Okay, the answer? My response one night when asked what food I craved while sipping hazelnut coffee on the starlit deck of a cabin cruiser in “Acapulco Cove.” Okay, okay … so the name of the cove wasn’t really “Acapulco” and we were in Lake of the Ozarks instead of Mexico, but allow me some creative license here since we were young and "full" of dreams … not to mention brownies and chocolate chip cookies!
You see, we called it Acapulco Cove because we loved all the dazzling lights that shimmered on the water from three cozy mom-and-pop resorts that twinkled and shined. “It looks like Acapulco,” somebody said, and the name just stuck. You know, just like certain things do with each of us? A favorite food, a favorite outfit, a favorite child … whoops, let’s not go there, because that is definitely not the kind of “playing favorites” I’m talking about today.
Nope, I’m talking about those things we love because they “twinkle and shine” over and above other things in there particular category. You know, “favorites” such as movies like Gone With the Wind, Breakfast at Tiffany’s or A Walk to Remember, or those dee-lish blue M & M peanuts (under NO circumstances will I ever eat a brown M & M because they simply do not … oooo, cold chill … taste the same). Or especially books such as the Bible, Gone With the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird. For whatever reason, each one of us “plays favorites” when it comes to things in our life because let’s face it, with the diversity of humankind on this planet, that’s just the way it is. And in our writing? Oh, yeah, especially in our writing.
You writers out there know what I’m talking about, and you readers do too. Yep, it’s that sentence, line or paragraph in a book, blog or magazine that stops you dead in your tracks, making you blink several times while something wonderful slowly dawns in your subconscious. Whether it’s inspirational, educational, challenging, funny or just downright beautiful to read, we derive a sense of pleasure over anything that’s written well enough to evoke a response. Even if that response is wanting to throw a book across the room because the characters were written so true to life, you felt their pain and frustration keenly (ahem, Rel and Renee! :)).
So … that got me to thinking about my “favorite” lines in my books and those of the Seekers, wondering just why they are my “favorites,” and it occurred that this could be a fun teaching tool. I mean if I read a line I love in anyone’s work, I immediately stop and reread it and think, “Wow, that was a great line,” which in my brain translates into “Wow, she/he’s a great writer.” And let’s face it, what author doesn’t want to evoke that type of response out of a reader?
I know, I know, some of you are thinking it’s not a good thing to stop a reader dead in their tracks with writing that is SO good, it pulls them out of the story. And, yes, I have heard that before. But the truth is for me, if a story is that good, nothing can pull me out of it except the need for sleep and if it’s not that good, then the writer has redeemed her/himself with a line that convinces me that yes, they do have talent.
That said, let’s begin with a few favorite lines from Seeker books followed by a lot from my own books (come on, guys, it is my blog …). Here we go ...
TINA RADCLIFFE, FROM OKLAHOMA REUNION:
"Sometimes happiness fills you so completely that it overflows with tears."
TINA SAYS: A single sentence that packs a huge amount of emotion. The visual on this just makes me smile and tear up every single time. I suppose the older we get the more truth there is to this. Or maybe it's just hormones.
RUTH LOGAN HERNE, FROM TRY, TRY AGAIN:
She stared up, into his eyes, lips parted, her breathing unsteady but her gaze secure. One hand snaked around his neck, pulling him down. “Us,” she whispered as his lips met hers, the touch soft and warm, heady with invitation. “I need us, Conor.”
RUTH SAYS: I love this moment between Conor and Alicia from my single title, Try, Try Again because they've gone back to where they started... in love with each other. No money-hungry goals stand between them, no issues divide them, they've come to realize that life throws curves and the best batters stay in the box... And refuse to strike out repeatedly.
AUDRA HARDERS, FROM ROCKY MOUNTAIN HERO:
"God is stronger and wiser than Grace Davidson and if He wants fences mended, He'll supply the materials Himself."
AUDRA SAYS: It's a simple quote uttered by a simple rancher, yet there's nothing simple about the honesty of placing complete faith in the Lord. I love characters taking the rudiments of faith and branding them with their own personality and conveying the message as simply as if they were talking of the weather. Natural. Unassuming. The best messages are the ones you never recognize until later when the meaning smacks you in the face.
MARY CONNEALY, FROM CALICO CANYON:
The Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse rode in. Late as usual.
MARY SAYS: After twenty books and a zillion written words, I still don't like any of them better than the opening line of Calico Canyon. Which is actually kinda sad.
JANET DEAN, FROM AN INCONVENIENT MATCH, JANUARY 2012:
As Oscar held up another offering, this one wrapped in toile and covered with tiny silk flowers, Abigail’s gaze traveled down the block to where six empty lots left a cavernous gap on the tree-lined street, as unsightly as missing incisors in a mouth full of teeth.
JANET SAYS: I like the imagery and the emotion this creates. At least when readers understand the context. This line is from a scene where the town is holding a box lunch auction to raise money for six families that lost their homes and everything they owned in a fire. I like the contrast of the pretty box lunch wrapped in toile with the ugliness of missing teeth.
