Technical question

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Beethovenfan
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Technical question

Post by Beethovenfan » November 26th, 2012, 3:02 am

I am referencing the song in Mary Poppins, "A Spoonful of Sugar," in my WIP and I don't know how to set it apart. My MC is in a 18th c. candy shop, although, she's from the future. Here's the quote where I use it:

Medicine? In a candy shop? Well, a spoonful of sugar, I suppose.

Do I need to do anything to this so people know it's a quote from a song? Or is it already self-explanatory? And, do you think I used the commas in this correctly? Thanks!
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Amanda Elizabeth
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Re: Technical question

Post by Amanda Elizabeth » November 26th, 2012, 3:16 am

I'm pretty sure that falls more under a common phrase since its been around for fifty years. It would be like someone making sure people understood a reference to Romeo and Juliet.

As for the commas...I give no advice since I believe they are the punctuation of the devil (Okay, maybe I just don't understand them).

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Hillsy
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Re: Technical question

Post by Hillsy » November 26th, 2012, 7:22 am

Beethovenfan wrote:Do I need to do anything to this so people know it's a quote from a song?
The absolute furthest I'd go is putting quotation marks round it...and even that is really going out of your way to spoonfeed (HA!) the reader. The more you supply explanations for the reader that the character wouldn't consider, the more you break the 4th wall, and that'd hurt the reader far more than just skipping over a reference they don't get.

There's also a very ugly truth that a certain percentage of what you write will be...."not read" by the reader - specific words that are skimmed over in service to the flow of the narrative. You could drop in something brilliant that foreshadows perfectly the ending, and you'll still get people who say "oh - did they do that earlier in the book?" The more you force the reader to notice things, the more you risk breaking their flwo through the story. Think of it like lining the side fo the road with pretty pictures: You'd like the driver the see each one as the go past and appreciate it. But it you sit in the passenger seat pointign out each one, turning their heads by hand if necessary so they don't miss anything, they're going to get pretty sick of you after a while, either that or they'll stop paying attention to the road and crash....

.....err....think that analogy works

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Re: Technical question

Post by Sommer Leigh » November 26th, 2012, 8:53 am

I'm going to back up what Hillsy said. I wouldn't even go so far as to put quotes around it. Half your readers won't get it or won't realize what you meant anyway, so you're only really providing that little winkwinknudgenudge reference to the half that will read it and will get it. To everyone else, it won't mean anything to them but it won't detract either.

I learned this when I had my first 5 pages up for review on a forum earlier this year. This is my first paragraph of my superhero WIP:

We haven’t seen the sun in three days. An unnatural storm rages across the sky, flooding the streets with oceans of black water while turbulent wall clouds block in the city. Two million would purchase an end to our misery, but I wouldn’t be out here if I thought there was a snowball’s chance. Jackson City has never given in to the petulant demands of supervillains.

At least a third of my responses commented that they didn't know what "a snowball's chance" meant. I thought it was pretty obvious when I wrote it - as in "a snowball's chance in hell." As in, very unlikely. It never occured to me that anyone wouldn't be familiar with that saying. I suspect part of it was probably from poor reading. You could tell by some of the comments they were skimming my pages. But I think plenty of the comments honestly hadn't heard the phrase before.
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polymath
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Re: Technical question

Post by polymath » November 26th, 2012, 9:26 am

"Medicine? In a candy shop? Well, a spoonful of sugar, I suppose."

"A Spoonful of Sugar" is the song's title. You're safe in that regard. The line is also part of the lyrics yet a phrase that is as commonly used as "Big Brother" from George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four. You're also safe in that regard. Fair use doctrine's main implications of quantity of the use, character of the use, character of and impact upon the original work, and character of the end product use are all in the safe zone: limited quantity used, used for an incidental expression, used from a song's title that has no impact on the song's value, and a for-profit use that is nonetheless in the nature of a brief offhand expression that reflects favorably upon the original use.

The commas are conventionally used and serve the first principle of writing; that is, they facilitate reading and comprehension ease.

A breakdown of the punctuation principles on point;

"Well," A discourse marker. Discourse markers in their role as an interjection part of speech are set off by commas or a following comma when a prefatory part of a sentence, as in the given use. "Well," is also an exclamation though an understatement that follows two exclamations—also interjections—that have a quality of slight overstatement signaled by their question marks: "Medicine?" and "In a candy shop?".

"A spoonful of sugar," This part is an incomplete clause. The subject is given without the well-known predicate "makes" and the object "the medicine go down." With which most readers are intimately familiar. Since the predicate and object are implied and arftully so, a following comma is indicated for the elided (omitted) clause parts. Also, the discourse marker, its bracketing comma, and the fragment with its bracketing comma signal a stream-of-consciousness sentence fragment thought as a parenthetical aside, thus bracketed with commas, that is signaled and validated by the main clause of the sentence;

"I suppose." A subject, "I," and a predicate, "suppose," complete a clause, in this case, the main clause of the complex sentence.

