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The love of language: favorite quotes for writing

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by JediGaladriel, Aug 2, 2003.

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  1. Lady_Moonbeam

    Lady_Moonbeam Jedi Youngling star 3

    Aug 4, 2002
    Cyn beat me to any description of perfect language, and beat me soundly at it, so I'm glad that she got there first. Case in point on word-beauty and the rhythm of language.

    I'm a fan of John D. MacDonald's work, and I was just reading his novel A Deadly Shade of Gold, when I happened upon a description of the girls on the beaches that year that struck me as lovely, visual, and accurate--letting you observe, in a few seconds, more than most of us would naturally observe simply passing through the world:

    It was a special type this year, particularly willowy ones, with sun-streaky hair, soft little sun-brown noses, lazed eyes in the cool pastel shades of green and blue, cat-yawny ones, affecting a boredom belied by glints of interest and amusement, smilers rather than gigglers, with a tendency to run in little flocks of three and four and five.

    I particularly like the hyphened words "sun-streaky" and "cat-yawny." They strike me as imaginative and descriptive. MacDonald follows this lush description with crisp realism that makes the entire paragraph stand out:

    They sparkled on our beaches this year like grunions, a lithe and wayward crop that in too short and too sad a time would be striving for Whiter Washes, Scuff-Pruf Floors and Throw-Away Nursing Bottles.

    Now that's an observation. And the last bit has a nice cultural resonance that I really wish was easier to achieve in Star Wars fan fiction--that neat little connection to everyday life. I agree with everyone else that Stephen King is an absolute master of form, and I also think he happens to be excellent and blending pop culture and language seamlessly, in description and dialogue, giving you a sense of both time and place.
  2. ivylore2

    ivylore2 Jedi Youngling star 2

    Nov 5, 2001
    I also find myself grabbed - and immobilized sometimes - by the aura of strength of certain words and images, stunned by the power of a particularly appropriate metaphor.

    Yes! Yes! And humbled too.

    That's a lovely example, LM. "Cat-yawny." I love it!

  3. CYNICAL21

    CYNICAL21 Jedi Padawan star 4

    Jul 8, 2001
    A few lines from Pablo Neruda's The Wars:

    "A century's shoe-stores
    crammed with the shoes of the world
    while feet were dismembered
    by frostbite or fire
    or gas or the axe!"

    And - later in the same poem:

    "I've paid dearly to learn how to die
    each man's incomprehensible death
    and accept the remorse
    of the gratuitous criminal;
    after the cruelties, after
    the vengeance that followed, no one
    is innocent, it may be:
    we all go on living
    after the others are murdered:

    knowing, perhaps, we have stolen the lives
    of the best of our brothers."

    I've never read a more chilling indictment of the horrors of war.


  4. rogue11lovesjag

    rogue11lovesjag Jedi Padawan star 4

    Jun 13, 2002
    One of my new favorite quotes is from the movie Adaptation. I've never actually seen the movie, just the previews, but this line struck me.

    "People find love. People lose it. Everyday, someone, somewhere, makes a conscious decision to destroy someone else."

    Love is all. Love is nothing. Love is what makes and breaks the world and our lives. Not always a romantic love, but a love between friends or father and son. When one betrays a trust, they betray that love and a life is destroyed, and it is always a conscious decision, never an accident. Choices are made everyday by everyone and they affect everyone around them, everyone who is intimately connected with them by love, no matter what kind.

  5. KnightWriter

    KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus star 9 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Nov 6, 2001
    Hmm. This deserves to be up :).
  6. Kit'

    Kit' Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Oct 30, 1999
    I think this is one of my favourite ones for the sheer loss it conveys so simply. It's one of my favourite poems and so powerfully moving. The last line of the second last verse and the last verse itself convey the total loss of loosing something you love...

    Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
    Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
    Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
    Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

    Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
    Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
    Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public
    Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

    He was my North, my South, my East and West,
    My working week and my Sunday rest,
    My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
    I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

    The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
    Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
    Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
    For nothing now can ever come to any good.


  7. CYNICAL21

    CYNICAL21 Jedi Padawan star 4

    Jul 8, 2001
    Lovely, Kit. In the vernacular of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Auden really was a 'splendid bugger' - with a tremendous gift for grabbing one's heart strings.

  8. DarthBreezy

    DarthBreezy Force Ghost star 6

    Jun 4, 2002
    Bringing this thread back up to the top with a quote that I try to keep in mind when I write:

    It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.
    Friedrich Nietzsche

  9. crystalrain

    crystalrain Jedi Padawan star 4

    Jan 28, 2003
    By Sir. Walter Raleigh:

    Evan such is Time, that takes in trust
    Our youth, our joys, our all we have,
    And pays us but with earth and dust.

