The Power of Memorable Lines and Unexpected Plot Twists
Great story ideas can be a dime a dozen, but expertly strapping your reader into a roller-coaster of evocative twisty plot peaks and valleys, takes a lot more skill. Think back to stories that you love the most. Chances are they either plucked at your heart strings or set you on the edge of your seat, fretting for a character, before blind-siding you with a twist you didn’t see coming. Many of these stories will have at least one line that remained with you years later, reminding you of that adventure.
We love reading the work of writers that can pen these memorable stories. And sometimes, as writers ourselves, we must admit to a bit of jealousy. When I think back to all the stories I’ve read, the movies I’ve watched, a few leave me profoundly envious of the writer’s talent.
As part of this month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop, writers are sharing the lines or plot twists that have made us a bit jealous of an author’s talent.
The Power of Memorable Lines
As I pawed over my library preparing for this blog (and resisting the urge to read each and every one), I was struck by two things:
- Most of what I considered memorable lines were opening lines. As writers, we’re well aware that great opening lines can be the hook that keeps our readers moving through those crucial first few pages. And horrible opening lines can get that book shut pretty fast.
- The mere sight of certain book covers often brought back that single, memorable line I thought was long forgotten.
I’d be lying if I said I don’t have a tinge of jealousy when I read those lines, hoping that someday, my words will make such a lifelong impact on readers.
Those Twisty Plot Twists
Surprise twists that sneak up, dropping their payload before the readers knows what’s happened, are extremely powerful. They create emotional satisfaction for the reader, releasing dopamine, a powerful brain chemical that sparks flashes of pleasure in your brain. (You know that little happy smile you get from chocolate? Yeah, that’s from dopamine.) Dopamine is also involved in addiction. I’m not promoting addiction here, but I certainly wouldn’t mind if my readers couldn’t put my book down because my words flooded their brains with dopamine. Giving your readers a ride on the dopamine roller-coaster can also boost your marketing. How often have you read a book, simply because someone said they “just couldn’t put it down”?
Penning Memorable Lines and Twists
In part, good writers understand how to manipulate the psychology of their readers, to keep them turning pages and coming back for book 2 or 3 of a series. But this ability to weave words doesn’t always come as naturally as we would like. And these same good writers make it look so easy, as we gasp at the plot twist and think, “Of course! Why didn’t I see that coming,” or read one single line that just clicks perfectly.
It’s hard not to get jealous of a well written story. If you’re looking for tools to help you write stories that manipulate your reader’s psychology, there are many craft books available to help. Check out a few:
- Story Genius, by Lisa Cron
- The Bestseller Code: Anatomy of the Blockbuster Novel, by Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers
- Story Engineering, by Larry Brooks
My List of Lines
When I finally extricated myself from my library, I had a pile of books in my arms–each with an “Ooohhh, I loved that line!” or “Man, that twist.” I’ve chosen to focus on lines I’ve loved (and wish I’d written) in this list, but many of these books also had great plot twists.
- “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” Gandalf, J.R.R. Tolkien, Fellowship of the Ring
- “A red sun rises. Blood has been spilled this night.” Legolas, J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers
- “She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This is the day of the reaping”. Katniss, Suzanne COllins, The Hunger Games
- “When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.” Scout, Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird
- “When all around is strife and uncertainty, there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned plate of sardines.” Selsdon, Michael Frayn, Noises off
- “If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book.”Lemony Snicket, The Bad Beginning
- “We called him Old Yeller.” Travis, Fred Gipson, Old Yeller
- “This is the story of the great war that Rikki-tikki-tavi fought single-handed, through the bath-rooms of the big bungalows in Segowlee cantonment.” Rudyard Kipling, Rikki-Tikki-tavi
What About You?
I’d love to know your favorite lines or plot twists. You can share them in the comments! For more tips on writing, check out my blog, On We Merrily Stumble. If you subscribe to my newsletter, you’ll get a link to a self-help handbook for using the power of dopamine to enhance your own writing process.
The Blog Hop: Connecting With Other Writers
To check out what the rest of the IWSG writers are saying, head on over to the blog hop at the links below. A big thank you to our hosts this month: Diedre Knight, Tonya Drecker, Bish Denham, Olga Godim, and JQ Rose!
Excellent post, Miffie! Thank you. I had forgotten some of those great lines from books and plays. Sometimes they are the whole point of the work. Happy Insecure Writers’ Day!
Thanks, Victoria! I have sometimes wondered if the best lines started as the “what if.”
I quote favorite lines from Tolkien all the time. One not listed is “I have found that it is the small everyday deed of ordinary folks that keep the darkness at bay.”
Hi Kristina! Yes, there are so many good lines (and world philosophies) espoused by Tolkien. I had forgotten the one you mentioned- it is yet another great line! Thanks for dropping by.
I like your list of favorite lines. Very memorable.
Those are great lines! Gandalf has some good ones throughout the books. Possibly part of the reason he’s such a well-liked character.
I Agree, Shannon. He had some of the best reflections on life. Thanks for dropping by.
Your post shows the power of great, memorable lines. 🙂
I love that list of memorable lines!