Great lines don’t make a book great, but they sure help. Whether it’s because they’re comic, pithy, or profound, there are some lines that stick in your head long after you finish the book, to either make you laugh or make you think. I always have a quiet moment of satisfaction when I write a good one, and imagine seeing it underlined in Kindle, with some number (usually large) to tell me how many readers highlighted it.
Stephen King is one author that springs to mind as a prolific generator of great lines.
“Get busy living, or get busy dying.” The Shawshank Redemption.
“Some birds are not meant to be caged, that’s all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go, or when you open the cage to feed them they somehow fly out past you. And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure.” The Shawshank Redemption.
“We each owe a death – there are no exceptions – but, oh God, sometimes the Green Mile seems so long.” The Green Mile.
Or, to pick a few from other authors:
“That is the problem with ignorance. You can never know the extent of what you are ignorant about.” Children of Time, Adrian Tchaikovsky.
“On a scale of Burning Man to North Korea, how free are you tonight?” After On, Rob Reid.
“It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but by people being fundamentally people.” Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Neil Gaiman and Terry Prachett.
“Veklevezhek,” Min Vechin said. “It is a goblin word, and it means to decide what to do about a prisoner by staking him below the tide line while you argue.” The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison.
“Everyone is happier if they have someone to look down on, as well as someone to look up to, especially if they resent both. This is not only the Beta Male strategy for survival, but the basis for capitalism, democracy, and most religions.” A Dirty Job, Christopher Moore.
And since we’re all aspiring to be writers here, I’ll end it with one of my own lines I’m happy with:
“Gave you a full cup and you pushed it away twice without so much as a sip. It’s no way to go through life.” The Red Book: Prince of Wolves.
So what’s your best line, or one of your favorites from another author?