyright infringement because they added enough of their own ideas to create something different.  
A GOOD IDEA ISN’T HARD TO FIND
Those who aren’t creative believe that it’s hard coming up with new ideas for stories.  If you ask any author, she’ll tell you that new ideas aren’t the problem; the problem is having enough time to use all those wonderful ideas to write books.  Ideas are a dime a dozen, but writing time is priceless.  
DO BOOKS OUT OF COPYRIGHT ENRICH OUR CULTURE BY INSPIRING AUTHORS?
But what of those novels and stories which have gone out of copyright?  Have they enriched the culture by spawning sequels that will be remembered forever?
I’ve read, among many others, sequels to THE SCARLET LETTER, DOCTOR JEKYL AND MR. HYDE, several of Jane Austin’s novels, MOBY DICK, and none were worthy literary successors, won awards, or remained in print more than a few years.
The only novel I could think of that has been a sequel/prequel and a literary success, as well as having more than a few months of fame, is WICKED by Gregory Maguire which is about the Wicked Witch in THE WIZARD OF OZ.  
The only true value most of these sequel books have, from a publisher and author’s perspective, is as a marketing hook so more books are sold.
If any of the sequel novels I’ve read didn’t have that instant recognition of THE SCARLET LETTER from the villain’s perspective or DR. JEKYL from the maid’s perspective, they probably wouldn’t have been published, and they certainly wouldn’t have had as many people buying them.
I know I will read any book that has Sherlock Holmes as a character even though most are poorly written and are certainly no compliment to Arthur Conan Doyle.  If that same book was about a Victorian detective, I doubt I would read it, and unless it was by an established author, few publishers would publish it.  
WHAT IS THE VALUE OF SHORTENING COPYRIGHT?
So, what is the value of shortening copyright?  None that I see except for free books, and you can read most books for free from the library.
Society almost never profits from a book out of copyright, and most of those who write the sequels create inferior books which have famous marketing hooks rather than literary value.
OTHER ARTICLES ON COPYRIGHT:
“Disney and Copyright,”   Is it really the public’s best interest for Disney’s old cartoons to go into public domain?
“A Reader’s Guide to Copyright,” A simple explanation of what copyright is and what the reader needs to know.
“The First Sale Doctrine and Ebooks,”  Is it legal to resell or share an ebook?
“The Death of Copyright,”  What would happen if copyright was abolished as some copyright opponents desire?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Links of Interest

 A MUST READ FOR PC USERS, CHECKING YOUR COMPUTER FOR THE DNS VIRUS:
REDOING THE FIRST DRAFT:
CRITIQUE QUESTIONS:
CHARACTER INTELLIGENCE:
HISTORICAL RESEARCH, WOMEN’S TRAVEL DIARIES:
LIST O’ LINKS:
HOW TO TELL IF AN AGENT IS GOOD:
PARANORMAL CLICHES, A HUMOROUS QUIZ:
WRITER BEWARE UPDATES:
FITTING YOUR OPENING HOOK TO YOUR AUDIENCE:
WRITING A GOOD ACTION SCENE:
LAUNCHING A SUCCESSFUL BLOG TOUR:
WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA BLUNDERS TO AVOID:
WHAT TO CLEAN IN BLOATED PROSE:

Monday, April 23, 2012

Thinking Through Minor Characters

You are an old and powerful fae (fairy) with lots of human money and your own retainers.  You discover a artifact of incredible magic, and others want to kill you and take it.  Do you...
1.  Hire fae warriors to protect you the moment you realize you are in trouble?
2. Contact other powerful and friendly fae for help to get you to your own protected domain?
3. A long time after you find the artifact, leave a message on the answering machine of a half-fae private detective who has neither the power nor the skill to protect you, and you don’t bother to tell her who is after you or why even though the assassins have just broken in the door, but you ask her to solve your murder?
Unfortunately, in a novel I’ve recently read, the author chose 3.  She obviously had’t given any thought to the background, skills, and options of her murder victim so she created this whooper of a ridiculous storyline.  
If she’d wanted a victim who had no means of protection or power, she could have created someone to fit the bill.  
Creating a believable story requires not only a good viewpoint character with her strengths and weakness fitting the storyline; it also requires the same careful thought about minor characters who influence her and the storyline.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Media Reality and Writing

