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  1. starseed
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    starseed Contributing Member

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    using famous quotes from old novels

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by starseed, Jun 13, 2009.

    I was just curious what you guys think about doing this..

    There is a part in Alice and Wonderland where she says "Curiouser and curiouser". This phrase seems to be pretty commonly used. I have heard friends of mine say it in a funny sort of way before I even knew it was from the book.

    I'm wondering where the line is drawn when it comes to quotes that over time, work their way into slang or everyday conversation. Does "curiouser and curiouser" BELONG to someone? If I used it in my book would I need to supply an source for the quote?

    I ask because I had used it in my book, but then I got to thinking maybe it was plaguerism (sorry, I don't know how to spell that word, I tried 5 times lol). I am really, really confused about when something is owned by a certain writer/artist and when it is free for all. A similar thing I am wondering about is making references to the Star Wars movies. I have quite a few abstract jokes/references to Star Wars in my book as well. I assumed this is okay since those movies have been around forever and I see it done in tons of movies and other books.

    Also, what about mentioning famous people, by name? I also see this done in other books but I am a little hesitant about it. If it actually got published could I get sued if one of my characters is talking crap about someone? lol it seems like a dumb question, because who the hell would care about what I have to say in my little book.. but you never know!
     
  2. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's just a phrase, really. It's used every day. Same as 'googling' - it's part of native speech (well, for you anyway).
     
  3. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    Your manuscript can contain anything you'd like it to contain. But your potential to publish it through a royalty publisher will require both writing skill and good sense. Here's what I'd think about ...

    A publisher isn't likely to publish a book that contains libelous material about someone who's likely to sue them and win (maybe jointly with the author). Reputable publishers have legal counsel and readers to search out and red flag such details. For that matter, any responsible literary agent isn't likely to represent an author whose work is fraught with obvious potential law suits, unless it's a known, successful author with deep pockets and good connections.

    So, I'd say you're less likely to be published than you are to be sued; and I'd suggest thinking more about the writing and story you tell. If you run across something you think could be "sue-worthy," then use your imagination to work out ways to avoid that possibility wherever it's doable (your writing will probably thank you for the effort). But characters certainly can and do have opinions and attitudes about real celebrities and public figures. Just try to be sure those attitudes and opinions reflect their personas rather than yours. And if they don't help build character (theirs) or create an essential mood of some kind, I'd probably wonder what they're doing in that particular story.
     
  4. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    People make Star Wars references all the time. George Lucas enjoys them if they are done well. It really depends on what you choose and how you do it. In some cases, especially when it comes to dialogue or first-person narrative, it may be exactly what the character would say. The way the dialogue in Buffy the Vampire Slayer is written is how Joss Whedon talks, so it's reasonable to think that other people would talk that way. In another thread, I brought up the example of "Go ahead, make my day." In some cases, that's exactly what someone would say. There is the problem of certain phrases in that it's hard to hear that line and not think of the original. And who can hear, "Who ya gonna call?" without wanting to say "GHOSTBUSTERS!" even though it's a perfectly legitamate line that could be said by anyone.

    As for mentioning famous people, if it could be called libel, then you're in trouble. But generally mentioning them, or refering to them in a positive way, I see no problem.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    when a phrase from a copyrighted work has become so popular that it's become more an 'idiom' than a quote, it's no longer actionable as plagiarism...

    there are too many to list and if everyone who used the lines 'we're not in kansas any more' or 'make my day' and/or all the countless other common one-liners were to be sued, it would cause total gridlock in our courts...
     
  6. starseed
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    starseed Contributing Member

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    Very good points, thanks for the responses. I have always been really confused about plagurism. It seems to be a massive gray area, but I feel better about it now.
     
  7. Clamsofcorn
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    Clamsofcorn New Member

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    Ok... This one may be a bit more sketchy as the quotes haven't fallen into common usage. The quotes (should be) recognizable, and I have no idea as to wether this is plagiarism or not (especially since the quotes are meant to be recognized). Here they are:

    "This is not the story of a man named Earl Fredrickson. This is not the story of how he lived his life and the extraordinary circumstances under which it was drastically altered. This is the story of fate and chance. This is the story of how all people contain both good and evil, and yet are not utterly eviscerated by their conflict (usually). This is the story of men and gods, and to a slightly lesser extent, goats. This is the story of an epic romance and a ancient, smoldering grudge. This is the story of blind emotions and stark logic. This is the story of This World, The Next World, and Australia.

    This is the story of Order And Chaos"

    Now, the line about this world, the next world, and australia is based on a quote from "The importance of being Ernest" by Oscar wilde

    This next one is more recognizable:

    Chronos had Nargren make a few adjustments to his hat concerning currency, it will now produce infinite amounts of ridiculously accurate counterfeit bills of any currency Chronos chooses. (Hey, “The law is a human institution”)

    (The character being a god by the way) This quote is from "O Brother where Art Thou" I know its in the movie, but I've never read the book.

    Anyway, i would like to know if this is plagiarism and any ways that I could prevent it from being plagiarism. (If all else fails, I suppose I could just get rid of em both since they aren't really particularly important to the plot)
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the first, since the writer died over 100 years ago, is in the public domain, though it still has to be properly cited, if used...

    the second is definitely protected by copyright and can not be used without permission...

    you really should read up on the copyright laws... it will save you a lot of question-asking and quote-deleting... www.copyright.gov

    that's the site for the us... countries that're also signatories to the berne convention will have similar laws...
     
  9. Clamsofcorn
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    Clamsofcorn New Member

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    Thankyou so much Mammamaia!
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you're so welcome, coc! ;-)

    btw, in that sig quote of yours, 'lead' should be 'led,' since it's used there as the past tense of 'lead'... though pronounced the same as the noun for that stuff in gasoline, or what used to be in pencils, it's spelled w/o the 'a'...

    and the quote should be cited, even if it's your own original words...

    hugs, m
     
  11. Sappho
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    Helen Fielding used the bases of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" for Bridgit Jone's diary.

    Jane wrote "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

    Helen wrote "It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces."

    Also in the book she mentions both Colin Firth and Hugh Grant lol. In Bridget Jones: Edge of reason. Bridgit interviews Colin Firth.

    (Of course that scene was scrapped from the movie) ;)
     

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