Have you ever encountered a sentence in a book or piece of dialogue from a TV show or movie that sticks with you? If you have, then you’ll understand what I mean when I say that everything leading up to that moment, those words, was crafted perfectly. When they were said, it all fell into place. Everything you had heard or read before then culminates in those few words. And after, you’re left wondering how something so simple could be so meaningful. The words somehow float in your head with unchallenged staying power.
That happened to me in the spring when I watched the K-drama My Girl. In episode 12, Seol Gong Chan is standing outside as it snows. He slowly lifts his hand up to catch the snowflakes, but then it stops. The snowflakes are no longer falling, yet he says, almost in disbelief, “It…just won’t stop snowing.” If you had seen the show, you’d know why those five words were so important. After he says them, he bursts into action, finally acting on his feelings. To him, it’s always snowing (I would love to tell you the significance of this, but I keep hoping you’ll watch it. It’s free on DramaFever and Hulu!). Each subplot from that show, all the bits of information scattered here and there, converge in that moment in five perfectly placed words. And I am left in awe of how well the writers did it.
It stuck with me, obviously. I even made a note of it in my phone. I repeated that sentence over and over in my head. I couldn’t stop just like it wouldn’t stop snowing for Gong Chan. My point is as readers and writers and word lovers aren’t we all simply waiting for that perfect moment? That moment when everything meets in one spot without preaching, without spelling it out word for word? I know I am. I know when I read it’s a breath of fresh air if I find it. When I write, I want to put words together in such a way to have a lasting impact on the reader. Why am I bringing this up now? One word: Insurgent.
I read Insurgent on a Kindle this time, having borrowed it from Smarty Pants. On Kindles, at least, you can highlight sections and stuff. There were a handful of times when the same sentence was highlighted thousands of times by separate readers. I wondered why these sentences were so moving to these readers. They weren’t to me. In fact, they seemed preachy, straightforward, obvious. Here’s one of them: “Sometimes . . . people just want to be happy, even if it’s not real.” While this is a very true statement, it didn’t affect me the way “It…just won’t stop snowing” did. Roth’s was too forward, too, well, obvious. Maybe it’s because it’s YA literature, and perhaps she didn’t think teenagers would be able to understand nuances? Or maybe she wanted to make sure it was understood? I have no way of knowing, but to me, this line, along with others, had me rolling my eyes, instead of repeating it.
How do we achieve this in our own writing? I wish I knew. For me, I have trouble even writing another sentence until I get the previous one right. You can imagine that makes for a very long and drawn-out writing process. It’s a miracle I’ve even written two full-length novels. I remember one night pondering a sentence for ten minutes because I couldn’t think of the word I wanted. I finally forced myself to move on only to later text my dad about it. Sure enough, he came through with the word I was looking for. Maybe that’s what we need, a third party to help us get past our rut, to know better when something is right because they’re removed from it? Well, that’s not good for me then because I don’t have any writer friends or a writer’s group. Why? Because I have trouble being outgoing enough to ingratiate myself with them. I wonder why anyone would even want to read what I have to say, but that’s for another post.
So, what makes a sentence stick with you? What does it need for you to chew it over multiple times and reread it because you can’t get enough? Are there any sentences or lines that have stuck with you over the years?