The parenthetical phrase could as easily and arftully be bracketed with em dashes for a stronger pause emphasis that may enhance meaning from making the expression more emotionally potent, if indicated for the dramatic impact of the line and dashes are used judiciously and timely elsewhere. The overall context and texture remain the same, which is a deft emotional expression nonetheless.

"Medicine? In a candy shop? Well—a spoonful of sugar—I suppose."

"Medicine?" and "In a candy shop?" Both are sentence fragments as well. However, they are exclamations—also interjection part of speech—that set up the following sentence as a thought and artfully close narrative distance. The artful stream-of-consciousness quality of the line and the sentence stands regardless of whether it is an internal or external discourse—thought or spoken. The line is a well-organized and well-thought bit of artful creative writing more exquisite from its not calling undue attention to itself.
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polymath
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Re: Technical question

Post by polymath » November 26th, 2012, 9:54 am

Sommer Leigh wrote:We haven’t seen the sun in three days. An unnatural storm rages across the sky, flooding the streets with oceans of black water while turbulent wall clouds block in the city. Two million would purchase an end to our misery, but I wouldn’t be out here if I thought there was a snowball’s chance. Jackson City has never given in to the petulant demands of supervillains.

At least a third of my responses commented that they didn't know what "a snowball's chance" meant. I thought it was pretty obvious when I wrote it - as in "a snowball's chance in hell." As in, very unlikely. It never occured to me that anyone wouldn't be familiar with that saying. I suspect part of it was probably from poor reading. You could tell by some of the comments they were skimming my pages. But I think plenty of the comments honestly hadn't heard the phrase before.
Perhaps a concern there might be from the outworn nature of the phrase "A snowball's chance in hell" and its diminished use from its outworn usage not being used in younger people's readings. The instinct to elide "in hell" suggests to me you had a hunch that something wasn't quite strong enough. You reinvented the phrase to a degree.

Something closer in analogy to the raging cyclone might have a stronger impact, like a gnat in a tornado's chance of flying, a flower scent standing out in a hurricane, a snowflake lasting in a furnace, etc. Savvy readers will get the allusion and thank you for using a more creative expression than the worn out one. Naive readers will understand the intent and meaning.
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Re: Technical question

Post by dios4vida » November 26th, 2012, 10:27 am

Hillsy wrote:...and even that is really going out of your way to spoonfeed (HA!) the reader.
<groan>

I have nothing of value to add other than I agree with all of the above and to point out that Hillsy just made a really bad joke...and I'm ashamed that I chuckled at it. :)
Brenda :)

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Re: Technical question

Post by klbritt » November 26th, 2012, 11:49 am

Medicine? In a candy shop? Well, a spoonful of sugar, I suppose.

To me, Medicine? In a candy shop? reads choppy and I don't personally like the ? used so many times. To me, it reads better like this:

Medicine, in a candy shop? Well, a spoonful of sugar I suppose.

Removing the comma between sugar and I suppose makes the sentence flow better too, IMO.
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Re: Technical question

Post by Beethovenfan » November 26th, 2012, 3:45 pm

You guys are awesome! I really appreciate your input. I was hoping I wouldn't have to do anything else to it for readers to know what I'm talking about. And you're right. There's always going to be someone who won't get it, sometimes even if there is extra explanation.

Sommer, just so you know, I got your reference right away!
"Don't only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine."
~ Ludwig van Beethoven

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Re: Technical question

Post by Sommer Leigh » November 26th, 2012, 8:38 pm

Beethovenfan wrote:You guys are awesome! I really appreciate your input. I was hoping I wouldn't have to do anything else to it for readers to know what I'm talking about. And you're right. There's always going to be someone who won't get it, sometimes even if there is extra explanation.

Sommer, just so you know, I got your reference right away!
Yay! I didn't think it was that weird, but not everyone has my brain either. I also didn't want to spell it out since I thought maybe I shouldn't throw down an h-e-double-hockey-sticks in the first paragraph of a YA novel. Save that till at least a couple chapters in. :-)

I also don't mind the way it's set up with the question marks. That's how I would have written it. I think it's a natural cadence. I would speak it that way if I were talking to someone if I wanted to convey a sort of sarcastic disbelief. If I were to say it like "Medicine in a candy shop?" it loses the sarcasm/humor and just sounds like disbelief. And since it is followed by a sort of silly reference (not that making the reference is silly, but that the nature of the reference comes from a sort of sometimes silly story) I like the sarcastic/humorous lead in. That's a character with a good sense of humor. Probably is a fan of puns, too.


Medicine? In a candy shop? Well, a spoonful of sugar, I suppose.
May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
Be nice, or I get out the Tesla cannon.

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