A Line from Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith

Child44cover
Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith

Today’s blog post features a line I liked in Tom Rob Smith’s novel, Child 44.

“Their mother, a stout, tough-looking woman who looked like she could swallow bullets and spit them back out, was in front of them, shielding them with one hand on each of their chests.” From Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith

Don’t you just love the way Tom Rob Smith described this woman in Child 44, the first book in his Child 44 Trilogy? I aspire to write descriptions like that – descriptions that conjure up an image in your mind.

What a writer shouldn’t do

As I continue to learn the craft of writing, I make a note of sentences that grab my attention in books I read. Yes, it sometimes takes me out of the story, but I read now as someone who is learning to write fiction. Writers are told not to write anything that will pull the reader out of the story, but I take an exception to that for myself at this stage in my journey as a writer.

A few words about Child 44

As I stated in my February 14, 2017 blog post (The First Line from a Novel by Tom Rob Smith), Child 44, is about a serial child killer in Stalinist Russia. It is the first book in Mr. Smith’s Child 44 Trilogy. I haven’t had a chance to read the other books in the trilogy. My February 14, 2017 blog post was about the first line in Child 44 and its being a good literary “hook.”

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I just finished reading Grief Cottage, by Gail Godwin. Now I have the joy of deciding which library book in that stack on my desk I will start reading next. Due dates will influence my decision.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

I invite you to share my blog by word-of-mouth and by clicking on the social media icons below.

Janet

“Not a rope . . . if drowning”

prayers-the-devil-answers-9781476772813_lg
Prayers the Devil Answers, A novel by Sharyn McCrumb

My blog post today takes a look at a line I like from a novel, Prayers the Devil Answers, by Sharyn McCrumb. Ms. McCrumb has mastered the art of capturing the independent spirit of the people of the southern Appalachian Mountains in the following sentence:

“Not a one of the folks from up there would ask for anything – not food if they were hungry, not a rope if they were drowning.”  From Prayers the Devil Answers, by Sharyn McCrumb.

How succinctly Ms. McCrumb gets to the core character of the people who live in those mountains and whose ancestors have lived there for up to 250 years! As a writer, I think anyone would be hard-pressed to state it any better.

What do you think?

Have a go at it. Try to write one sentence that sums up that southern Appalachian independent spirit.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I just finished reading The Things We Keep, by Sally Hepworth and Fredrik Backman’s novella, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Janet

“Like a Throwback to Dracula”

I’ve been reading about describing characters. There are two schools of thought regarding that. Since writers write for readers, some readers were asked what they thought about character descriptions in novels.

Some readers want every last detail about the physical appearance of a character to be spelled out, but it seems that most readers don’t want a lot of physical details. They prefer to take what the author gives them and take it from there. They like to imagine in their minds what each character looks like.

damaged-front-cover
Damaged, by Lisa Scottoline

In Damaged, by Lisa Scottoline, protagonist Mary DiNunzio managed in the following quote to give just enough description of fellow lawyer Nick Machiavelli:

“He wore his hair slicked back, like a throwback to Dracula, and his eyes were narrow slits, with dark brown irises that were the exact color of baking chocolate, and Mary would know.” – from Damaged, by Lisa Scottoline.

Ms. Scottoline could have written, “Nick Machiavelli was greasy” or “Nick Machiavelli was a greaser” and I would have conjured a picture in my mind; however, the phrase “like a throwback to Dracula” and his eyes that were narrow slits paints a more vivid picture of him in my mind.

“the exact color of baking chocolate”

Ms. Scottoline also cleverly threw in that Machiavelli’s irises “were the exact color of baking chocolate, and Mary would know.” That is more accurate than her just saying that he had brown eyes, and I love the phrase “and Mary would know.”

If that’s all we knew about Mary, we’d know that she either likes to bake with chocolate or she likes to eat things made with baking chocolate. Maybe both. Any chocolate-loving reader will immediately identify with Mary!

