April 05, 2011

Books inside of books

Have you ever mentioned a book in your WIP?

What about ruined the ending?

In PRODIGAL MAGGIE, Maggie ruins the ending of an old (published in the 1930's) classic for another character. It's a book that's on pretty much every summer reading list in America.

Now, I'm not of the school that says, "Hey, it's been out xx number of years, it's free game." I've been known to hush people (politely) at HP film premieres so the surprise remains intact for those who only watch the movies.

Maggie ruining the book is not integral to the plot, and I could use another device to accomplish the purpose the scene currently serves.

None of my betas (except Bear) mentioned an issue with this either way (correct me if I'm wrong here, betas), so I'm wondering...

What is your opinion? Is this something I should leave for now, and if my theoretical future agent and/or editor takes umbrage, change it then? Are there legal issues with mentioning (and ruining) the end of a book in another book?

Also, have you entered my 200 followers contest yet? It's fun and easy to enter!


Miss Cole said...

I suppose it depends on the book because, as you say, spoilers seem to have a limit - over a certain number of years and everyone is expected to know.

Go with your gut. If it's an older, popular book, it won't be as much of an issue. If it's something popular and more recent, say the last five years (or is that too long? Who knows!), I'd consider rewriting the scene or using another book.

Rachel Bateman said...

Having read MAGGIE, I say you are totally fine with how you handled it. The book is definitely old enough to where people can't get their panties in a twist about spoilers. If they really wanted to be surprised by the ending, the have had YEARS to read it.

Personally, I would leave it as is. Like you said, there are other ways you can go about making the point of the scene, but I think it works so well this way.

And there are no legal issues for you to worry about at this point. That book *might* be in public domain by now (I don't know when it was actually published or if the estate renewed copyright or anything and don't have time to look it up), and at any rate you aren't pulling actual words. The only legal issues that would arise from what you did would come from a book under embargo, but since that only happens before they are released, you wouldn't know the ending anyway.

Pretty much that was a really long way to say: I like it as is. Of course, that was the case with pretty much the whole book, which is why you got the lamest beta-notes ever from me. :)

Stephanie said...

This is so weird you'd ask this question, because I have the same situation in my WIP. My MC and a secondary character are hyper-literate, and they often have conversations about books. One conversation, about Tess of the d'Urbervilles, reveals the ending. I really like the scene, and I figure that, since Tess is such a well-known book, I'd keep it in until someone convinces me to cut it. I'd say that, as long as it's an older book, it's fine. Just off the top of my head, I can recall published books that reveal the endings to Romeo and Juliet, Catcher in the Rye, fairy tales, and other older stories in the public domain, so I don't see why it wouldn't be OK for you to do so (it would be great to hear an agent or editor's take on this issue, though).

And I don't think there are any legal issues as long as you're not copying anything from the original text--and even then it'd probably be fine as long as you give credit to the original author. If it's older than 50 years old, too, it's part of the public domain, which I believe means you don't have to ask permission to reference or quote the work.

I hope that helps! And if you find a definite answer, I'd love to know!

Pam Harris said...

Hmm, I don't think it's a big deal to ruin the ending of a book, especially if it's a classic. I think this is something that helps to define your character--she's the type that would ruin the ending of a story. :) Not so sure about the legal issues, though.

Alicia Gregoire said...

I don't think it's a big deal. I'd say leave it and let the agent/editor worry about it.

You might also like...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...