On a recent blog, the writer complained that the heroine in a novel didn't react as she thought she should. The heroine had a chance to shoot one of the villains but took cover when an unknown shooter shot the gun out of the bad guy's hand. Instead, she took cover.
Obviously, according to this blogger, whoever had shot the gun out of the bad guy's hand was on the heroine's side, and she finally had a chance at getting the bad guy.
I argued that in the real world, unlike the movies and TV, a trained marksman would never shoot the gun out of the hand because it is a near impossible shot. As my dad who was an expert marksman with a military background told me, "The Lone Ranger can shoot the gun out of a bad guy's hand. The rest of us mere mortals should aim for the center of the man's body."

In the real world with bullets flying, a smart person with even a little training would get the heck out of the way because it's likely that bullet that took out the bad guy's gun was a miss, not deliberate, and she would be betting her life by not getting out of the way of someone who may be after her.

In the real world, most people are bad shots with no training. Even in the Old West, very few people died in a gunfight and then only after an incredible amount of ammo was used.

I've always believed it's wiser to go with fact, not media nonsense, because I'd rather not have readers snort and toss the book down because they caught me in a stupid error. There's nothing I can do about people who don't know any better so I don't worry about them.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Links of Interest

IMPORTANT NOTE TO MAC USERS:
For the first time ever, Mac computers have been hit with a major virus.
If you don't have security software for your Mac, I recommend you download this free virus checker.  
If you are infected, you can use the Intego free trial to remove it.  



If you do have virus software, be sure to set it to update your definitions on a regular basis.
*****
MISLEADING ASSUMPTIONS IN POV:
CREATING GOOD INTERNAL DIALOGUE:
WHY SMALL PRESSES FAIL:
BRIEF DEFINITIONS OF VARIOUS TYPES OF GENRES AND SUBGENRES:
VOICE:
STATISTICS AND WHAT THEY MEAN ON EBOOK GROWTH:
ADDING FRESHNESS TO OLD IDEAS:
WRITING THE COZY MYSTERY:
WORD PRESS HACKERS AND HOW TO DEAL WITH THEM:
LIST O’ LINKS:
WRITING A BOOK IN LAYERS:
INTERVIEW WITH AGENT AMANDA LUEDEKE OF MACGREGOR LITERARY:
WILL A GUN FIRE UNDERWATER?
INFO DUMPING IN DIALOG:

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Selfish Goal

A powerful novel needs a main character with an important goal he must achieve by the end of the novel. At all costs, the main character must achieve the goal or fail utterly with devastating cost to him and those around him.
A recent novel I tried to read reminded me of when that goal won't work.
Here's the premise. The heroine is the standard urban fantasy woman-- incredible supernatural abilities, snappy leather outfit and dialogue, sharp weapons, and a supernatural boyfriend. So far, so good.
Even better, she is the prophesied warrior who can stop the supernatural baddies before they can start the Apocalypse by opening the gates to Hell.
The Big Bad holds her innocent kid sister hostage, and the ransom is the keys to open all of Hell's gates to Earth.
She must decide whether to save her kid sister by helping the demons of Hell wipe out human life or lose her sister and save everyone else.
A no-brainer, right? She'd choose to save humanity.
Instead, she chooses to help the demons end life on Earth with the very faint possibility she may be able to stop them.
At this point in the novel, I said some rude things about the stupidity and selfishness of the heroine and stopped reading because this wasn't a heroine I could root for.
When you are thinking about your main character's goal for the novel, remember that it must be a goal the reader can root for. Saving a sibling is a good thing but saving a sibling at the cost of everyone else's life is a bad thing.
A hero's goal is selfless, not selfish.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Yen and Yang of the Hero and His Opponent

When you are planning your novel, you need to make sure the protagonist and the antagonist are made for each other like a romantic couple.  A sort of yen and yang of power and abilities.  
For every power, strength, ability, or skill the hero/heroine has, the bad guy or guys should have one that tops him/her enough that he/she can barely survive each attack.  The hero/heroine should win more on guts and a need to protect his/her romantic partner or innocents than those abilities. 
The hero/heroine's fight must also be as much about fighting against an emotional weakness/fear as it is about fighting the bad guy.