Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Using Quotes

I'm usually not a lover of famous quotes as a chapter opener. In fact, if the quote is too long, I've been known to skip right over it (shhh, don't tell the author) and get right in to the meat of the story. But a few months ago, I stumbled across the world's most appropriate quote for my current manuscript. I'm obsessed with it! Could not be more perfect!

Apparently there are all sorts of legal wranglings for using quotes in your novel. It has to fall under "fair use" and there are rules about determining if that's the case. I know I'm getting ahead of myself here, as usual, but I guess I'm just wondering if it's even worth pursuing. (I realize there are people who deal with this sort of thing--I'm just taking a poll.)

What do you all think about famous quotes in novels. And by "quotes," I don't mean, "As Julius Caesar once said, "Et tu, Brute?" but something more like this:

Chapter 1

Blah blah blah blah. Blah!
--Willie Nelson

Tell me. Do you read them? Are you impressed by the author's mad quoting skillz? Or do you skim and skip?


April Plummer said...

I try to read them. I usually start reading them at the beginning of the book. If the quotes are just at the beginning of different parts of the book, I generally read them. But many times, I'm ashamed to say, I don't make the connection between the quote and the story, and after a chapter or two, I completely skip them.

Sort of ironic since my first completed MS began each chapter with a quote that summed up the chapter.

Of course, that book was really, truly awful. That's not the same as saying that all books are awful if they have quotes, that's just saying I've come a lont way...

Lisa said...

If the quote is long, I skip right over it. If its a one liner, I will read it. I'm like you, I like to get to the meat of the story. So if the quote isn't really good and isn't completely relevant, I will get annoyed at the author for putting it there. Having said that, there is nothing like a one liner that says it all.

Bottom Line for me: If its short and fantastic, I'm in :-)

MeAgain said...

I'm a quote junkie but after dealing with the legal issues of trying to use one in my book, I'll never do it again. I ended up doing a rewrite and removing it. That will teach me to try and give credit to another author!

Oh, sorry, my sarcasm was showing *tucks it back in*

Mother Hen said...

If I can't memorise it first time out, it goes right by my- one eye and out the other!

WendyCinNYC said...

April--Yeah, that's the thing. If it's sort of out in left field, it does more harm than good, IMO.

Lisa--This one is short and fantastic! At least, I think so.

MeAgain--Ouch, really? This is what I'm worried about.

Mother Hen--Oh, there are *very* few quotes I've memorized beyond the ones I need for school (which I can still recite!)

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

I'm not a big fan. They seem somewhat cumbersome, unless they're super-short and meaningful to the book. Sometimes, even after I've finished the book, I think, WTF does this have to do with the story??

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Like you, I read them unless they are too long or my mind wanders. I've used a quote from Churchill in the mg novel I'm working on.

Purple Cow said...

I read the short ones.

hayleym_sw said...

I like them. I always read them, and I especially like them if they are from other novels as they lead me on to other things to read.

Janna Leadbetter said...

If they're not lengthy, I read them, but they almost never sink in and stick around.

That said, if your quote works out, I think you should use it. You'd regret it if you didn't throw it in there somewhere.

Jaleh D said...

I haven't read all that many books with chapter quotes. Robert Aspirin's Myth books comes to mind, but he tweaked his famous quotes a bit for humor factor. And they were all relevant to the chapter. I love what he chooses, but I think I read somewhere that he later half regretted putting them in Another Fine Myth, because his readers came to expect the quotes and they were time consuming to find. Something to keep in mind if you are starting what might be a lengthy series.

One of my friends is doing chapter quotes, but since hers are all character quips, she makes up her own. No worrying about permissions.

Quotes are fun when they enhance the story if you read them but won't penalize the reader if you don't.

Anonymous said...

I actually like them, but only if they are relevant. They can become too clever by far if done wrong.

Also common in speculative fiction as a sort of recursive device to immerse the reader in the "universe" of the book by giving it the feel that it is a place with media, history and culture.

Melanie Hooyenga said...

I read EVERYTHING in a book so I do read the quotes, but I get annoyed when it seems like the author is stretching to make them work.

Kathryn Magendie said...

I don't know - I have to think about it *laughing* - I use quotes sometimes - but they are usually shakespeare or Ovid or something - not at each chapter, just at the beginning of the book and I never make it long.

but i looooveeee blah blah blah! wish I'd have thought of that *laugh*