1. Aprella
    Offline

    Aprella Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 8, 2013
    Messages:
    156
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Belgium

    Poems in stories

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Aprella, Jun 2, 2013.

    As a literature student I come across a lot of every interesting poems and stories. I was wondering if you can use lines of poems in stories without having issues with rights and all that. Isn't it so that you can freely use it after the author has been dead 75 years? Since I am especially talking about poems from the Victorian ages and earlier.
    I was also wondering if people find it annoying to read parts of poems in stories. I would love to use poems, though I'd be careful to use them only if they add something to the plot, setting, characters etc instead of throwing them in there randomly. I considered writing some poems myself but well... I'm not much of a poet :p
    Another thing, is it okay to refer to characters from a story? (as example: "he reminds me of Mr. Darcy.") I am planning to make one of my character be some kind of a literature freak and I'd will be nice to add a reference to something here and there though I can imagine it might be annoying for people who do not know the stories. and if I do something like this, do I have to credit it?

    Any advice or thoughts about this subject?
     
  2. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    you can use poems or lines from poems if the work is in the public domain, so first you need to establish that fact...

    next, of course you must cite the poet...

    i would suggest not doing so, as i find poems tossed into works of fiction annoying and almost always ignore them completely, and suspect i'm in the majority on that, as readers go...

    as for alluding to literary works/characters/etc., it's generally not a good idea, since you can't be sure the majority of reades will 'get it'... as for citing the source, it wouldn't make sense in that situation, unless done in a conversational way... but again, not everyone who reads contemporary fiction will know who the heck you're referring to, sad to say...
     
  3. AshleyFinn
    Offline

    AshleyFinn Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    5
    I enjoy poems in works. I find it allows the author to go deeper into his or her characters. Depending on the poet the character likes I would definitely get something different from that.
     
  4. blackstar21595
    Offline

    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2013
    Messages:
    598
    Likes Received:
    34
    Location:
    Brooklyn,NY
  5. Aprella
    Offline

    Aprella Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 8, 2013
    Messages:
    156
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Belgium
    I'd love to make my own poems... but I think I suck at it :p Probably because I am very picky in what poetry I like (and I almost only like the ones who left me awe struck).
    My favourite poem must be Sonnet 18 by Shakespeare and The Charge of the Light Brigade by Lord Alfred Tennyson

    @Mammamaia: any idea how you can check that?
     
  6. erebh
    Offline

    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2013
    Messages:
    2,620
    Likes Received:
    467
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    This maybe different mammamaia but, in my book my MC has to, we'll say go on treasure hunts. Before each he has a riddle which he reads to his little group. Would this count as the poetry you're not a fan of in fiction?
     
  7. erebh
    Offline

    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2013
    Messages:
    2,620
    Likes Received:
    467
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    I should just qualify that by saying each riddle may have up to 6 x four-line verses, I wouldn't call them Seamus Heaney level but...
     
  8. AshleyFinn
    Offline

    AshleyFinn Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    5
    That is definitely something authors do and is not crazy to have your characters do. It makes the characters more real.
     
  9. The Peanut Monster
    Offline

    The Peanut Monster Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 9, 2013
    Messages:
    125
    Likes Received:
    16
    Location:
    New Zealand
    I'm really not a fan of poetry in fiction either. But I think this is ok; they are more riddles, and they directly relate to the plot. Poems in fiction annoy me because they are usually tangential, often feel preachy, and require me to think about their symbolic relevance, which while useful as a study are not what I look for in casual reading.
     
  10. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,566
    Likes Received:
    3,563
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    mammamaia explained the technical side of it. Public doman and yes, cite it. Credit where credit's due, right?

    I don't mind if there's, say, one or two poems that're somehow relevant to the story or characters. Putting one's own poems I like; shows the writer's creativity. And it's kind of cute. My fave novel ever, Dina's Book quotes snippets of the Old Testament here and there, which I think is pretty interesting and it's relevant to the MC because she calls it "Hertjurd's Book" instead of the Old Testament, believing it's her dead mother's book.

