1. Quixote's Biographer

    Quixote's Biographer Active Member

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    Fan Fiction Where are the boundaries of fan fiction?

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by Quixote's Biographer, Sep 9, 2018.

    (Wasn't sure where to post this, so please move it if it's in the wrong place)

    I wanna set either a novel or a collection of short stories in a post-apocalyptic universe (I don't think that's ever been done before!...o_O) but as a fan and long-time player of the Fallout games I'm worried about it turning into fan fiction, which I want to avoid. I'm not too familiar with the rules and boundaries of fan fiction, which is why I'm turning to you guys to help me out :)

    In short, I'm not gonna use any of the cities that have been used so far by the Fallout franchise. I'm not gonna use any of their factions, their characters or any of their lore, although due to the size of the Fallout universe, I think it's almost impossible to avoid similarities with at least some of it (sure, I won't call the criminal gang 'Raiders' but being a criminal gang, they will definitely share some traits).

    What I want to use from the Fallout universe are the vaults in particular, and the look and feel of the world in general - although I'll probably go for something other than a 1950's look. But I think it's hard to come up with a completely unique look and design of a post-apocalyptic wasteland or cities - one that quite a few post-apocalyptic games and shows share to some degree.

    So, how do I keep this from turning into fan fiction? Are there any rules to follow, any boundaries I should be aware of? Any help appreciated! :)
     
  2. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Anyone familiar with the Fallout dynamic may see the similarities, but... people who read and write fic will not think your story is fic. It's too many different steps away from the source material. People who don't read or write fic, may see it as fic if they know the Fallout world. I don't game - at all - so you could sell me a story based on a game and I would never know it.
     
  3. Irina Samarskaya

    Irina Samarskaya Active Member

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    A story typically becomes fan-fiction if it either idolizes a certain character from a franchise or a very similar look-alike.

    I'm less worried about you accidentally writing fan-fiction than you might be since that's such a common idea (a fallout shelter is a real-world vault) that it could be seen as similar (in a positive light) but definitely not outright copying (unless you really do copy all the terminology and dividing systems--I don't recall Bethesda-Fallout ever specifying all the internal divisions of a given vault so you might have a creative advantage of being the one to make those divisions of labor and authority).

    I love the idea of writing a story several centuries after a global reset (post-nuclear apocalypse) because, as Bethesda puts it: "it has no real-world precedence", and there's a lot of plausible scenarios depending on the author's understanding of people (psychologically) the numerous moving parts that could result in a rather quick rebuilding of "the Old World" or its quick demolition in favor of a "New World".

    Is this going to be more action-adventure of society-based? Like what's the basic idea of the story?
     
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  4. Quixote's Biographer

    Quixote's Biographer Active Member

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    Well, I'm leaning towards short stories (which could eventually turn into a collection of short stories set in the same post-apocalyptic universe/city) for a few reasons. Even though I can plan a novel for hours and hours, I've never been able to actually write to completion such a large project. Even though coming up with ideas and writing the darn thing isn't easier with short stories, the smaller scale (length, scenes, events) makes it easier for my ADHD brain to actually finish it - and edit it. Also, when I'm working on a project I always seem to come up with tons of ideas that doesn't fit the project I'm currently working on. So, instead I think a collection of short stories set in the same universe seems to be the way to go. Right now I can come up with 10-15 ideas for separate short stories, some based on events, some based on locations and situations, but I can't come up with an over-arching story for a novel that would tie them altogether.

    And by writing short stories instead of a novel I feel like I can explore different stories and genres maybe more than in a novel (I'm sure other writers could do all that in a novel, so I'm just talking about me here). It'll almost be like all those different smaller stories you sometimes stumble upon in both the Fallout and Elder Scrolls universe that don't have any impact on or link to the main story. The idea I have is not necessarily for one main story but showcasing a post-apocalyptic world through the eyes of many different people in different situations. So, the universe in itself becomes the story, not the story of one of two characters, if that makes sense.

