citations needed in novel writing

by Natalie
(Saugerties, NY US)

I'm a freelance editor, working on a novel containing a number of quotes, some several paragraphs long, from sources in the public domain. Also, one of these quotes, noted by my client as from Wikipedia, doesn't exist (although he might have taken the quote from one or two of the search words). I will ask him if he made up this quote entirely, but I'd like a little help from your forum first, so I can be a little more knowledgeable when I speak with him.

So, two questions: Do I need to create a bibliography in this novel for the quotes that are from actual sources (or at the very least, should I create a "Sources" page?); and, if he mentions Wikipedia, does the exact word search need to be correct, and so match the corresponding citation?

Thank you so much for your help.

Response: I'm not an editor or an expert in copyright law, so if anyone with better insight would like to comment, I'd appreciate it.

Some thoughts...

You say these quotes are public domain -- i.e. not copyrighted? That would certainly simplify things, though it would be respectful to attribute the quotations to the original authors.

For questions of copyright, you may want to check with the U.S. Federal Government's copyright office. It has a website with details on the copyright rules, including citations.

One can quote a small percentage of a copyrighted work (you may want to check, but I believe it's less than 10%). If what's being quoted is a book, that may be fine. If it's a song lyric, article, or poem that could be a problem simply because such works are so short that it's easy to go over the limit.

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, so by definition it is not a primary source but summarizes primary sources. You may want to ask for or look at the original source for the information or quote.

If you say the writer "made up" a quotation from Wikipedia, that could be a problem of false attribution. Perhaps the writer could make up a fictional encyclopedia to take fictional quotes from?

I have occasionally seen a note at the end of a novel acknowledging the source of a quotation, but can't recall ever seeing a Bibliography or Notes page. Most people try to avoid quoting copyrighted material, and revising may be the easiest option.

Sorry that's not more helpful, but like I say, it's not my area.

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