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  1. #1
    imported_amy nigro

    non fictional character in fiction book

    I am new to writing and am working on a book where the fictional characters meet someone who was a real person. Letters and journals of the real person have been published (Think Anne Frank). What are the rules about using quotes from their letters as part of the dialogue? Should I be contacting the publisher for permission to use information from the publishd work?

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2010

    Re: non fictional character in fiction book


    Using passages from other works is complicated. You need to research this thoroughly. In general, there's a doctrine of fair use that allows writers to freely use portions of a work. It's based on percentage, I think. Like even a line from a poem or song could be too much, but a passage from a book-length work would be fine. If you're using historical letters, it's probably that the letters themselves are in the public domain, although the work in which they are published may still be under copyright. If you've only got one historical figure's writings to deal with, it shouldn't be too hard to figure out if the material is still under copyright, and, if so, who owns it. (Check the copyright page of the source book. It may list copyright permission for the letters and journal, which might tell you who owns the copyright, if anyone.) If you just quote a few lines or passages, you should be fine. But do some research.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Australia - for now ;)

    Re: non fictional character in fiction book

    What CK said.

    My MS has a lot of history and several quotes/statements from real (and famous) characters/people.
    I have used sections of their speeches for example and always shown it to be a quote/statement/speech of the actual person (and even in some cases stated where it was first published such as the New York Times)
    In most cases, if you are quoting an actual person, as long as you do not pretend their words are yours and give them credit for the words, and as long as it is only a portion of the work (say a short quote in the entire chapter), you should be OK.

    Secondly, if an agent picks it up, they are likely to second think your selection/wording and then again, when a publishing house offers you a deal, thier own legal team will give it the once over.

    Anyone who writes historical, or historical-fantasy is faced with this issue as the real world blends with fiction but the line is there, and really, when you think about it, it's pretty clear. If it is YOUR work, with YOUR words and you are quoting the King of England, then clearly you need to quote word for word to make the scene authentic. If, on the other hand, you make an entire scene all fact and actual quotes(etc.) of a real person (especially without making it clear this is an actual quote - word for word) then you are taking it too far.
    if the wine is sour throw it out


  4. #4
    imported_amy nigro

    Re: non fictional character in fiction book

    Raven and CK,

    Thanks for the input. Your feedback helps and I am ready to tackle the next section.

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