1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

Homages- Plagiarism?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by evolution_rex, Aug 19, 2015.

  1. evolution_rex

    evolution_rex Inkling

    530
    228
    43
    Before I go on, let me say that I've never done this in any of my writing, I'm just curious.

    Anyway, whenever I read something and I find a paragraph or sentence I really really like, I write the sentence down. I put them into a folder I have saved on my computer, and my goal is to read the sentences/paragraphs as inspiration when writing. But, I also had an idea that I haven't tried out and it's because I'm unsure if it's a good idea or not.

    Basically, is it okay to take a sentence from someone's writing with minimal changes and add it to what I'm writing as a way to pay homage to the work that I like? I almost did it once to a short story I never finished writing that involved dinosaurs. I thought about using a sentence I read in A Sound of Thunder that described the Tyrannosaurus and wanted to use part of it because I thought it would be a nice reference to the material that I very much respected. I ended up not doing it but I thought it was interesting idea.

    I see similar thing done with films all the time, particularly with cinematography. Quentin Tarantino copies certain shots, names, and dialogue from older films all the time and he's considered a genius by many people. But I'm not sure how homages work with writing. Is it considered plagiarism or simply lazy?
     
  2. stephenspower

    stephenspower Inkling

    486
    159
    43
    Boy, I hope so. So should Ernest Cline. Armada is basically a half-dozen movie scripts chopped up and reassembled. Everyone speaks in movie and tv quotes.
     
  3. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    4,369
    928
    113
    I had a related question if the OP doesn't mind me asking it:

    What about a joke? I heard a particular one a long time ago, and it really fits my story perfectly. No idea where I heard it or who wrote it. How should I handle it if I keep it in my story? Try to reword it?
     
  4. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    2,995
    1,727
    163
    Plagiarism is passing off another's thoughts/ideas/language/etc. as your own. Homage is paying respects to another's thoughts/ideas/language/etc.

    One is saying that's mine. I did that. The other is saying yeah, that's from X. Isn't it cool?

    I think it's a cool idea what you want to do. But the difficult part about it is acknowledging the homage before someone starts pointing fingers and calling you a thief.

    If you want a prime example of homage vs plagiarism take a look a the difference between Tarantino and Shia Labeauf. Tarantino feely admits where he borrowed stuff from. Shia Labeauf... *sigh*
     
    evolution_rex likes this.
  5. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    2,995
    1,727
    163
    Try googling the joke. You might find the owner.

    I did the same thing. It was a joke from a stand up comedian. All I did was make sure to mention the comedian's name and acknowledged it was their joke. If I was really keen on not giving acknowledgement, I would probably have to contact the comedian and ask for permission.

    If you can't find the owner, I'd find a way to add in that the character heard the joke over the TV/Radio/etc. just to be clear that I'm not claiming the joke as my own.
     
  6. X Equestris

    X Equestris Maester

    653
    232
    43
    As long as you aren't trying to say you came up with that joke, I don't see a problem, even if you can't find the origin of it. Rewording it might make it look like you're trying to hide it. I say leave it as is.
     
  7. evolution_rex

    evolution_rex Inkling

    530
    228
    43
    Well, if I were to a homage like I suggested in my post, it would be a lot more subtle than that.
     
  8. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    4,369
    928
    113
    Even if I did find the owner, I'm not sure how I'd attribute it in a story that doesn't take place in our reality.

    EDIT: Understand that I put the joke in the rough draft. There's no guarantee that it won't totally disappear by the 2nd, much less the 5th. I am curious, though, how to do it properly if I do decide that it's needed for the story.
     
  9. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    2,715
    1,817
    163
    This is a complicated subject. I might be the odd one out, because I think that, generally, the type of "homage" you are describing is too near plagiarism.

    Multiple ways of paying homage exist that do not include copying text. The treatment of subject, theme, characterization, plot points, and so forth can be methods of paying homage, without the need to copy text.

