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Questions about Parodies & Retellings

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While I'm working on my funny middle grade & taking notes for a YA thriller, I'd like to begin querying agents with a picture book I've written and am not 100% sure if it would be considered a parody or retelling. My story is basically a modernized version of an old song, but with a twist. I've gotten great feedback on this manuscript and it's time to do something with it. :-)

Before I begin shopping it, I'd like to be informed about the legalities of using original stories/songs to create new ones, as far as copyrights and permissions. If anyone is able to shed some light on this, I'd be grateful.

I know there's lots of great retellings and parodies out there and I'm not sure what the difference between the two is. I'm thinking of the "House That Jack Built," "I Know and Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly," and "Twas the Night Before Christmas."

I work in a school library and have done a bit of comparison research there and in bookstores, etc. We have some shelved in fiction, and some in nonfiction. (I'm not clear how that decision is made).

Thanks!
Lisa
#1 - December 03, 2011, 12:00 PM
Lois Lowry Bio, Enslow '07
So You Want to Be a Film or TV Actor, '08
Stephenie Meyer Bio, '09
Mercy Lily, Flux 2011
www.lisaalbert.com

I don't think we could answer either question without knowing the song and what you plan to do with it.

I am not a lawyer but you obviously have a lot more leeway with works in the public domain. All of the ones you name are (and I imagine only "A Visit from St. Nicholas" even has a known author).

To me a parody would mock the original and a retelling would be just that -- a retelling. Putting the same story in new words. I guess you could call variations a "retelling," but I would be misled by that word if the story took a different direction.

If you're not mocking the original but riffing on it, you could call it a send-up or a pastiche (a pastiche is like a parody but done more out of intent to honor the original than to mock it) or just call it "a new version," or "a new variation." Most of the humorous retellings I've seen are like this; they don't intend to mock the original material, just have fun with it (like Jon Scieszka's 3 Little Pigs book).



#2 - December 03, 2011, 12:11 PM

Good points, Kurtis! Thanks for the info! I'm sorry that I'm not revealing the song at this time. I could classify my story as a send-up or pastiche because it's doesn't not mock the original. I have been calling it an "updated version with a twist" so think that'll do.

I don't beleive it's public domain (I'll double check) and wonder if I need the originator's permission. Ideally, I'd like to query this with knowledge of legalities. Maybe I should consult a literary attourney.
#3 - December 03, 2011, 12:32 PM
Lois Lowry Bio, Enslow '07
So You Want to Be a Film or TV Actor, '08
Stephenie Meyer Bio, '09
Mercy Lily, Flux 2011
www.lisaalbert.com

I think Kurtis gave great advice. I have something out that I originally thought was a parody but it actually is an extended tale. (All these little nuances.)

Maybe you could contact the SCBWI and ask the lawyer there for advice.
#4 - December 03, 2011, 12:38 PM
What's for pudding, Mimmy?

Illustration website:

http://www.puddintanesbrain.com

www.puddersputter.blogspot.com

"Maybe you could contact the SCBWI and ask the lawyer there for advice."

I've thought of that AE! It would make a good and informative piece for someone knowledgable. I'll look back in past Bulletins first, then send them a note if I find it hasn't been covered/asked.

Thanks!
#5 - December 03, 2011, 12:49 PM
Lois Lowry Bio, Enslow '07
So You Want to Be a Film or TV Actor, '08
Stephenie Meyer Bio, '09
Mercy Lily, Flux 2011
www.lisaalbert.com

One of the manuscripts I'm working on is a parody.

To me, the elements - in themselves - could be the same or similar but if they are done differently then it should be okay.

For example, I didn't think up the idea of a half-human half-fish idea but just because I make a story about a mermaid it''s not to say it's copying Andersen's. Just because I have a book about a rabbit doesn't mean it's like Peter Rabbit, or Guess How Much I Love You, or Velveteen Rabbit, or Watership Down, etc..

However, if I summarize my elements and it comes out to be more or less the same story then I do have a problem.
#6 - June 27, 2014, 01:49 PM

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