My favorite sentences

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.


MARCH QUESTION: Have you ever read a line in a novel or a clever plot twist that caused you to have author envy?

MY ANSWER: Yes. One of my favorites is the last sentence of the first paragraph of the first sci-fi novella of Murderbot Diaries series – All Systems Red by Martha Wells. It says:

“As a heartless killing machine, I was a terrible failure.”  

I think I fell in love with that story then and there. This short sentence introduces the protagonist’s tone and attitude perfectly. I read it and felt deeply envious. My love affair with the series continues to this day, after five novellas and one novel. And I have to confess that after all this time, the hero is still a failure as a killing machine. He kills bad guys, yes, but he does it only to help those in need. He is a knight in disguise, and I adore him.

Another favorite of mine is Jayne Castle – the first sentence of her futuristic romance After Dark. It says:

“If it had not been horribly obvious that Chester Brady was already dead, Lydia Smith might have strangled him herself.”

This sentence alone starts the plot galloping. On the first page, in the first paragraph, the readers are hooked. They want to know who Lydia Smith is, who Chester Brady was (poor schmuck), and why he was murdered. And by whom. No backstory. No info damp. The author starts the action rolling with her first line. Great intro to a great series I’m still reading to this day. I think there are a dozen books by now. I wish I could write like that: pithy and attention-grabbing right off the bat.  

Interesting that both my examples come from genre books. In general, genre writers are not overly concerned with beautiful prose. Instead, genre fiction mostly relies on plot and characters to attract readership. But those two books stood the test of time for me.

What about you? Did you read those books? What hooks you? Genre? Author? Expressions? What makes you wish you had written such a wonderful line yourself?

This entry was posted in Insecure Writer's Support Group, Olga Godim, Reading, Writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to My favorite sentences

  1. Sonia Dogra says:

    I wouldn’t call it author envy but there have been so many lines and so many stories that have inspired me, left me awestruck that how come the author could imagine/write this. I’d say poetry has often done that to me.

  2. The second one is rather funny.
    Thanks for co-hosting today!

  3. denizb33 says:

    Ooh, I keep hearing about Murderbot! I need to add it to my wishlist.

  4. Like you, I like books that focus more on plot and character rather than beautiful words. I loved the line in the second book. Thanks for co-hosting this month.

  5. spunkonastick says:

    Score another point for genre books then.

  6. patgarcia says:

    I’ve read many good writers and they have written lines that I love, but I’ve never seen it as envy. Each writer is unique.
    Thank you for co-hosting.
    Shalom shalom

  7. I’m drawn to books with well developed characters who drive the plot. I envy authors who can create them to the point that we fall in love with them and root for their success, or demise, depending on their role in the story.
    Thanks for co-hosting IWSG today!

  8. Nancy Gideon says:

    I love a book I can get “lost” in, with prose that puts me right into the scene, that’s so visual I’m mentally watching it like a movie as I read. Sigh . . .

  9. Beth Camp says:

    Thank you for giving me two new writers to add to that TBR stack! Yes, I’m a genre reader, even if I write mostly historical fiction and, now, art crime mysteries. Interesting that both those quotes, well-written, have echoes in other books. I appreciate how you tied that strong opening line to writing issues we work so hard to avoid (as in, back story dumps, etc.), and you’re right! A fine post today. Very helpful reminder.

  10. cleemckenzie says:

    Punchy and humorous lines always grab my attention. Thanks for co-hosting today, Olga.

  11. I’ve read the first Murderbot book. It was entertaining, and I have the rest lined up for when I circle back to the series.

    I love outrageous lines, like that second example. I’m gonna have to see if they have any audiobooks through my library by Jayne Castle.

  12. Bish Denham says:

    Which just goes to show that good writing that catches you by surprise can come from anywhere. Thanks for co-hosting today.

  13. S.E. White says:

    Oh my gosh yes, I adore that murdery Murderbot and their introspective sarcasm. Thanks so much for co-hosting this month! And reminding me to re-read the Murderbot Diaries.

  14. Jemima Pett says:

    Ah, interesting. I hadn’t heard of the Murderbot series until the Goodreads Space Opera Group started reading them last year. I’m beginning to think I’ve been missing something! Must add to my list.
    As have Denizb33 and several others!
    Thanks for co-hosting today, Olga.

  15. Widdershins says:

    Love the ‘heartless killing machine’, one. 😀

  16. You are so right, Olga. What great lines you have quoted. Seriously deep and meaningful. Thanks for co-hosting this month’s question. All best to you!

  17. mlouisebarbourfundyblue says:

    Thanks for co-hosting today, Olga. I enjoyed the examples of great sentences that you shared. I find it sad that today genre writers are not interested in crafting beautiful language. The books I truly enjoy have beautiful language no matter the genre. Beautiful language always captures my imagination. Have a great March!

  18. Jemi Fraser says:

    Those are fabulous! I read more classics when I was younger. I prefer genre fiction now. I like the focus on characters 🙂

  19. Denise Covey says:

    Yes, Olga, I love reading a perfect first sentence that beckons you into the story. It sets the tone for a great read.

  20. pjcolando says:

    I giggled at the second one – @it and spunk captivate me

    Thanks for co-hosting, Olga.

  21. Those are great lines! The line from After Dark definitely makes me want to check that one out.

  22. Lynn La Vita says:

    I like fast moving novels that hold my attention through crisp writing. Lee Child’s novels are a good example. Your examples a excellent, too. Thanks for co-hosting IWSG this month.
    Lynn La Vita

  23. Yvonne V says:

    Love these examples, Olga.

  24. yvettecarol says:

    Gosh, I love your examples, Olga! Those first lines are totally envy-worthy. It makes me want to strive harder.

  25. debscarey says:

    Brilliant examples Olga 🙂 I do love it when you get so see some snark come through.

    Debs posting today from Fiction Can Be Fun
    Also found at Debs Despatches

  26. Rebecca Douglass says:

    Genre fiction can contain great writing! We mystery-mongers can’t get no respect 😀 I love that second opening–it really does set up so much.

  27. emaginette says:

    Excellent choices. Love them to bits. 🙂

  28. Diane Burton says:

    Great examples. The first sentence should raise lots of questions in the reader’s mind. So many they have to find out what’s next.

  29. Pat Garcia has it – why envy ? Read other people’s moving words with respect, admiration.

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