Reader Friday: I Wish I’d Written That!

We’ve all read (or heard in a movie) a line we wish we’d written. 

Here’s one of mine. It comes from a classic hard-boiled noir by Dan J. Marlowe, The Name of the Game is Death:

I’ve been in front of X-ray machines that didn’t get as close to the bone as that woman’s eyes. 

Okay, now it’s your turn. What line do you wish YOU had written?

19 thoughts on “Reader Friday: I Wish I’d Written That!

  1. Shackled in ignorance, disciplined by fear, and sheathed in superstition, they trudged into the sixteen century in the clumsy, hunched, pideon-toed gait of rickets victims, their vacant faces, pocked by smallpox, turned blindly toward the future they thought they knew — gullible, pitiful innocents who were about to be swept up in the most powerful, incomprehensible, irrestible vortex since Alaric had led his Visigoths and Huns across the Alps, fallen on Rome, and extinguished the lamps of learning a thousand years before.

    From “A World Lit only by Fire” by William Manchester.

    How can such a long sentence possibly be good? But it is.

  2. “The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.”

    Douglas Adams, A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy


    “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”

    C.S. Lewis


    Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.

    also by CS Lewis

  3. I can’t recall any phrases offhand, but I do note when I am reading if a line stands out to me. Then I’ll admire that author’s word choices. It’s probably my writer’s eye that allows me to see these things. I wonder if the average reader stops in admiration at the way a line is written like we writers do.

  4. Well, after my post yesterday this quote comes to mind. Sorry it’s a bit long:

    “The War. The humans, I think, knew they were doomed. Where another race would surrender to despair, the humans fought back with greater strength. They made the Minbari fight for every inch of space. In my life, I have never seen anything like it; They would weep, they would pray, they would say goodbye to their loved ones, and then throw themselves without fear or hesitation at the very face of death itself, never surrendering. No one who saw them fighting against the inevitable could help but be moved to tears by their courage. Their stubborn nobility. When they ran out of ships, they used guns, when they ran out guns they used knives and sticks and bare hands. They were magnificent. I only hope that when it is my time, I may die with half as much dignity as I saw in their eyes in the end. They did this for two years they never ran out of courage but in the end, they ran out of time.”

  5. “The knack of flying is to throw yourself at the ground and miss.” Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

    “Mothers are all slightly insane.” JD Salinger, Catcher in the Rye

  6. “The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away.” Stephen King, The Body.

    I loved this story and the movie too.

  7. Zane Grey’s “Forlorn River”. “They’re dandy big ones. Regular tobacco-chewers.”

    This line may not sound earth shattering taken out of context, but in addition to being a master of description, Zane Grey was wonderful at bringing characters–even secondary ones, to life. This line is from a teen boy who was a secondary but brilliantly vivid character in the book. I can’t tell you how many times over the course years this so very natural line has just popped into my head (usually when spotting crickets inside the house, as the boy was referring to the grasshoppers they caught down by the river to use for fishing.)

    The other example is a TV/show movie. By far, Star Trek (the original) has been the most quotable show in the universe. Just in the movie Star Trek II:TWOK there are so many quotable lines I can repeat the dialogue with the sound turned off.

    While memorable lines may not be our chief focus as writers, I hope one day I’ll write something that will give someone else as much pleasure to recall as it has given me to remember Marvie Blaine’s lines from Forlorn River or lines from Star Trek.

    Because memorable lines are just way cool.

  8. This is a passage I am going to read at a memorial service in the spring (slightly redacted for length).


    He bowed his head, and the others followed his lead. Casy said solemnly, “This here ol’ man jus’ lived a life an’ jus’ died out of it. . .

    Heard a fella tell a poem one time, an’ he says ‘All that lives is holy.’ Got to thinkin’, an’ purty soon it means more than the words says.

    An’ I wouldn’ pray for a ol’ fella that’s dead. He’s awright. He got a job to do, but it’s all laid out for him an’ there’s only one way to do it.

    But us, we got a job to do, an’ they’s a thousan’ ways, an’ we don’ know which one to take. An’ if I was to pray, it’d be for the folks that don’ know which way to turn. Granpa here, he got the easy straight. An’ now cover him up and let ‘im get to his work.


    The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck, 1939

  9. “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
    ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

    My favorite line. Ever.

  10. Two favorites, both of which I truly wish I’d written:

    “The nun hit me in the mouth and said, ‘Get out of my house.'” Try Darkness (James Scott Bell)

    “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”
    from the movie, Cool Hand Luke (and often quoted by me)

  11. From a song Kate Bush wrote (although I like Placebo’s cover better):

    Running Up that Hill (Deal with God)

    “You don’t want to hurt me,
    But see how deep the bullet lies.
    Unaware that I’m tearing you asunder.
    There’s a thunder in our hearts, baby.
    So much hate for the ones we love.
    Tell me, we both matter, don’t we?

    And if I only could,
    Make a deal with God,
    And get him to swap our places,
    Be running up that road,
    Be running up that hill,
    With no problems.”

    The idea of loving someone so much you’d swap places with them has imbedded itself into my subconscious. There’s a book in that, somewhere.

  12. “I am big! It’s the pictures that got small.” — Norma Desmond

    “I’ll have what she’s having.” — When Harry Met Sally.

    (the lattter esp since I am trying to write a funny book right now and it’s damn hard.)

  13. Okay…let’s reverse the question. What’s the WORST line ever written, or what line would you you be ashamed to have put on paper. I’ll go first:

    “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

  14. “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” — often attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but probably originated from a quote by Edward Stieglitz, M.D.

  15. Right on, Michelle. That’s an eternal favorite!

    And I’ve repeated “Right turn, Clyde” on numerous occasions too. LOL!!!!!

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