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  1. Merlin

    Merlin Member

    Jan 31, 2010
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    Including Song lyrics in Novels - HELP!

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Merlin, Dec 18, 2011.

    Hey all, just a quick question for you. I'm currently working on a project that involves the main character forming a band as one of the many sub-plots that the novel has, and basically, thus including a band, there are going to be concerts. And concerts, means singing.

    And singing means music. Seeing as this isn't a film or an audiobook, I can't really get the right tone across.

    I also plan on including several cover-songs to use throughout the novel, but I have one question for you all?

    How do you feel about including lyrics (either original or covered), and either in whole or part, in the story? Does it slow the story down and make it dull, or improve the story? What are your thoughts?

    Sorry if this is in the wrong forum, by the way.
  2. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

    Jul 5, 2010
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    California, US
    Doesn't bother me because I often skip them.

    Just get permission to use the lyrics if they weren't created by you and aren't in the public domain.
  3. joanna

    joanna Active Member

    May 25, 2010
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    I wouldn't include an entire song.

    What you could do is have a character recite a line or two from time to time if they're collaborating, etc.

    Or, you could have a line or two at the start of each chapter, the way some authors do with quotations.

    Anything more than that would probably be annoying.
  4. DeAnnaClaudette

    DeAnnaClaudette Member

    Dec 17, 2011
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    I agree with joanna for the most part. The chorus is always the most important part of the song, the catchy part, so maybe that could be the couple of lines you include. I am not too familiar with reading lyrics in novels, however, so I cannot provide more useful feedback.
  5. Kallithrix

    Kallithrix Banned

    Feb 25, 2011
    Likes Received:
    Short quotes are fine (if you get permission beforehand, of course). However if you use overly long exerps, it looks like you're being lazy and stealing someone else's words because you can't think of your own. To be honest, whenever I see poetry or song quotes in a book (that aren't used either as a chapter heading to introduce a theme or because a character is actually discussing them), I just think 'ripoff!'.
  6. AxleMAshcraft

    AxleMAshcraft Member

    Jan 22, 2011
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    In my Head (USA)
    I once read a novel where they included whole songs broken up my descriptions of how the main character was singing it. I loved the novel (and the series it was part of), don't get me wrong, but I absolutely hated that part of it. I would always skip over the lyrics, I felt like they were just a waste of paper and when I decided that they might hold some sort of important plot detail and read them, I was left underwhelmed. They had nothing to do with the story.
    Now: I'm not saying that I would always hate them, but they have to at least mean something. If I'm going to try to decipher them then I want it to at least be worth it. I'm dislexic, and I'm not sure if this has directly to do with that or just the fact that I'm not a very good reader, but when a whole passage is indented or centered in a page, it just distracts me. Not to mention that when I turn the page and see something like that, I skip to it, skip back and then don't really get anything out of the whole page.
    Basically this- 1: Make them meaningful 2: make them an insight into character or plot and 3: don't make them a distraction.

    That's basically it. Sounds like an amazing plot idea :)
  7. Cacian

    Cacian Banned

    Oct 25, 2011
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    I was just thinking about it the other day and I think I would propably inculde prose/poem rather a song because it would float better.
    Iconsider songs as something you hear otherwise you won't be able to appreciate it .
  8. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Nov 21, 2006
    Likes Received:
    Coquille, Oregon
    to me, more than a couple of instances would be annoying/boring...

    and to use even a couple of lines of a copyrighted song without permission could land you in big, expensive trouble... the amount that can be used without paying royalties is not spelled out in the copyright laws, so it's always best to ask permission of the songwriter beforehand... this will most likely cost you...
  9. lostinwebspace

    lostinwebspace Active Member

    Mar 5, 2011
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    Do you have to use existing songs? By "covers," can you not just use made-up songs and say that made-up bands wrote them? "This next song is 'Eat Your Heart Out' by Zombie Apocalypse Dance Party." Or do they have to exist? If they're covers, you can use public domain songs. Not saying a contemporary artist would necessarily cover "Ain't We Got Fun," but it's an option. If you go this route, just make sure they're actually public domain. "Happy Birthday" and "Winter Wonderland," for instance, aren't.

    Also, can you not just say the singer is singing, or do you have to include the actual lyrics? You can mention any protected song: "The band performed 'Interstate Love Song.'"

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