    The basic idea that started me down this train of thought a few months back was actually an idea I had for a future Fallout game - which is why I worry about it turning into FO fanfic - but I think it can easily be set in any other post-apocalyptic world. In my head it can turn into a novel or (at least) two short stories, but as mentioned I'm leaning towards short stories at this point. The main idea which got me excited about it is a story seen from the perspective of either side of an upcoming conflict between vault dwellers on one side and the people living just outside the vault on the other, on the day the vault opens for the first time in years (haven't decided on the actual length yet but at least 25-50 years). The people inside the vault are a select group of 'vault openers' (haven't come up with a snazzier name yet), responsible for exploring the world outside, and if it's safe, establish a society and find and open the other vaults around and inside the city. The vault has been opened before for previous groups of 'vault openers' and the people outside the vault killed everyone who emerged (haven't written the lore behind what actually happened). That event has been discussed for generations outside the vault between those who were ashamed of their actions and those who defends it, with details added and forgotten through many years of retelling it. The vault cannot be opened manually and the people inside the vault have no idea of what happened with the previous group that emerged all those years ago. Now the vault is set to open again, with a new generation on either side of the door.

    So, yeah, it's very Fallout-esque (if that's a word) but I don't necessarily need the Fallout universe to write it I don't think.
     
  5. Irina Samarskaya

    Irina Samarskaya Active Member

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    From what I know, people struggle to commit to writing a novel (what does that mean in this context? 100,000 words? 200,000 words? 300+ pages?) generally struggle because they don't invest in their ideas or somehow know they have a better one (so why waste time on this "side project"?). I think you've got a great template to work with and strongly recommend making a big novel (500+ pages) or at least a standard novel (300-ish pages) as that's a format that lends well to multiple perspectives. Plus it's what I know, what I like, and thus where I am best able to speak (I don't like short-stories because I seldom read books--but when I do, I prefer books I can invest myself into--like Fallout 3 or New Vegas for examples of video-game-equivalents. Or Game of Thrones for a real example I probably should have put first lol).

    You might just be scatterbrained because you haven't focused yet. Imagine this post-apocalyptic world... imagine the people... imagine the new countries (be they city-states, free cities, actual states, neo-monarchies, communist dictatorships, etc.) and then imagine the kinds of people... and then you can imagine Pioneers (I think that's a good and known word--no need to invent a "Chosen One" or special-snowflake moniker when the English language benevolently bestows us with simple yet romantic words like "Pioneer"!) going in multiple directions (plausibly in small parties of 3-4) and then stumbling upon these settlements.

    I suggest you focus on the characters as you might be the type who focuses too much on the world. Ideally they should both be focused (with priority to the characters that drive it). I prefer to mentally outline a very basic plot and then write the details as they come to mind/make sense. I think George Martin calls them "Planters" versus "Architects". I like to lay a frame of the house but when it comes to actually building it and setting furniture, I prefer to wing it as I go along (although I would not do this literally with actual house-building! That's expensive!).
    It does, and some people will really like that. Personally, I think the world is irrelevant without the characters. What makes Fallout special (in part) is its diverse cast of interesting characters that range from wannabe Western sheriffs to eccentric trigger-happy English squatters and slightly delusional householders who proclaim their home its own republic...

    I think you find the worlds of these games interesting because the main plots aren't. Therefore I suggest making those side plots the main plot. Like if I were to re-write Skyrim's story, I'd focus on the Wolf Queen over some dragon because her Game of Thrones-like story is more interesting as it involves actual human beings and can be written to have multiple endings. I'd probably set it back to when she was alive and focus on the events depicted in the in-game books.

