This is a topic I had on my roster to address today, but it seems that David Farland has also decided to address it recently as well. That’s what I get for sitting on a topic too long before posting it. Anyway, in his posting, he brings up the need to have quotable lines.
These are those phrases, quotes or descriptions in your work that stand out. They are things that really pop and linger in the memory of your readers. It could be a description that paints a clear picture or it could be something incredibly witty one of your characters says. It is almost always something that flows naturally out of the narrative and nests well into the rest of the story.
I’m going to offer a counter-caution to Mr. Farland on this topic. These lines need to fit. They should come from the story rather than being shoe-horned in. Reworking dialog, narrative or descriptions is fine, but just coming up with quotable lines from the top of your head and trying to jam them into your story is going to backfire.
We’ve all read books or seen movies where there were lines clearly there only to be quoted. They added nothing, felt detached and in no way meshed with what was being written. They were there only to be quoted and for most of us, it broke our immersion instead of making us want to quote the line. These are the sorts of moments where you turn to the person next to you and make a sarcastic remark about what you just read/watched.
At best, they result in eye-rolling. At worst, they drag someone kicking and screaming out of the moment. Don’t be that person. Make sure you have impactful lines, but always do so in keeping with the flow and nature of what you are writing. It’s a fine line to walk but makes a big difference in how the finished work is received.
Can you think of times when you’ve seen some really awful attempts to shoehorn a quote in? What are some of your favorite quotes from the books you’ve read?