Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Q & A 150

Help! In a work of fiction, how does one attribute snippets of poetry? In my case, I'm putting four-line snippets of public domain poetry (180 years old) at the beginning of six sections of a short story. Since they're all from the same poet, I thought of putting an attribution below the author's name, though that only works if only a single poet was robbed.

by author
(poetry by Vlad Smith)

Another method:

It was a dark and stormy night....
I would we weld,
Had she not smeld.
--Vlad Smith

The second method has the disadvantage of being distracting if used often.

So that the question is more generally applicable to minions, you might provide guidance for song lyrics and snippets of fiction.

This is the shortest piece of writing I've ever seen that contained so many uses of the word "snippets." I'm surprised you didn't work "snippets" into the sample snippet. You could have rhymed it with Whippets.

Your first method might work if everyone's heard of the poet. Otherwise they'll think the story was a collaborative effort.

As for the second method, I think I'd find the poetry more distracting than the attributions, but if you want to lighten it a bit, I've seen just the author's initials used as attribution after the full name is used in the first one.

Do you really need six snippets in your story? If you're just taken with this poet, as I suddenly am with the word "snippets," I suggest you post the snippets here in the comments to get the idea out of your system.

As for song lyrics, my recommendation is to write your own lyrics. Whoever owns the rights to song lyrics, even snippets, will want money, and will want to see what you're doing with their snippets before they sell the rights. It's not worth the hassle. If you need lyrics and can't come up with any of your own, I'll write you some lyric snippets, free. Assuming you agree not to abuse my snippets.


Kiersten said...

Please post lyric snippets immediately. A snippet is exactly what I need to improve this week...

Snippy snippets are even better.

Whirlochre said...

Is there a way of sorting this out right at the start?

Most novels I've seen have a dedication, and, occasionally, notes.

If you can cite your reference(s) this way, the poetry can be assimilated seamlessly.

As for EE's lyrics, I'm queueing up early next Saturday in case the next Short is a musical.

EE sings, Mrs V plays the harp, and the world melts from sunset to sunrise into a puddle of quivering lurve.

Having said that, I'll settle for grunge.

Brenda Bradshaw said...

Jennifer Crusie addressed the use of lyrics once because she uses a lot of songs in her novels. I'm sure another minion can correct me, but according to her editors, you can use up to 10 words of a song without issue, but she usually kept it to six to be safe.

I'd suggest to just write your book, get it sold, and let the editors handle that part. They'll let you know. Promise.

I do so love when EE is easily entertained like this.

Anonymous said...

Thank you EE!
(Even though snippety.)
My poetry you can see,
Needs no attributability.

Bill H.

Anonymous said...

It's a quirky literary short story called "A Plague of Girls" about a man who wanted two sons, but got one son and six stairstepped daughters. No...it's really about the daughters, with one short "chapter" for each girl. I found sn*pts from Songs of Innocence and Experience, that summarize the chapter in four lines.

The sn*pts won't mean much alone, and may even sound silly.

--Bill H.

Whirlochre said...

looks like Bill H is the previous Adrian Mitchell.

Wes said...

I wanna read EE's lyrics............

Anonymous said...

Whoa! I spent waaay to much time thinking of snippets and whippets today. Here's proof:

Whopper was Big Mac’s Whippet
A stud, til the vet had to snip it.
Now Whopper won’t nibble
His kit or his kibble
But tacos still make him fidget.


AR said...

I have this running joke in one story I'm working on where the characters quote from a certain (fictional) poet at moments of high emotion. The joke is that the poetry is always completely unintelligable; they do it because it was done in their school.

I work the attribution, false though it is, into the dialogue, as follows.

"be dimmed,
be damned,
be merely human...etc.

Amy sighed, and the respectful silence that always accompanied a quotation of the good Poet Abender ensued.

After a moment she threw the pillow back on the bed and sat down.

'I wonder if people from other schools quote the good Poet Abender On Ever Occasion' I said reflectively."

talpianna said...

I think what the author means are EPIGRAPHS--brief quotations at the head of each chapter, usually thematically related to the content of that chapter. The book as a whole, and sections that include more than one chapter, can also have epigraphs.

The rule, I believe, is that one can quote three lines from a poem without running into copyright problems. My archaeologist friend just finished a book on dogs. While she was working on it, I sent her Robert Frost's "Canis Major," which she wanted to use as an epigraph. The Press wouldn't pay for the full poem, so she limited herself to three lines.

The usual way of crediting epigraphs is on the colophon page. "Excerpt from 'The Troll's Breakfast' by Blogless Troll quoted from EVIL EDITOR'S COOKBOOK [publication data]."

Be careful that you don't violate copyright; even though the poems are in the public domain, the particular version of them in the book you're quoting might be copyrighted for some reason.

If all the epigraphs are from one author, you can simply put the publication data on the colophon page and just use the author's name and the work cited with the first one, then just the work for the rest of them. If they are all from one work (all the epigraphs in Mary Stewart's THIS ROUGH MAGIC are from The Tempest,), after the first one, you don't need any citation data in the epigraph.

No snippets for me, but I'll take a sippet or three.

Evil Editor said...

Actually, the author is putting his snippets in a short story, not a book.

Dave F. said...

Just a note...
Age doesn't guarantee that a work isn't copyright protected.

Dante's Divine Comedy is old, but the translations into English are all copyright protected. Each translation being unique.

Even English poets may have assigned their copyright to certain agents and publishers.

WouldBe said...

In my case, it is William Blake and the his Snippets of...no...Songs of Innocence and Experience, published around 1789. If I use the text from reprints of his own printings (he wrote, printed, hand-colored, and bound his books), I should be okay, because the text was painted with a brush (backwards) as part of the plate preparation. Clearly those are his own words. He was quite the self-publisher.

Thanks, Tal, they are very much like epigraphs, but as EE said, in short story format. I am having second thoughts about it, though. Meh.

--Bill H.

writtenwyrdd said...

I'd just put the poem name and author below the quote and let the editors at the publishing house worry about it.

But I've seen it done recently as
line of poetry
line of poetry
italics title and author

Julie Weathers said...

I have a lot of songs and bits of songs in Paladin. I solved the issue by just writing them all myself.

I'm not a great poet, but it works for my needs.

Other than that, I think just find out what the cut off is for the work and stay below it.

Then put the author's name below each snippet.

blogless troll said...

2 cups Rice Krispies
1 package (16 oz) bacon
3/4 cup lard

Coat bacon strips generously with lard. Roll in Rice Krispies. Serve serve on a warm bun, or cut into snippets.

debhoag said...

I am just so sorry that I feel compelled to inflict this on everyone else, but everytime I see the word "snippet" I think nipplet. Which would make it snippy nipplets, which sounds oddly erotic.

Anonymous said...

Something's wrong. Snippets from other blogs, apparently, are sniggling into this blog, apparently a artery-clog-blog and a porn blog.

--Bill H.

Anonymous said...

Thank you BT for that lovely recipe! Hope it's okay to offer another tidbit. (do not snip!!)

Tasty Midnight Snack

1 lrg hard salami
4 warm buns


Butter the buns, hide the salami.

talpianna said...

Troll, if I read your recipe aright, the bacon remains raw. Correct?

Anonymous said...

Tal, it's a Nebraska roll. There's not as much seafood in Nebraska as California, so they have bacon sushi wrapped in rice (krispies). The lard is the binder.

Bill H.

talpianna said...

Bill, I guess it's tastier than Mole-on-a-Roll, but not by much!