I recall an interesting chat with a fellow author at a writer’s convention. He was telling me about another writer who apparently got into serious trouble with Paramount. This other writer had allegedly written a very adult oriented Star Trek story, and Paramount had taken issue with the way he’d used their characters.
As I recall, Star Trek conventions got started so the fans, or Trekkies, as they once called themselves, could share their fan stories. However, it was a different time. Fanfiction authors wrote with pen and paper and they kept their stories in notebooks. Self publishing didn’t exist. There was no Internet, no blogs, no Kindle.
Times have indeed changed. Today a fan writer can write his or her own Star Trek story in a blog or post it on a fan forum. And while their motive may be sincere, their devotion to their favorite TV show could, potentially, put them in legal hot water. I’m not an attorney, nor am I giving legal advice. However, it’s common knowledge that the rights to any artistic creation, including works of fiction, belong to the person or persons who created it.
I write my own unique stories with my own characters. But if I were to include someone else’s character, for whatever reason, I would get their permission first. It’s only common courtesy. It would also save me the worry of getting a nasty letter from someone’s attorney. Even if I wasn’t writing for monetary gain, it could still be considered copyright infringement.
Once upon a time, my friends and I were soap opera junkies. We loved our soaps. I taped my favorite soap everyday for years. How times have changed. I don’t watch soaps anymore, and neither do any of my friends. We stopped watching them years ago. I don’t think it’s our age. Both of my grandmothers watched their favorite soaps when they were well into their eighties. I think it has to do with the fact that today’s soap operas are so poorly written.
Soap operas used to be about love and romance. Then one day the producers decided they wanted a younger, more hip audience. As a result, the writers began writing outrageous story lines. Demonic possessions. Frozen cities. Characters buried alive. And, of course, UFOs. Good plot lines for The X Files, but certainly not what we wanted to see on Days of Our Lives.
Those of us who write romantic fiction know that basic plot structure revolves around conflict. For many years, soap operas relied on these classic plot lines which consistently worked and kept viewers watching.
The Romantic Triangle
Boy meets girl. They fall in madly love. But another girl is in love with the same boy. So she plots and schemes, relentlessly, to break them up, thus becoming, “The Girl We Love to Hate.”
Extramarital Affairs and Illegitimate Children.
The side effect of the romantic triangle. Soap operas kept audiences riveted for years wondering when an unsuspecting husband, or ex husband, would finally discover that his son or daughter actually wasn’t his son or daughter after all.
Long Lost Half Siblings.
Boy meets girl. It’s love at first sight. But one of their mothers is dead set against their relationship. So, she does everything in her power to break them up. Soon the truth comes out. Years ago, Mom had an affair with the father of her child’s love interest. This means they’re half brother and sister. Fortunately, this always comes out before the romance is consummated.
Sometimes the writers will create a plot twist. The other mother comes forward later on and says no. So and so wasn’t her child’s father after all. Therefore, they were never half siblings. However, this only happens after the would-be lovers have moved on to other relationships. The fun never stops.
The Big Frame-Up
From time to time a villain has to be killed off. So why not frame a favorite character for a crime they didn’t commit? Of course, they would eventually be found innocent, but not until they’d gone on trial and ended up in prison. This plot line can be easily adapted to 21st century technology with the real killer tampering with the DNA test results.
Catastrophic diseases or injuries.
Hodgkin’s Disease. Brain tumors. Comas. High risk pregnancies. All are common soap opera maladies. Tripping over a waste basket could cause a miscarriage. And how many times did a favorite character go blind or deaf? But, at least in Soap Opera Land, everyone recovers; only to be struck down with another malady a few years later. However, soap opera characters are immune to one disease. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
A rare medical condition in the real world. However, it was quite common on soaps. Having a favorite character lose his or her memory and wander off somewhere, with everyone else thinking they were dead, made for great soap opera watching.
Returning from the dead
A favorite character is involved in a plane crash or similar event. He or she is missing and presumed dead, but the body is never found. The character leaves the show, only to return later, typically with another actor assuming the role.
This plot line has many possibilities. The character may be recovering from the aforementioned amnesia. Or maybe not. Either way, the memories will eventually return. The other scenario is when the character returns after being held captive somewhere. Regardless of the circumstances, no one ever makes it home until their spouse or lover has found someone else.
And there you have it. Any romance writer worth his or her salt knows that such stories of star-crossed lovers have worked since Romeo and Juliet. And they work just as well today. I use variations of them in my own romance novels, and my readers tell me they can’t put my books down.