I have a list of story ideas. Whenever I think of a new idea, I’ll take down anything between a few sentences’ worth of a basic story concept, and a paragraph or two of story and character details. I keep them close, so I can study or embellish on them when thoughts occur. It’s become an extensive list… mainly because I haven’t wanted to write anything new for a while. But in case that attitude should change, I still maintain and add to my ideas list.
Which brings me to this week, when I thought of a new idea and took down some notes. And immediately realized that if I ever planned to write it, I’d have to make a decision.
The story idea I’d concocted was intended to be written within the settings of a famous and popular television franchise (which, for the record, isn’t the one hinted at in the featured image. Nyah!). Since I don’t have the rights to the franchise, I can’t actually sell stories set within its trademarked universe.
And as it happens, I’d been in this situation before: Years back, when I first conceived of The Kestral Voyages, my original story, settings and characters were designed for the Star Trek universe; my intent at the time had been to send the idea to Paramount, when the studio was supposedly soliciting story concepts for future Trek series. But after I realized it was just a studio-engineered PR stunt, I knew it would be a waste to offer it to Paramount, because they would not use it (neither would they pay me for my trouble), but I wouldn’t be able to use the property myself, either.
There were only three options open to me. One was to just toss the story. Another was to write the story in its Trek setting and offer it for free as Fanfic. Free fanfic sometimes boost’s a writer’s renown and popularity, but also sometimes generates lawsuits from the property holder, so that option was tricky.
I opted for the safer third option: I rewrote the story, changing the settings and characters to remove the primary elements of the trademarked property and converting it into a fully original story. I created my own universe, using bits and pieces from my own notes and ideas. I wrote the first Kestral story, and the original setting and characters turned out to be popular enough with readers to merit the writing of three more stories. I never made a lot on the series, but I did make something.
So, if I decide to pursue this new idea, I can write it as fanfic, but I’ll only be able to give it away and hope for a public embracing of the material, which may or may not result in increased interest in my other books. I’ve given away free books in the past, but never fanfic attached to a popular franchise, so I honestly don’t know how well that would work. Maybe if one of the characters was popular in the franchise’s universe, then I gave that character some serious romance and sexual opportunities. Sex with popular characters; that’s fanfic catnip for fans. (Though the franchise itself can get a bit peeved if they get wind of it.)
Or I can adopt the story to my Kestral universe—which wouldn’t be too much of a stretch, as I’ve done that before—and therefore be able to sell it outright. And expect that it will have minimal sales, like the rest of my work.
But wait; there’s another option. If I go ahead and write it as fanfic, and it somehow becomes enormously popular… I could then convert the story to the Kestral universe and sell that outright, allowing me to profit off the actual story in an altered setting. (Hey, it worked for 50 Shades of Grey.) I mean, I wouldn’t expect to get a 3-movie deal out of it, but maybe I’d make enough money to afford taking my wife out for a decent dinner. With drinks.
I don’t have any immediate plans to pursue this story idea, for reasons stated elsewhere. But if I did—and I’m just stupid enough to maybe think, at some point, that it’s worth pursuing—it would be a good idea to work all this out before I put fingertip to keyboard. We’ll see.