But that's not what I wanted to write about in this post, in spite of the picture. I just figured you (if there are any readers out there) were getting tired of all the black and white. What I want to write about is inheriting stories and characters.
Earlier today, I gave a lecture to my library research students about plagiarism and copyright, in which I mentioned a number of examples of people writing sequels or retellings using characters or plots that were originally created by someone else:
- The Wind Done Gone, by Alice Randall, based on Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind
- Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys, based on Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre
- 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye, by Fredrik Colting , based on J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye
Authors have willed the rights to their stories, including the rights to writing sequels, to their children or surviving significant others. It's my understanding that this is mostly to make sure their survivors are set up, money-wise. But is it really possible to will a character and a story to some one? Those characters and stories live inside their creators head and I don't think that anyone else can understand them quite the same way. Anyone taking up the pen later on will have a different understanding, a different interpretation. In the case of Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea, this means that incredible things can be accomplished.
Still, it's an interesting question.