Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Don't be a Copycat!

Hmmm....Not sure where my Chicks are! I'm the sole Chick this week! lol

Heellloooo (helllooo....hellllooo.....)


I decided to answer Tonya's question from a previous comment. She asked: Do you know if there are any rules or special permission needed in taking a sermon, talk, or non-fiction book you've heard/read and applying the points in a fictional story?

Obviously, copying without credit is a no-no. It's also hard to give credit in fiction format, because fiction novels don't typically have footnotes. The best way around this issue, in my opinion, is to simply reword the point or quote you'd like to use into your own words.

I don't have this problelm often in my fiction writing, but I do freelance for a local newspaper, and I have to do this a lot when using information from other articles or sources. It's often a tricky balance in being accurate, but not copying.

A good way to practice this is to take a newspaper article and try to rewrite it yourself - keeping the major points of the article but rewording and reorganizing the information presented. Then compare the two when done.

When it comes to quoting movie quotes, song lyrics or even brand name items in fiction, one rule applies - when in doubt, google! A lot of hymn lyrics are open for free use, etc. But if you can't find accurate copyright info, the best thing to do is just not include that particular song, lyric, or reference. Better safe than sorry!

Any other questions pertaining to copyrights or using nonfiction references or points in a fiction story?


  1. Thanks! Now what about with sermons. For example, I listened to one by James Macdonald about the importance of choosing friends. He had 3 main points. Is it ok to write a story illustrating the 3 points? If I quoted his points I'd have to give him credit but the story built around it- is that copying? Does that make sense?

  2. Tonya, I'm really not sure how that works to be honest. I don't think sermons are copyrighted BUT you don't want to cross any lines. Nor can you just call up James Macdonald and ask for permission lol

    Although you actually might...stranger things have happened.

    Can you rephrase the points at ALL to make them in your own words? Or are they single words? I think copyrights apply only after so many words. I know thats how it works with song lyrics. One person can't copyright the word "Heaven" for example. Anyone know more about that????

    But, taking a fiction story plot and building it around three points or three words, etc. is absolutely okay. Authors write fictional stories around points from the Bible all the time, for example.

  3. thanks! I was thinking more about building a fiction story around a sermon, that's when I always get ideas!!!!