    Depressing, but beautiful. That he wrote it the night before his execution makes it even more poigant.
  10. Gandalf the Grey

    Gandalf the Grey Jedi Knight star 6

    May 14, 2000
    In the first half of WWII, the Nazi armies had conquered most of Europe, were driving hard into a Russia that seemed hit too hard to fast to recover, and who were apparently unstoppable. The United States had yet to enter the war, and the majority of the population there were against entering the war in any sort of direct fashion. Britain and its Empire had their backs to the wall. The history of World War II can read like something out of any heroic fantasy story if you look at it the right way, and Winston Churchill?s speeches from the time can send shivers down the spine, full of the message that Good will triumph over Evil.

    We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds. We shall fight in the fields, and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender!
    -June 4, 1940

    "Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, This was their finest hour."
    -June 18, 1940

    Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.
    -August 20, 1940

    Today we may say aloud before an awe-struck world: "We are still masters of our fate. We are still captain of our souls."
    -September 9, 1941

    Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.
    -October 29, 1941

    Whatever else one might think of Churchill as a leader, one cannot deny that he had a way with words. It?s that whole standing tall and proud in the face of evil thing.

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  11. DarthBreezy

    DarthBreezy Force Ghost star 6

    Jun 4, 2002
    Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

    Ahhh, refering to Fighter/Bomber Command...

    My father got his wings (Lancaster pilot... Lots of Aussies in his crew) during that era when he was 21... about the same age as the composer of High Flight

    John Gillespie Magee, Jr. (the composer of the following poem) passed away that same year (1941) after joining the RCAF to fly Spits in Britain. I Grew up with a copy of it in my home and it stands as a loving testiment to all pilots, both terestrial and fantastical.

    Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
    And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
    Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
    Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
    You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
    High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
    I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
    My eager craft through footless halls of air.
    Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
    I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
    Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
    And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
    The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
    Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

  12. DarthBreezy

    DarthBreezy Force Ghost star 6

    Jun 4, 2002
    And on a lighter note...

    The road to hell is paved with adverbs.

    -Stephen King
  13. Fate

    Fate Jedi Master star 3

    Apr 22, 2003
    I think Churchill said this, too:

    This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

    I love the musical flow of it, calling to mind the rolling waves of the ocean. [face_love]

    Arr. [face_devil]

    - Fate, Temptress of the Seven Seas

  14. ShrunkenJedi

    ShrunkenJedi Jedi Knight star 5

    Apr 26, 2003
    Excellent thread! This is one of my favorite passages, from Orson Scott Cards' Ender series; I haven't heard the particular sentiment voiced clearer anywhere else. The particular book is Speaker for the Dead. I think you can understand the sentiment, even if you don't get all the references.

    "What I wanted to hear," said Pipo softly, "was the name of what you are instead of the name of all the things you are not. What you are is the Hive Queen. What you are is the Speaker for the Dead. It's a very small community, small in numbers but a great hearted one. So you choose not to be part of the bands of children who group together for the sole purpose of excluding others, and people look at you and say, poor girl, she's so isolated, but you know a secret, you know who you really are. You are the one human being who is capable of understanding the alien mind, because you are the alien mind; you know what it is to be unhuman because there's never been any human group that gave you credentials as a bona fide homo saphiens."
  15. Gandalf the Grey

    Gandalf the Grey Jedi Knight star 6

    May 14, 2000
    A few more.

    Suffering is the fuel in the engine of civilization.
    -Matt Stover (Traitor)

    Whatever is done from love always occurs beyond good and evil.
    -Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil)

    Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.
    -Psalm 23, King James Version

  16. Kit'

    Kit' Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Oct 30, 1999
    Some beautiful quotes...

    I like yours Arriss, but I thought it might have belonged to C.S. Lewis rather then Churchill. However, I found the C.S.Lewis quote which is different and still beautiful.

    "Your father and mother and all of your are - as you used to call it in the Shadowlands - dead. The term is over : the hoidays have begun. The dream is ended : this is the morning."

    And as he spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia has only been the cover and the title page: now at least they were beinning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
  17. Laine_Snowtrekker

    Laine_Snowtrekker Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Jul 8, 2003
    I have a quote: I would rather fail in a cause that will ultimately triumph, than to triumph in a cause that will ultimately fail.-Woodrow Wilson

    Bravery in face of derision is admired by me.

