I'm currently writing my first novel and I can't figure out whether I am able to reference an abundance of different people, places, and/or things.

I've had this idea of wanting to sneak in a sizable amount of references into my novel of people places and/or things that I've come into contact with or loved as a kid growing up, many of which may end up being of the "if you know, you know" variant.

The story is of a group of teenagers in the military of one of five kingdoms on a shared landmass between Alaska, Hawaii, and the west coast of the continental US who basically have to stop the future version of the main character from destroying everything.

I have the idea of using either a made-up landmass or creating an entirely new word altogether, though I don't think having someone say "He'll make WWII look like child's play" in a completely different world would make much sense. I was thinking of doing what Hajime Isayama did and flipped the world map on its head.

If you've listened to Jake Hill and/or NF or seen anime like Attack on Titan or cartoons like Avatar the Last Airbender then you have somewhat of an idea of what I mean.

I want to use lyrics from their songs, along with quotes from other artists, and utilize AoTs military ranking system because it's extremely simple and effective and I want to have subtle references like someone saying "Run like the titans just broke through the walls" or "I don't suppose you can turn into a 50-ft-tall armored giant", or someone saying "That's rough, buddy".

Or lyrics like "Would you believe me if I said I wasn't build for love 'cause I can't even love myself" from Better Alone by Jake Hill or "There's a big difference between confidence and arrogance, you hearing this I know you don't get it now but you gone get it later" from Nate by NF

Even perhaps use quotes like "You can't hope for a horror story with a happy ending" by Eren Yeager

I know there is a certain amount of words (about 24) that one is able to directly quote before needing permission from the parties in question, but say I wanted to use more than the set number of words and I'm not able to get permission from those I quoted for whatever reason, not that they would ever read my book, but for simplicity's sake, let's say they did. What then?

Basically what I'm trying to say is: how much am I able to freely borrow and/or somewhat directly quote without there being any legal infringement on the referenced works.

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    You have to be careful not to break suspension of disbelief with things that are obviously part of our world that would be unknown or uncommon/unlikely in your world. They did a bunch of that in the TV series, Pandora, and it was very annoying. – Joe Mar 16 at 22:53
  • @Joe Can you elaborate on that, please? – Kev M Mar 20 at 0:15
  • See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suspension_of_disbelief . If your character knows nothing of present day earth and then says something like "Let's get out of Dodge.", an expression that we might understand, but that would be meaningless in the context of the story, that forces the reader to acknowledge that something is wrong and they are thinking about the writing and the author instead of being immersed in the story. This breaks the contract between the author and the reader because it is unbelievable within the story's own rules. Super annoying real example. – Joe Mar 20 at 4:03
  • The character that said that wasn't even a human or from earth. And he was in an advanced spaceship hundreds of years from now when such an idiom would likely be long forgotten. You want to draw readers into your story, not out of it. – Joe Mar 20 at 4:15

I've read the laws for a while, and it seems that there are no loopholes. You will just have to try to contact them (the rights owner) a little harder. For ATLA, you can contact ViacomCBS and so on, but there are no loopholes.


I looked through many articles in which people talked in detail about copyright protection, and nowhere did I find a ban on the use of references to real people in the text. From an ethical point of view, it is of course best to contact the person whose personality you want to use in the book whenever possible. In case you do not have enough connections or this is impossible for you, then take a person without using real names. This is the best way.

  • It doesn't have to work that way. Charles Platt (as a book reviewer) once insulted David Drake's writing. In the more than 30 years since, Drake has used the name "Charles Platt" in many stories. The "Charles Platt" characters are always low lifes, despicable, and often stupid. Drake has had no legal problems from that usage that I can find. – JRE Jul 20 at 16:29

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