Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Writing about fiction

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Discussion at MOS: Novels[edit]

I've made a proposal here that people might be interested in. Any comments would be welcomed. Scribolt (talk) 12:21, 9 June 2017 (UTC)


This is coming up in a few venues, so I think we may need to address it. Right now we implicitly allow the work of fiction to serve as a primary source, not only for plot but other production details (such as credits). This is fine but it lead to laziness in other areas.

Currently the key language says The plot summary for a work, on a page about that work, does not need to be sourced with in-line citations, as it is generally assumed that the work itself is the primary source for the plot summary. However, editors are encouraged to add sourcing if possible.

I suggest we need to make a stronger emphasis that editors should seek out independent, secondary sourcing to support plot summaries and other details, with the allowance that the work itself as a primary source can be used as a fallback when this doesn't exist, or doesn't cover the work completely. (For example, many movie reviews provide a setup for the film but do not go into detail - that makes these relatively useless as a source since only a few early parts of a summary would be sourced).

Even when we do default to the work itself as the source, we should be including citations for these. For standalone articles on a work, this should be a general citation leading the reflist using a formatted citation, whereas for things like episode lists, filmographies, etc. these should be inline citations. I know it may seem obvious that for a standalone that the original work can be verified just reading the article, but providing that general cite makes it easy to then propagate that detail to the other lists like episode lists or filmographies - we shouldn't just rely on blue-links here. And where appropriate, we can include the work unique ID, like ISBN numbers for books, to help with verification.

This should be taken as a grandfathering approach (the change doesn't disrupt anything but suggests going forward to be better in these areas), and resolves several issues of late with the sourcing of plot summaries and other details. --MASEM (t) 15:39, 21 July 2017 (UTC)

