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Hey There

The main character in a story I'm working on quotes other people A LOT. As the story progresses this is one of the techniques I'm using to show the reader that, though the character at times seems wise and intelligent, this man is actually little more than a parrot regurgitating the ideas and opinions of others. Once he finally takes a step back and examines himself he realizes that he's practically never had an original idea in his life. So, anyway, he spouts out quotes right and left throughout most of the story, but he never gives credit where credit is due. He passes off everything he says as his own.
My question is this: Is there a way for me to credit all the quotes he uses without cluttering up the the pages, and interrupting the flow of the story, with reference numbers and footnotes?


Ernie H.

Hi, Ernie...

That's a quandary, isn't it?  You want to (and should) attribute the quotes to their rightful sources.  But yes, that would be ugly on the page.  I can't think of any way around that, other than making sure all the quotes are in the public domain and not needing attribution.  But that's problematic, I think you'll agree.

But here's something that strikes me.

Your character's epiphany is that he's always quoting others.  The "problem" I see with this is threefold: 1) It's likely that your reader will realize that's what he's doing, which will lessen the impact at the end... because the reader will think it's obvious; 2) Even if the reader doesn't realize this, some other character in the story would, or should; and 3) Even if no one but the protagonist realizes it, the reader is likely to wonder why it took your protagonist so long to have this epiphany.

I have a suggestion for how you can maybe pull it off, though, and that would omit any need for attribution to original authors:  Make up all the quotes.

By having all the quotes be from fictional people (who could be quite "real" in the story, of course, just not in our world), you eliminate problem 1, because the reader won't recognize the quotes.  You eliminate problem 2 in a roundabout way since if the reader doesn't know the quotes, he/she won't expect any other character to.  Problem 3... is still a problem, though it won't be quite as blatant.

I know that's probably not what you were wanting to hear... but that's how I see it.  Hope it helps.  

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Vincent M. Wales


I am a speculative fiction novelist (fantasy, science fiction, and so on). While I may be able to answer questions on non-fiction, my specialty is fiction. Please keep that in mind when asking questions.


For four years, I taught a series of fiction writing classes in Sacramento, CA.

BA in fiction writing.

Awards and Honors
My 2004 novel, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, won BEST FICTION in Fresh Voices 2006, BEST FICTION and BEST YA FICTION in the NCPA Book Awards, and placed as a finalist in BEST BOOKS 2005. In 2002, my novel WISH YOU WERE HERE won awards for Best Fantasy and Best Fiction/Drama in the 8th Annual SPA Awards. My latest work is a trilogy titled THE MANY DEATHS OF DYNAMISTRESS (a superhero memoir). The first book, RECKONING, was released in 2013 and won the SF category in the 2014 San Francisco Book Festival, took second place in the 2013 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards for the SF/Fantasy/Paranormal category, second place in the SF category of the 2013 Reader Views Reviewers Choice Awards, and was finalist in Foreword's 2013 Book of the Year Awards, Fantasy category. The second book, REDEMPTION, will be released in early 2015 and the final book, RENAISSANCE, is scheduled for release in late 2016.

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