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Using proverbs in folktales

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shari maser

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I have a question about how to present proverbs as part of a character's dialogue.  I have written a children's picture book -- an adapted folktale -- in which one of the characters often quotes proverbs.  e.g. "Sister, a stitch in time saves nine."  OR "All's well that ends well..but this is never going to end." 

How can I best present the proverbs so it's clear which part of her dialogue is a proverb and not my own words?  (A stitch in time saves nine. All's well that ends well.)

Italics? A different font? A note of explanation at the start of the manuscript?


Thank you in advance to anyone who can offer suggestions.
#1 - February 03, 2011, 06:29 AM

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Why do you need to distingush the proverb from your words-? for copyright issue-?  they're Proverbs, eveyone knows them- ( maybe I am totally missing the question?)
#2 - February 03, 2011, 07:08 AM

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I'm with Julia K - nobody owns proverbs so you don't need to distinguish them for copyright issues.

Are you wanting to do it for educational purposes (e.g. to educate kids about what a proverb is)? In that case I think some kind of authorial note at the beginning/end of the text would be the best option. Italics/change of font would cause a visual interruption to the story ...

Hope this helps :)
#3 - February 03, 2011, 07:28 AM

RyanBruner

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Haven't you read the rule of writing?  No ADverbs nor PROverbs allowed.  In fact, no VERBS at all! 

Of course, I'm kidding.  As stated, proverbs are public domain.  Use as you feel it best serves your story.
#4 - February 03, 2011, 08:09 AM

shari maser

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Sorry I wasn't clear.  They are Chinese proverbs, so may not be familiar to a US audience.  I thought setting them apart would introduce them as proverbs, adding an educational layer to the story perhaps.  Also, one character has a habit of speaking in proverbs, and I thought it would be helpful if it were evident that that was what she was doing.
#5 - February 04, 2011, 09:20 AM

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the manuscript needs to stand alone and you need to establish your character well enough that we know she/he has a habit of quoting Chinese proverbs-that should come out in the story- or simple have them say " an old Chinese Proverb says...."
Is the story Chinese? because that would come out in the illustrations-
#6 - February 04, 2011, 11:25 AM

shari maser

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Great idea, thanks!

#7 - February 05, 2011, 12:50 PM

KathrynJ

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I think making them organic to the story would work best. If you try to make them stand out in any way, it's bound to affect the flow of the story. I like the idea of simply having a character note she's speaking in proverbs, but it probably isn't necessary to mention it every time she talks.
#8 - February 23, 2011, 04:01 PM

I agree with everyone else. Don't bracket the proverbs, they should be nicely folded into the story.

But I will steadfastly defend adverbs to the bitter end!
#9 - February 23, 2011, 06:15 PM

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