    Go for it if it feels fitting :)

    That sounds interesting!
     
  11. GoldenGhost
    Offline

    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2012
    Messages:
    505
    Likes Received:
    58
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Well... if it's been mentioned, I apologize for lazily skimming through the posts, but.. have you considered studying works of fiction, or short stories, that have employed such and done so successfully? Bradbury's "And the Moon be Still as Bright" comes to mind, in which he not only uses portions of Byron's poem, line for line, but he swiftly cites Byron through the mouth of one of his characters. And though I might not exactly be the majority of readers, I read a lot of stories simply because of the color contained and the skill of the writer, more so than because of the content, sometimes.. And I don't find poetry within a story to be at all annoying, when done well and blended seamlessly.
     
  12. erebh
    Offline

    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2013
    Messages:
    2,620
    Likes Received:
    467
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    No nothing preachy or moral or flowery. I'm hoping the reader has fun trying to work them out or later when the riddle is complete the reader will go back and say "Ahh yeah, I get it now" rather than trying to bore them with lofty prose.
     
  13. Aprella
    Offline

    Aprella Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 8, 2013
    Messages:
    156
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Belgium
    I did read a book that used some poem lines in a couple conversation. And ofc it's important that it doesn't seem ambiguous. I intend to use lines of a poem to do some character building :)
     
  14. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    check what?...

    erebh...
    it would count as that if, as most i find of that ilk, it's poorly written... if well done, i can excuse it, but it's so trite a schtick as to seem amateurish to my mind... no offense intended, amigo!

    hugs, m
     
  15. Aprella
    Offline

    Aprella Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 8, 2013
    Messages:
    156
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Belgium
    If a poem is public domain or not. Is there some kind of database or some kind of office you can contact or whatever?
     
  16. Burlbird
    Offline

    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
    Messages:
    978
    Likes Received:
    295
    Location:
    Somewhere Else
    I normal countries (meaning: the rest of the world) it's based on 50-80 years after the author's death. In the States, it goes up to 120 years after the work's been published (95 in most cases, 70 years usually). In Belgium it's 70 years after author's death that a work can be considered public domain - check here. So basically, everything published/written before the 20th century is pretty much public domain everywhere. If you want to include a part of a Victorian poem in your story, there is absolutely no way anyone would mind, legally. Somebody might mind, as a reader, if you don't do it well :)
     
  17. Aprella
    Offline

    Aprella Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 8, 2013
    Messages:
    156
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Belgium
    Thanks for the link but I cannot read French :p (I live in the Dutch part of Belgium)
    But isn't there such a thing as descendants who want to keep the rights?
     
  18. Aprella
    Offline

    Aprella Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 8, 2013
    Messages:
    156
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Belgium
    double post :/
     
  19. erebh
    Offline

    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2013
    Messages:
    2,620
    Likes Received:
    467
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    I'm guessing schtick trick? Or maybe something German I'm unaware of, kinda sounds German.... hmmmm yours is one of the opinions I respect most round here, 'cause your like the mamma of all us little wannabe published writers...

    At best you can excuse it, sounds like you hate it without seeing it, oh well :(
     
  20. Burlbird
    Offline

    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
    Messages:
    978
    Likes Received:
    295
    Location:
    Somewhere Else
    Yes there are - they are called copyright holders. They are descendants, or former agents, or friends, or whoever is entitled to keep the rights for publication of author's work. And they can keep that right UNTIL the copyright term ends. When that happens (70 years after author's death, for Belgian authors, for example) - that's when the work becomes public domain!

    So, there MAY be descendants of the author (even Homer probably has descendants somewhere!!!) but they can't make copyright claims once the work enters public domain.
     
  21. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    thanks for the kind words, kiddo...

    'schtick' = 'gimmick' in yiddish... and i don't hate it unseen, just can't like it unseen...
     
  22. AshleyFinn
    Offline

    AshleyFinn Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    5
    Schtick can be endearing. If you want to make the story funny I would leave it in there. Just make sure the other characters completely ignore or disregard the riddle.
     

Share This Page