Let's say, for example, that I want to post my favourite quote from Babylon 5 somewhere:

"I'm not saying what I'm saying. I'm not saying what I'm thinking. As a matter of fact, I'm not thinking what I'm thinking." - John Sheridan, Babylon 5

How can I make it clear in the attribution that this is a line spoken by a character rather than an excerpt from a book called Babylon 5 written by a guy named John Sheridan?


6 Answers 6


The easy part: According to MLA Handbook, you cite a movie as: title underlined (we often use italics instead of underlining), director, distributor, and year released. You may mention writers, actors, and/or producer. Example:

It's a Wonderful Life. Dir. Frank Capra. Perf. James Stewart, Donna Reed. RKO, 1946.

For a TV series, they say title of the episode in quotes, title of the program underlined (or italics), title of the series (by which they seem to mean a group of related episodes within a program) neither underlined nor in quotes, name of the network, call letters and city of the local station if applicable, and broadcast date. Example:

"Chrysalis", Babylon 5, PTEN. Oct 26, 1994.

The harder part is how to attribute words of a fictional character. If you just name the character, it gives the impression that that's a real person. But if you just give the author, that loses context for people who are familiar with the character, and it could be very misleading, implying that the author really believes those words, when it could be that he put them in the mouth of a fool or a villain. Also, when you're quoting characters from a TV show or movie, it's not always easy to find out exactly who wrote the line you're quoting: many such programs have multiple screen writers and the actors may ad lib.

It's common when quoting TV and movie characters to put the character's name followed by the actor in parentheses. Like:

"Things are not always what they seem." G'Kar (Andreas Katsulas)

That's probably what I'd do for a TV show. For a novel, I'd want to mention the character and the author, but I don't know a consistent, recognized format for this and couldn't find one with a little web searching. I'd think something like:

Sherlock Holmes, in Doyle, Arthur Conan. "A Study in Scarlet", The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes etc.


A minimalistic approach is to place the character's name in quotes:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur... – “John Sheridan”, Babylon 5

A more-proper method is to mention the character-name in quotes, the work (or series and episode), and the author. Here is an example from a literary quotation ethics webpage:

“We are all brothers under the skin—and I, for one, would be willing to skin humanity to prove it.” — “Ellsworth Toohey” in the novel The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.

Wikiquote's page about quoting from fictional characters unfortunately is not helpful on this issue; the bulk of the page lists places where Wikiquote does not allow such quotes. The page does not address how to format such quotes.


I'd write it as:

"With all these new personalities floating around, it's a shame we can't find one for you." — Holodoc to Tuvok, "Infinite Regress," Star Trek: Voyager

I'd find it weird to have the character name in quotes. They look like scare quotes or "this is fake" quotes. You italicize the name of the show, and the put the episode name in quotes (using magazine-vs.-article logic; big things get italics, little things get quotes).


I'm also looking for a proper way to do this. I find especially for novelists who deal extensively in irony or satire, it's important to directly call out both the character and the author separately.

Until someone can convince me of a better proper way to do this, my solution has been something of the following:

"We must stem the tide of malice, and pour into the wounded bosoms of each other the balm of sisterly consolation" ~ Mary Bennet, Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen


I would recommend finding out who wrote the episode and embedding the character while citing the author as you normally would in-text.

For example:

The Eleventh Doctor once said, "We are all stories in the end" (Moffat, 2010).

This is APA, but it could work with any citation style/format.

For more formal work, you might include the season and episode numbers or episode title as well.

In "The Big Bang," season 5, episode 13, the Eleventh Doctor said, "We are all stories in the end" (Moffat, 2010).

Fictional character name / Author name, Work Title, (optional Year)
“The world is merciless, but is also very beautiful.”
Mikasa Ackerman / Hajime Isayama, Shingeki no Kyojin
  • Welcome to Writing.SE! Someone has flagged this post as low quality, presumably because it doesn't back itself up. Would you be able to explain why you believe this is the correct approach?
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Oct 22, 2020 at 19:06

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