    In your case, if I were you, I'd make the side stories I found interesting "the main story" and forget about a boring "main story" that not even the author cares about. You could make it a "slice of life post-apocalyptia" and that would be a very unique book series.
    And I think this pre-history could lend itself well to a multiple-perspective novel where each character (or character group) has their own goal and maybe conflicts with each other. You could make it more slice-of-life and simply depict ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances; you could make it goal-oriented and have a mix of ordinary and extraordinary trying to make their goals happen (like maybe the curious youth want to go out and found themselves a settlement while the more cautious youth want to remain and expand the underground compound--perhaps turning it into a small town as far as the over-landers are concerned). Or even a combination of both (perhaps the Pioneers will settle down... and then time will pass and their children will take over their stories).
    Are you a history fan? I think history is the best teacher for world-building (and building epic stories). Ancient Greece would probably resemble most a post-apocalyptic world since they were a very diverse race with many cultures and systems of living and self-governing. Both democracy and totalitarianism co-existed in this time period--as well as conflicted when co-existence proved too difficult. The somewhat-enlightened but expansionist monarchy of Persia became the only unifying force for the Greeks and this time period provides an interesting clash of ideals and ideas--as well as marked differences of perspective. Like Athenian Greeks viewed anyone who wasn't living in either a city-state democracy or total anarchy as slaves of their ruler while the Persians may have (I am not an expert in this time period) viewed the Greeks as disorderly and self-destructive. Philosophers such as Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato argued over how the world ought to be and what was best for people. Warlords rose and fell by their own hands; an Alexander appeared to totally remake the political landscape; a heck of a lot of crazy epicness occurred in this relatively small part of the world...

    And I think it'd make a good mental-fuel for writing a post-apocalyptic world because the settlers of this distant future are (most likely--at least their leaders are) trying to figure out how to best organize a people and prevent them from either destroying each other or getting themselves destroyed by others. Trying to either remake the best of the Old World or pioneer a New World ideal that may or may not have been tried.

    Depending on your preferences; you could make it a very personable story based on individuals discovering and either joining or opposing these various ideological standard-bearers or you could focus on the perspectives of these idealists and have them duke it out both practically (like a dictatorship might be good for getting a people ready to fight but not so good at maintaining peace while a democracy might be the opposite) and morally (like public debates or debates between ambassadors--which was common in both Greek times and Catholic times).

    Again, I know you said you have a problem with commitment, but I think if you were to invest your mind into this idea of a world trying to rebuild itself and people trying to either push it forwards or just do their own thing and survive, you might find it much easier to commit as your brain simmers the soup and appetizes your pallet.

    EDIT: Having mentioned Greece, where do you plan on hosting the world? I think a place like Greece, Anatolia, or really anywhere with lots of rivers, mountains, and potential for being a good center of conflict is a good idea. If you have some historical preferred locations (like Japan or England or etc.) then you could fuse who they were historically with them trying to rebuild. It could be very interesting seeing the mild-mannered Swedes turn into barbarous vikings...
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2018
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  6. MusingWordsmith

    MusingWordsmith Lively Fred

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    Personally I think the 'collection of short stories' sounds like a fun idea! One series I liked did that for one of it's novels, it turned out well in my opinion.

    I think you don't have anything to worry about here as far as crossing the line to 'fan fiction'. Sounds like you're being different enough that there may be similarities, and people might not be surprised you were inspired by Fallout, but doesn't sound like you're going to copy.
     
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  7. GrJs

    GrJs Member

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    If you're not using the characters or the places then it's not fan fiction. The point of fan fiction is to take the characters and write them into new scenarios and situations and places based on what the fan wants to see. Even if you use a similar world there are others that are similar to Fallout, maybe not as popular but similar in their own rights, that people will still make connections to even if you don't know about those universes. That's what people do. They look for similarities in things that they enjoy and make those connections. That's why we have likes and dislikes as people.

    It only becomes fan fiction when you use places and people that exist in the Fallout world. Otherwise it's just a similar world and even that will be debatable as you only seem to be taking the superficial elements into your own world. As far as I can see you're not taking the social structure from the Fallout games and even if you were it'd only be like the social structure. Because by the time you're done working it out it'll have so much of your own spin that it won't be the same as the Fallout universe.
     
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