    Also, the renown of a line of text plays a large role in paying homage. If a line is relatively unknown, how can one say that it's included to show respect for another writer? To some large degree, homage has to be recognized in order to have an effect as homage. So for instance, a fantasy novel that has a MC named "Lukiern" might included a line spoken by the main antagonist to that MC at a heightened point in the action, "I am your father, Lukiern." That is blatant, and the sort of thing that would only work in comedy, satire, or perhaps fan fiction – genres that are far more open to that sort of homage – and probably would be used many times throughout the work. Even if some readers do not get every reference, enough would be recognized to telegraph the general approach, so there is no doubt that the author is borrowing liberally from other creators and in effect paying tribute to them.
     
  10. evolution_rex

    evolution_rex Inkling

    530
    228
    43
    Right, that's my worry. If I were to make these homages, they'd be very subtle and more of a personal thing for me rather than a reference for the sake of a joke. I do this with symbolism as well, I often riddle my stories with symbols that I know most readers won't notice. It's part of the fun to see who are the ones that do figure it out.
     
  11. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    2,995
    1,727
    163
    To me the most important part is finding a way to state, hopefully with some degree of subtly, that they joke isn't yours. There are infinite ways to do this, even in a fantasy setting. The most obvious one that comes to me is after the joke is told, just have the character say, something to the effect "Got that from a bard in the Capital. Think his name was Lenau Jai."

    The first part of that acknowledges that it's not your joke and the latter part attributes it. And to those who read and aren't paying close attention, they probably won't even know it's a homage. But it's clear enough that once one sees that if you reverse the first and last name it says Jai Leneau or Jay Leno.
     
    BWFoster78 likes this.
  12. Home, Homage, On The Range...

    First of all, there are seven plots, so there is no such thing as complete originality.
    Aristotle used Plato who used Socrates, and peeps have been arguing about all the sources "The Bard" W. Shakespeare used...or if you prefer to be cuter...paid homage to.

    A true 'homage' is NOT a quote, but a reference. For instance, JMS used to homage his favorite writers all the time. His Gree were basically stolen from Sandman, and his character Alfred Bester was an homage of...well...Alfred Bester.

    Remember Farscape? Twenty-times EACH episode, the hero John quoted some contemporary pop character, dialog, or plot reference from his Earth. I don't remember any attribution, beyond the RARE "As the Duke once said..." They kept that up for seven long years, I don't think SciFi had much of a budget to fight off any litigation, so I assume there wasn't any.

    And then there's actual quoting:
    According to copyright law, Fair Use is a small sample of someone else's work...what constitutes a "small part" will have lawyers arguing...but it is based on the total size of the original work. For a big novel like War and Peace (this was an example from an expert I read in my extensive copyright studies) an entire chapter might qualify!
    For a work as small as a song, any single line constitutes a breech of copyright (So never...NEVER...quote a song lyric...make up your own).
    For things such as works of art, a 20% change makes someone else's work YOURS (court decisions) and if you don't believe that, I refer you to every "pop" artist who ever lived. Hell, call it "found art" and you don't even HAVE to change it, apparently. Andy Warhol's entire career, anyone?

    I have ALL KINDS of send-ups, references, and homages in my 100k novel, and even one unattributed quote...it's one of the things that made it all worth the effort.
    I name ships after other ships (real and fictional) but this has been a common practice amongst shipbuilders since the trireme sailed the seas (even NASA homaged one of their shuttles the Enterprise...but Roddenberry didn't make up the name either, he'd homaged earlier ships with that name himself).
    My fictional society is seeded from Earth, and they obsess about Earth culture and history as a pass time. They remember more about Earth history and pop culture than the surviving Earthers do. So The main character names his ship the Eidolon, his uncle's ship is the Xanthippe. Both stolen. Ariton's rail-cruiser the Indefatigueable is homaging the Hornblower books. Another is the Rocinante, homaged from Don Quixote.
    Yes, a lot of my homages are from very old sources, that's one way to do it. But EVERY pop reference they ever made in Farscape was current and contemporary. Really, who's going to complain that you gave them love and maybe even free advertising.

    Has the line ever been used as a quote? You're good to go, just reference the (believed) originator. Every one of my chapters starts with an attributed quote.

    I end my climax chapter with my MC quoting Rutger Hauer's character in Bladerunner...with only the oblique attribution, "Morgan remembered from a very old holo-vid."

    Hell, even my PEN-NAME is an homage to my favorite anime character!

    Maximillian d'Erembourg (homaged pen-name)
     
Loading...

Share This Page