Line of the Week

As novelists, we must create a big juicy story while still caretaking each sentence and each paragraph. Plot doesn’t sing without the right kind of language to convey it.

Do you ever fall in love with a sentence that’s buried somewhere, say, on page 112, and you wish you could have someone appreciate it right away? That’s what sparked this idea, which is more of an invitation than a standard blog post.

Please share a sentence (or two or three) that you’ve written in the past week. You can describe what’s happening at the moment, or just give us the sentence.

This is intended as a fun exercise, to share our voices with each other, to get insight into each other’s novels and to support each other. Feel free to comment on others’ work, but please remember that this community is not a critique group.

To kick it off, here are two sentences from my historical novel. Jean-Jacques, 9, and Henri, 8, are brothers, and their father is worrying about how they don’t seem suited to inherit the family workshop.

“They had no skill, his boys, save Henri’s fine calligraphing. But lettering meant little in the music business, and Jean-Jacques ruined one of every five of his brother’s tune sheets with too much paste.”

So please share a taste of your work! I look forward to reading your sentences.


About Laura Stanfill

Publisher, Forest Avenue Press
This entry was posted in Fiction, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Line of the Week

  1. Heidi Leanne says:

    What a fun idea!

    This is a sentence I had particular fun with. My character, twenty-year old May, has just been asked by the son of her church’s prophet to become his mother, Ellen G. White’s, companion/caregiver for his mother. Here May is trying to wrap her mind around the idea.

    “She knew Mrs. White was only human, and Elder White too, but amalgamating the facts with her feelings felt as hopeless as trying to mix God and sin.”

    • What a strong voice and a great sense of humor, Heidi. I really like how you point out the separation between emotions and facts, and I wonder if that’s one of the larger themes in your novel. Thanks for sharing!

  2. This is right after the gavel strikes, the main character is granted her divorce, and she repeats her hypenated married name, i.e. Mary Smith-Jones :

    “The hyphen would soon fade and I’d be cut loose, like a half-tag special at Loehman’s. It might have been shopped around the market place, but it was a guaranteed bargain.”

    Look forward to the interesting sentences you get from this, Laura 🙂

    • There’s such power in these two sentences, Florence! The half-tag simile is so obviously organic to Mary’s character, and you take it one step further with the “shopped around” sentence. Witty and self-aware and lovely and a little poignant, too.

  3. Dalya Moon says:

    “To my disappointment, it is not a cool interrogation room, but a regular old desk.”

    I write mostly simple sentences, but I think they convey emotion and character. 🙂

  4. Jo Eberhardt says:

    Your writing voice is amazing, Laura. I love that line.

    I know this is kind of breaking the rules, but my recent favourite “line” is actually a few sentences. Please don’t ban me from this awesome idea!

    “It occurred to me that Phillips was much better at this investigation stuff than I was. Then it occurred to me that he should be. He was a private investigator, after all.”

    • I should have said one to four (or five) sentences! Thanks for participating, Jo. I love “this investigation stuff” because it’s so voicey and gives me a sense of the character, even though I know nothing about him/her. And the sentences function as an investigation all its own–the protagonist is looking closely at Phillips, weighing his/her own abilities in relation to Phillips’ skills, and then coming up with a conclusion. That’s a ton to pack into three economical sentences. And, maybe I’m reading way too much into this excerpt, but I have a feeling that the protagonist will end up being quite good at “this investigation stuff.”

  5. Jody Moller says:

    The memory of our first encounter is imprinted on my brain like the embossed letters from a vintage Dymo Labeller – physically, permanently.

    • Ooh, lovely, Jody! What wonderful specificity. Not a labeller, but a vintage Dymo Labeller. Those are wonderfully grounding and specific in describing a particular emotional experience. This makes me want to know the character.

  6. But Ryan and Claudia had become lovers a few weeks before, and it was typical of Ryan to assume that this now made him the “man of the house.” How could he understand so little?

    • Ha! I love the setup and then the question you land on. Not knowing the context, my curiosity is piqued. I can imagine Ryan himself is thinking about how little he knows, or Claudia is thinking geesh, Ryan doesn’t get our relationship at all. Either way, I’m hooked and want to find out whose voice this is sneaking into the third-person narration. James Wood calls this technique free indirect style, and it’s very effective. I’m looking at how to use it, and when, in my own WIP.

      • Well, in context it’s third person limited, but not of either Claudia or Ryan. The real quote ends “How could he understand so little about Claudia?” but by itself it seemed to work better without the last two words.

        It’s from the second part of my current story, Stevie One:

        • Interesting, Anthony! I agree that the clipped version sounds great as a standalone. Either way it is a good example of free indirect style. In Wood’s words, “The narrative seems to float away from the novelist and take on properties of the character, who now seems to ‘own’ the words.”

          I’ve enjoyed Stevie One so far–guess it’s time to read some more!

        • Oh my! I just read the line in context and it sings. Ryan certainly doesn’t understand Claudia! What fun.

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