As I start to rewrite my novel, The Spanish Coin, and flesh out all the characters, I’m learning from writers and from readers what readers prefer. Therefore, I will minimize physical details and concentrate on describing them through their words and actions.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The Stars Are Fire, by Anita Shreve. If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Janet

“Like A Butterfly Stepping Out”

The following is a line I like from The Guise of Another, a novel by Allen Eskens:

“The name lifted from her lips with tentative wings, like a butterfly stepping out of its chrysalis and taking flight for the first time.” – from The Guise of Another, by Allen Eskens.

Since I don’t have a photo of “a butterfly stepping out of its chrysalis,” I’m including this picture I took of my favorite butterfly variety.

Flowers and Garden 6-25-09 005
Yellow Swallowtail Butterfly on “Buttered Popcorn” Daylily

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

I’m busy working on ideas for rewriting my novel manuscript, The Spanish Coin, and feeling better about it than I did a couple of weeks ago.

Janet

Being the Balloon

“What it’s like to be the balloon, when someone lets go of the string.”   – from Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult

Reading that line out of context can, no doubt, conjure up many different images and emotions. As I read those words in the context in which they were written by Jodi Picoult in Small Great Things for the first time a couple of days ago, they brought tears to my eyes.

small-great-things-hc-400w
Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult

Here’s the context

Ruth is the protagonist. She is a seasoned labor and delivery nurse, a mother, and the widow of an American soldier killed in Afghanistan. This is her reaction when her mother dies:  “What it’s like to be the balloon, when someone lets go of the string.”

Well said, Ruth!

The sentence stopped me in my tracks. With Mother’s Day in the United States just over a week away, reading those words were especially poignant. My mother died in 1993. I keep thinking the next Mother’s Day will be easier, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Many people in the United States mean well, but they have fallen into the habit of wishing every female a “Happy Mother’s Day.” For many of us, it is not a particularly happy day. I have no mother. I am not a mother. Many women desperately want to have children but have not been able to have even one child. Mother’s Day is painful for them. Being wished “Happy Mother’s Day” by uncaring friends and total strangers just rubs salt in their wounds.

So, this Mother’s Day, count your blessings if you are a mother or still have one. And please be mindful and considerate of those of us for which Mother’s Day is not a happy day.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Janet

L is for a Line I Like in a Novel

After a challenging couple of letters this week in the 2017 A to Z Blog Challenge, I am happy to arrive on Day 12 and the letter “L.” It has become my routine to blog once-a-month about a line I like from a novel, so that is what I get to do today.

I like some sentences in novels because they make me think. Some make me see things in a new light – from another perspective. I like others because of the exquisite word choices made by the author. I like others because they paint a picture. When I come upon a sentence that grabs my attention, I jot it down in my notebook. I want to be able to read it again and again.

Mrs. Lee & Mrs. Gray, by Dorothy Love

One such line is the following sentence from Mrs. Lee & Mrs. Gray, by Dorothy Love:

“How much of life is by one simple moment decided.”

This was a thought by Mary Custis Lee as she reflected on a disagreement she’d had with her new husband, Robert E. Lee.

The sentence prompted me to stop and think. Indeed, “how much of life is by one simple moment decided.”

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Janet

F is for Jamie Fraser

This is the sixth day of the 2017 A to Z Blog Challenge, so I am featuring the letter “F” in today’s post. Every month I blog about a favorite line from a novel. Today I shine a light on a FAVORITE line from the novel THE FIERY CROSS, by Diana Gabaldon.

Gabaldon-Fiery-Cross-220x332

It is the last line in the book, and it is spoken by the heart throb of Ms. Gabaldon’s Outlander Series, JAMIE FRASER.

“’When the day shall come, that we do part,’ he said softly, and turned to look at me, ‘if my last words are not ‘I love you’ – ye’ll ken it was because I didna have time.’”

Whew!

I wish I’d written that!

Until my next blog post tomorrow

I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Janet