Thursday, 11 February 2016

Character Conflicts

I have maintained a specific online identity for 20 years.  Almost all my online writing and social media profiles are under the name Sailorchronos, taken from the name of a character I created for a Sailor Moon story that I published in 1997.  At the time, there was no other character of that name despite the many fan-made Sailor Moon characters that existed then.

Recently I had thought to start redoing my main web site, and just on a whim began searches on the name to see what happened.  Most of the links that popped up were mine, but there were at least two sites that featured stories containing another character with that name.

One of them had a description that was nothing like mine so it was easy to tell it wasn't my creation.  But another was badly written with a vague description which I was concerned might give readers - hers as well as mine - the wrong impression.  The site gave no date for the story's publication so I assumed (erroneously it turned out) that the post was recent.  So I sent the author a polite email asking her to amend the description of the character in such a way so it wouldn't be confused with my own.

The response was swift and entirely negative.  "Did you pay to trademark your character?"  "I haven't posted in years, where did you even find that?"  "How dare you ask me to change it."  That sort of thing.

My first reaction was: Who does this self-righteous twit think she is?
My second reaction was: I've spent 20 years maintaining my online presence using images and personality traits based on that character.  I don't want to have potential readers or even employers seeing these other same-named characters, thinking they're mine and being turned off.
My third reaction was: Maybe she has a point.  It was like someone tracking down every instance of (insert character name here) and saying "I made this character first, so it's mine.  Buzz off."

I spent quite some time thinking about how to formulate a reply.  Then I realized that responding probably wouldn't be in my best interest.  It might only inflame her further, which wouldn't do my image much good.

Writers, how would you handle a similar situation?

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