I was wondering if you had any advice on how to bring a character over from another story…
Example, Sherlock Holmes is someone I’ve always loved, so I wanted him to make a guest appearance in a mystery novel I’m currently working on that’s set in the same place.
Second example, I’ve got a character from another series I wrote, Juiliara that I also want to make an appearance, but they’re from completely different universes.
I know you write fantasy, so I wanted to see if you had any advice about how to make this work.
Whoa… okay, so you’re actually asking two different questions here as the examples you gave are of two completely different scenarios. Let’s take the one at a time. We’ll tackle the easier one first…
So from the sound of the second example, you want to integrate a character from a different world where… likely different rules apply and give her a cameo in your current story.
Not knowing the context or what kind of rules apply to the universe you created makes it difficult to give you the best advice I can. However, I’ll do my best. In my novel, Soul Siphon, I gave General Xaphan from Damnation a cameo and kind of made her a mentor to my team of heroes.
In the book, I didn’t give much detail into her backstory, though I did allude to the idea that this Xaphan’s backstory might be slightly different from the one in Damnation. I had the advantage that Damnation was basically a ‘behind the scenes of history’ story. The idea for that story was to write it in a way that history could still proceed normally. In other words, if you believe in religious mysticism, my story was not outside the realm of possibility.
So technically, Xaphan could reappear in the modern world, but there were still some inconsistencies. So I basically brought her back but obscured her experiences and backstory so that the reader would have to decide whether she was the fallen angel from Damnation or a General Xaphan from a different reality where the events of her life happened differently.
Using a parallel counterpart may be a good way of accomplishing your goal while keeping in-universe. Other than that, it really depends on the rules of your world. Is there a way to transport characters from one place to another, or could that character’s world plausibly be the same one?
Sherlock Holmes may be more of a problem for you. I’m not sure of the specifics, but I don’t think he’s public domain yet. The Copyright Act was extended not long ago so that the term of protection went from 75 years to 95 years.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died in 1930 and his last work was published in 1926-1927(??). However, a recent legal ruling may have changed that.
The court case of Klinger v. Conan Doyle Estate settled the claim and actually put to rest the issue of whether a copyright claim would persist on a character even if the works that contained him/her have fallen out of copyright. The Estate tried to argue that, while the stories aren’t copyrighted, the characters still were.
I really don’t have the time or the inclination to try to contemplate the mental gymnastics around that thought process or the ramifications of someone successfully making that case. However, in rare form, the courts ruled correctly. So you may be in the clear, but I’d contact a copyright attorney on this one just be sure. There may still be some gray area there and you don’t want to tangle with the ACD estate. Even if you’re in the right, it could still cost you.
As long as everything checks out, you should have no problem integrating Holmes into your story. That being said, I’d first go through and carefully study Doyle’s works. Read them and get a feel for the character you’re borrowing. Sherlock Holmes still has a massive following 90 years later. If you’re hoping to break into the murder/mystery community, you DO NOT want to do an injustice to the biggest name in the group.
In any case, I hope this helps a little bit. As always, I’m available if you need further advice. Please feel free to email me.
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