  18. Happy_Hobbit_Padawan

    Happy_Hobbit_Padawan Jedi Master star 4

    Feb 3, 2003
    If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One... I am become Death, the Shatterer of Worlds. --Bhavagad Gita, Hindu sacred text, recited by J. Robert Oppenheimer

    I've sometimes seen that written as "I am become death, the destroyer of worlds," and that phrase sometimes just seems to stick in my head.
  19. karebear214

    karebear214 Jedi Master star 4

    Sep 7, 2002
    "The only people who think children are carefree are the ones who've forgotten their own childhood
    - Orson Scott Card, "Shadow Puppets"

    "Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life's longing for itself."
    - Kahlil Gibran

    "Questions are more true than answers. This is the beginning of wisdom."
    - Vergere in "Traitor", I loved that book, so many mind games!

    "Hunt the moment. Grip it in your claws and never let it go. Slip too far into the past or the future, and you will be lost."
    - Saba in "Remnant"

  20. leia_naberrie

    leia_naberrie Jedi Master star 4

    Sep 10, 2002
    Great thread JG.

    Well, here are my quotes quota...

    Quotes from Tanith Less's Companions on the Road

    1. The night they took Avillis was a night of blood, and blood-red flame.

    What is it that you like about the quotes wordwise?
    It's the first line of the book and it filled my mind with visions of flames and fountain sprays of blood. I could hear the screams of the conquered and the battle cry of the soldiers... and all this in just one sentence. The sentence figuratively jumped out and grabbed me.

    2. Gradually the golden blush filled up the wide bowl overheard and turned a brazen yellow on its eastern rim. The sun was rising below the head of the quarry, opening the clouds with spokes of light. An embroidery of birds stitched itself across the crocus shafts, unravelled itself behind, and was gone.

    What is it that you like about the quotes wordwise?
    Gosh it's hard to articulate *why* the quote in isolation is so good. I mean - using my awkward words to describe something so lyrical..
    Well, let's see: first, when I first read this, the sheer poetry of these words brought me to tears. The dawn is described like a potrait being painted or a tapestry being sewn with words being both paintbrush and ink and cloth and thread. The writing is both visual and heartrending. I could *see* that perfect morning in my head and my heart was singing inside me. longing to be a part of that reality.
    (Sorry more than 2 sentences but each sentence was quote-worthy)

    3. The cup fell out of his hand and cracked open in the snow, and the splintered glass gems rolled out of it like tears.

    What is it that you like about the quotes wordwise?
    The 'personification' of an inanimate object is a very powerful writing tool when used well. The cup is elevated to more than just a broken piece of pottery and glass.
  21. Ornen

    Ornen Jedi Padawan star 4

    Feb 22, 2003
    I'm just reading The Forgotten Soldier, written by Guy Sajer about his experiences in WW2 fighting on the Eastern front. It's very good, and there are many great quotes, but I'll just do my favorite so far:

    In the cab of a gray Russian truck, somewhere in the vastness of the Russian hinterland, a man and an adolescent were caught in a desperate struggle. The man struggled with death, and the adolescent struggled with despair, which is close to death. And God, who watches everything, did nothing.

    Why I like it? Well, it was one of the parts in this book that left me just stunned. There's just so much emotion in this segment - it's just so powerful.
  22. anakin_girl

    anakin_girl Jedi Knight star 6

    Oct 8, 2000
    I can't believe I didn't find this

    I'm always looking for favorite quotes to give the muse the jump-start he needs, or to feed carrots to a starving plot bunny.

    Here are a few of my favorites:

    Out, out, brief candle!
    Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
    And then is heard no more: it is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing.

    --Shakespeare, from "MacBeth", Act 5 Scene 5

    Is an art, like everything else.
    I do it exceptionally well.

    I do it so it feels like hell.
    I do it so it feels real.
    I guess you could say I've a call.

    It's easy enough to do it in a cell.
    It's easy enough to do it and stay put.
    It's the theatrical

    Comeback in broad day
    To the same place, the same face, the same brute
    Amused shout:

    'A miracle!'
    That knocks me out.

    --Sylvia Plath, "Lady Lazarus"

    I fling my past behind me like a robe
    Worn threadbare at the seams, and outdated
    I have outgrown it.

    --Ella Wheeler Wilcox

    When we are writing, or painting, or composing, we are, during the time of creativity, freed from normal restrictions, and are opened to a wider world, where colors are brighter, sounds clearer and people are more wondrously complex than we realized.

    --Madeleine L'Engle

    It is only by following your deepest instinct that you can lead a rich life, and if you let fear of consequence prevent you from following your deepest instinct, then your life will be safe, expedient, and thin.