I'm a huge proponent of sourcing, but my first thought about this is the uselessness of an inline citation to a primary source for a novel's plot summary in the article about that novel, when the infobox contains everything, including the ISBN. When working on an article, we shouldn't be worrying about how its contents may be repurposed in potential derivative articles. I'm not sure if I see where the current guidline is creating issues. Is anyone using this guideline to defend a lack of citations for filmographies in an actor's bio article?— TAnthonyTalk 16:19, 21 July 2017 (UTC)
On the plot source, for example, there's an issue over at 12 Monkeys on sourcing the plot, and at WT:FLC there's discussion about this. In terms of filmographies, coming from ITN, this is an area that is frequently uncited and we do not post recently-deceased actors if their filmographies are unsourced (even if the movies are all blue-linked).
Now, in terms of inlines, if one cannot use secondary sourcing for the plot summary, then I agree its pointless to add in primary sources just to make it look like its sourced, barring key quotes or other guidance. But I would still urge that we include, just before the reflist, a general reference to the work that would then be implied to cover all statement that have been made without inline citations (which would include the plot summary and the infobox details). --MASEM (t) 16:26, 21 July 2017 (UTC)
I oppose the suggestion for reasons I recently made clear. I do not think that we should be telling editors, or making editors think, that they need to source plot summaries....when they really don't. We usually don't source film plot sections, and I don't think we should start doing so. As I've pointed out times before, there have been problems with editors adding "citation needed" tags to plot summaries and/or blanking plot summaries for being unsourced and making a mess of things; I do not support catering to these editors by making the "editors are encouraged to add sourcing if possible" wording even stronger. The "editors are encouraged to add sourcing if possible" wording is strong enough as it is. As you know, MOS:TV currently doesn't make it clear that inline citations are not needed (a change I still disagree with), while MOS:FILM is still clear that inline citations are not needed...unless interpretation is gong on. We don't need inconsistency on this matter across guidelines. Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 20:07, 21 July 2017 (UTC)
As one that edits heavily in fiction myself, I agree with you, but I also recognize there is a huge pushback by editors that have no interest in fiction going "why is fiction exempt". I still think everyone agrees that the work itself can serve as a source, no issue there, but its the laziness that extends from that assumption, which is fine for the plot summary and cast on a standalone article, but doesn't extend elsewhere. We need editors in fiction to be more proactive at sourcing to meet that pushback. --MASEM (t) 20:22, 21 July 2017 (UTC)
In 12 Monkeys it seems to me the first sentence of the article is a fully satisfactory citation to the work described. Do some people think it falls short in some way leaving readers to doubt which plot is going to be described? Or is it merely being suggested that it should be repeated in in some more formal way in the references (as it seems to be at present[1]}? And, if an article is about a book, should the information about which firm published it not be sourced to what is printed in the book? Is a movie supposed to be different?Thincat (talk) 20:33, 21 July 2017 (UTC)
(edit conflict) Masem, I don't see this "huge pushback." I occasionally see a pushback on the matter, but it is always settled in favor of not needing inline citations, including when it comes up at the WP:Original research talk page. If we are to start using inline citations to source our plot summaries, I think a big discussion needs to be had on this first (and that means including the affected WikiProjects). This discussion (which you alluded to above) is the type of discussion I dread, and it shows an editor interpreting this guideline as support for unnecessarily retaining inline citations. And in that case, only very little of the plot section is currently sourced. So, given what I see there, I am even more against this guideline being stronger with its encouragement of inline citations. I will go ahead and leave a brief comment there about the dispute I see there. Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 20:46, 21 July 2017 (UTC)
I've seen more of it, but it's hard to remember where else. But all these trend towards the fact that there's an unease from other aspects of WP of the implicit sourcing aspect. I do think it can encourage laziness in sourcing on other articles outside standalone works, and hence why the practice should start there to improve this. That said, I have also seen editors remove RS sources from plot summaries because "we don't source plot summaries" which is not what this guideline says. --MASEM (t) 21:53, 21 July 2017 (UTC)
I've seen the "we don't source plot summaries" rationale more so in the case of film articles. And, really, like I stated above, we usually don't source film plot summaries, which is what anyone would take from reading WP:FILM PLOT. In the case of Wikipedia as a whole, it's also true that we usually don't source plot summaries unless it's important to do so. Television articles (including character articles) have been changing in this regard in some cases, but not enough to cause a massive change. Outside of television and film articles, play articles may or may not have their plot summaries sourced; for example, the Synopsis section of the Romeo and Juliet article is somewhat sourced. Comic book articles may or may not have their plot summaries sourced; and if they do, the television aspect of the plot summaries, in the case that the stories have been adapted to television, may not use inline citations; see the current state of the Rick Grimes article for an example. The sourcing for the television series in that case is clearly in-text references to what episodes those parts of the story take place. Similar is the case for other types of book characters. I think that video game characters are the ones I see with sourced plot sections the most, which is understandable since it's the case that many people will not be playing the game and that it can be several or more hours of gameplay if they do decide to play the game; Cloud Strife is an example. But the inline citations in plot summaries like Cloud Strife aren't really telling me where to find those story parts/quotes in the game; they are simply quotes from the game. Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 01:42, 22 July 2017 (UTC) Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 01:48, 22 July 2017 (UTC)

Character descriptions in cast section and character names in end credits[edit]

I like to address two issues: One about character descriptions in cast sections and characters whose names appeared in the end credits, but not mentioned in film.

I feel character descriptions in cast section in film articles are deemed necessary because a lot of readers want to know who they are since some are never mentioned in plot summaries, but the actors who portrayed the characters not mentioned in the plot summaries in the beginning credits. We got a lot of articles that have character's info which is necessary for film articles and so we should only allow short and brief character descriptions in cast sections, except when a source comes up about it like what you see in The Martian and such, make it like what you see in those articles. I want to settle some compromise about this issue while maintaining some brief character descriptions.

For the character names mentioned in the end credits, but not mentioned in film. They should count as in-universe since it should count as in-universe, even though we see some naming errors in some characters in some films. You see character names who are listed in the end credits by certain actors like in Die Hard, Die Hard 2, Home Alone, The Rock, Air Force One, Con Air, Olympus Has Fallen, Pete's Dragon and such, but you don't hear them mentioned in film. The end credits should count in the end credits, but Masem feels that it is unnecessary because of in-universe reasons, which it shouldn't be an issue.

Anybody wants to discuss this, please discuss it politely and be reasonable & not one-sided. Thank you. BattleshipMan (talk) 21:22, 21 July 2017 (UTC)