August 25, 2008

Daily Blog 25: Making Your Stories Live on (Beyond You)

The highest praise someone can give a writer, I think, is to make their work live on and become "quotable" beyond the page. Think Rhett Butler's famous, "Frankly, I don't give a damn," from Gone with the Wind. Or "To be or not to be..." from Shakespeare's Henry VI.

While you don't often write with such lasting legacies in mind, sometimes a phrase pops to mind that you latch onto. While the first graph is often the one in your story or book that should produce the best zing, you also hopefully have a few nuggets scattered throughout the story.

While others may have their own choices, one of my favorite sections from Searching For a Starry Night, is Sam's description of Petey the Dachshund:

Sam sprawled on her cot with a pencil, opened the book, and started a puzzle. Lita fell onto her cot and scribbled in her notebook. Next to them, lying on his blankets on the floor, Petey snored and turned over on his back, sticking his legs up in the air. Sam tried not to giggle as he rolled over to his side, reminding her of a Vienna hot dog without a bun. All he needed was relish, she thought.

The idea of making a story live on is to give readers something to latch onto, be it a mental image, a memorable quote, a funny remark, etc. - just give them something that will stick in their minds. Then the book itself becomes not only quotable, but memorable.

And if all else fails.... well, how about changing history?

Wonder what Juliet or Snow White would say if they had been called by your name instead? Have fun making your own quotes! This generator lets you put your name into classic stories. (And beware of the famous first lines quiz and other time wasters, um, sources.)

** Your Turn: What are some of the memorable parts in your own book or your favorite quotes? Please share them!


  1. Great post. Good stuff to think about, and thanks for the links. A favorite passage from my new novel, Owen Fiddler, is towards the end of the book, where Owen, in a coma, meets Kris (A god character in the book, a savior with boundless sagacity and also a sense of humor) in the never-world. He explains to Owen,

    "You are not a human being having a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being that has been having a human experience."

  2. Altho I'm a voracious reader, my favorite quotes come from songs. Two of my all-time faves:
    "I can't complain but sometimes I still do." Joe Walsh, Life's Been Good

    "She put him out, like the burning end of a midnight cigarette." Brad Paisley, Whisky Lullaby

    As for my own writing, I've always been partial to this from Freezer Burn: "He was the kind of man who made you want to disinfect your eyeballs when you looked at him."

  3. phrase from my own writing, I've only the one book in print........... !
    It's a children's book about an apprentice pirate, Jake, and the ship's cat, Tigertail, with whom Jake has discovered he can communicate. In this scene, the ship's Chief Engineer (think: a pirate version of "Q" from Bond films, always dreaming up mad inventions) is offering Jake a promotion. The phrase he uses has a slightly different significance, considering the plot ....

    "I won’t always be here to run things below deck when we set sail! What happens the day I’m no longer able to do it? Who does he think will take over then, if I don’t get a chance to train a replacement? Hmm? What about that, then?”
    Jake wasn’t certain his opinion was being sought: he hesitated. Quiggins fixed him with a steely glare.

    “Cat got your tongue, boy?

    Or don’t you want the job?”
    “Sorry, sir: I didn’t realise you .... I mean, I thought you were just ....”
    “Yes, well, never mind that! Yes or no is all I need: will you be my personal ’prentice and learn what I can cudgel into that thick skull of yours about engines and running a ship like this? I’ll have to clear it with Cap’n Johnny, of course .... "

  4. Now all I have to think of is something memorable to say that hasn't already been said.

    Morgan Mandel


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