    --Katherine Butler Hathaway

  23. Ty-gon Jinn

    Ty-gon Jinn Jedi Padawan star 4

    Jan 12, 2000
    Since someone already quoted C.S. Lewis, I'll throw in my favorite passage from all fiction - it's just so evocative of mythological grandeur while being believable, because it's presented almost academically - from his Perelandra, second book in the space trilogy...

    He was no longer making efforts to resist the conviction of what he must do. He had exhausted all his efforts. The answer was plain beyond all subterfuge. The Voice out of the night spoke it to him in such unanswerable fashion that, though there was no noise, he also felt it must wake the woman who slept close by. He was faced with the impossible. This he must do: this he could not do. In vain he reminded himself of the things that unbelieving boys might at this moment be doing on Earth for a lesser cause. His will was in that valley where the appeal to shame becomes useless - nay, makes the valley become darker and deeper. He believed that he could face the Un-Man with firearms: even that he could stand up unarmed and face certain death if the creature had retained Weston's revolver. But to come to grips with it, to go voluntarily into those dead yet living arms, to grapple with it, naked chest to naked chest. . . . Terrible follies came into his mind. He would fail to obey the Voice, but it would be all right, because he would repent later on, when he was back on Earth. He would lose his nerve as St. Peter had done, and be, like St. Peter, forgiven. Intellectually, of course, he knew the answer to these temptations perfectly well; but he was at one of those moments when all the utterances of intellect sounded like twice-told tales. Then some cross-wind of the mind changed his mood. Perhaps he would fight and win, perhaps not even be badly mauled. But no faintest hint of a guarantee in that direction came to him from the darkness. The future was black as the night itself.

    "It is not for nothing that you are named Ransom," said the Voice.

    And he knew that this was no fancy of his own. He knew it for a very curious reason -- because he had known for many years that his surname was derived not from
    ransom but from Ranolf's son. It would never have occured to him thus to associate the two words. To connect the name Ransom with the act of ransoming would have been a mere pun. But even his voluble self did not now dare to suggest that the Voice was making a play upon words. All in a moment of time, he perceived that what was, to human philologists, a merely accidental resemblance of two sounds, was in truth no accident. The whole distinction between things accidental and things designed, like the distinction between fact and myth, was purely terrestrial. The pattern is so large that within the little frame of earthly experience there appear pieces of it between which we can see no connection, and other pieces between which we can. Hence we rightly, for our use, distinguish the accidental from the essential. But step outside that frame and that distinction drops down into the void, fluttering useless wings. He had been forced out of the frame, caught up into the larger pattern. He knew now why the philosophers had said that there is no such thing as chance or fortune beyond the Moon. Before his Mother had born him, before his ancestors had been called Ransoms, before ransom had been the name for a payment that delivers, before the world was made, all these things had so stood together in eternity that the very significance of the pattern at this point lay in their coming together in just this fashion. And he bowed his head and groaned and repined against his fate ? to be still a man and yet to be forced up into the metaphysical world, to enact what philosophy only thinks.

    ?My name also is Ransom,? said the Voice.
  24. Raven

    Raven Administrator Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Oct 5, 1998
    Another of my all-time favorite quotes comes from George R.R. Martin?s A Song of Ice and Fire. They are the words associated with House Stark (in addition to banners, each house has a phrase associated with them). All the other House words are boasts or warnings of one sort or another. For example, the Tully words are ?Family, Duty, Honor.? The House Targaryen words are ?Fire and Blood.? The Stark words are simpler in some ways and much deeper in others.

    Winter is coming.

    On so many levels, that sends chills up my spine. The Starks, living in a northerly part of a world where a winter can last a decade, certainly have a lot to worry about physical winters. As simple common sense, they?re a warning to the Starks to prepare for the physical cold, setting aside stores of food and such. But they go deeper. The words are a warning that things are going to get worse. Not just that the temperature will get colder, but the world itself will not always be as it is now. This is essentially a fancy way of saying prepare for the worst that might happen.

    In the books, House Stark is by far the oldest of the Houses, able to trace its roots back eight thousand years. Knowing the course that the civil war will take in the series, knowing what lies in store for the Starks and their lands, and knowing that the Others are returning, their words send a chill down my spine.
  25. Dev_Binks

    Dev_Binks Jedi Knight star 6

    Aug 7, 2003
    A few quatoes I felt were stirring came from Captain Claude Newby's memoirs, he was a chaplain in Vietnam, but sadly I can't remember them.
    You are about to embark upon the great(est?) crusade.
    General Dwight D. Eisenhower, how true is that, the greatest crusade was the pursuit of those evil, to purge them from the lands.
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