MISSY TIPPINS, FROM A HOUSE FULL OF HOPE, FEBRUARY 2012
"Well, if he's your friend, why is he leaving?"
Because sometimes life wasn't fair. "This isn't his home. He lives in Washington State."
"Well, shouldn't he live where his dad and his friends live?"
Good point. She patted his back. "That's where his job is. People live where they work."
He rolled to his back and looked at her with those thoughtful, inquisitive green eyes. "Is Washington State farther away than Heaven?"
Pain snatched the very air from her lungs and left her aching, wanting to lie down in a little ball and join her son.
MISSY SAYS: In the story, my heroine, Hannah, is a widowed mom of four kids. Her children quickly bond with the hero, Mark, who's home in Georgia seeking redemption. Her oldest son is the most sensitive and has come out of his shell since being around Mark. But alas, Hannah and Mark can't be together--too many obstacles. (I'm such a mean author!) :) After Mark tells them goodbye, Hannah has this conversation with her young son. It always tugs at my heartstrings!
MYRA JOHNSON, FROM A HORSEMAN’S HEART
“A real horse whisperer-plus, eh? Then why so worried?
“You should worry, too, since Mom asked him if he’d also help with your, uh, males only needs after you come home.”
Nathan squeezed one eye shut. “Huh?”
JULIE SAYS: Myra was on deadline and I just happened to be reading her latest book, A Horseman’s Heart (AWESOME, by the way!!), and I was struck how masterfully she conveyed a clear and concise picture of the character in this scene with SIX MEASELY WORDS in the last two lines, which is not easy to do!
SANDRA LEESMITH, FROM PRICE OF VICTORY
"I came to understand that there might be great satisfaction in winning, but peace only comes from knowing you are doing the best you can in whatever circumstances you're in."
OKAY, MY TURN!!! Those are some of the examples Seekers sent me … now onto some of my own favorite lines and just WHY they are my favorites! And guess what I discovered??? MOST of the lines that turn my head in my books and other people’s books are … drum roll, please … METAPHORS and SIMILES!!!
Yep, nothing makes a line sing more than a power-packed metaphor. Now what do I mean by that? I mean those “comparisons” that do double and triple duty—not only emotionally clarifying something with an apt comparison, but double-punching it with a double entendre or a play on words that may bring a smile, tug a tear or just drive a point home. Here’s the dictionary’s take on what they are:
Metaphor: A word or phrase that means one thing and is used for referring to another thing in order to emphasize their similar qualities.
Simile: A phrase that describes something by comparing it to something else using the word “like” or “as.”
So, to show you what I am talking about, I’m going to give you LOTS of examples of my favorite lines from my books, 80% of which I was shocked to discover are either metaphors or similes. AND … since I just reread Steven’s, book 3 in The Winds of Change series … ahem … four times to edit 50,000 words per my editor’s request, I have lots of examples fresh in mind. This way I can also give you a sneak peek at A Love Surrendered (formerly A Trust Restored) in the process, okay? And at the very end of this blog, you’ll find more excerpts from A Love Surrendered that I included just because I like them! :)
In this following clip, Steven is rescuing the heroine Annie from a creep named Brubaker who makes a pass at her. The reason I love these lines is because of Steven’s flip response AND the metaphor in the last line. LOVE metaphors!!!
Frantic, tears stung her eyes as she tried to push him away, but he only locked her tighter, his breath hot against her mouth. “Oh, babe, I never met a girl like you …”
“Sure you have, Brubaker, dozens of times, at this very railing alone.” Steven O’Connor strolled forward, hands loose in the pockets of his blue serge slacks and lips sculpted in a smile colder than the cast-iron statue she’d passed on the pier.
Other metaphors from A Love Surrendered:
“I mean you rattled Steven’s cage when he thought Joe was interested, right? Well, since Joe obviously bailed on you, we just have to rattle it again.” Peggy pursed her lips, conspiracy bright in her eyes. “You know, somebody Agent O’Connor can’t abide?”
Annie blinked and then gasped. “Oh, no you don’t—not Brubaker!”
“Why not?” Peggy asked, a bit indignant. “You want to light a fire under Steven or not?”
Butterflies did the Lindy Hop in her stomach, more swoops and swirls than Steven and Rita on the dance floor during the band’s last song.
The fashion plate gave Luke’s shoulder a casual squeeze, and Katie’s jaw dropped. “If you keep buying me dinners, Luke McGee, I’ll be the most spoiled intern in Boston.”
Intern? Sweet chorus of angels, he has an intern?? Katie’s lips compressed, thinking she’d like to do a little “spoiling” of her own—first Luke McGee’s evening, and then his face.
Because deep down inside he had had his suspicions, but he’d been too preoccupied with work, too grateful for the help and too blasted cocky to think anything could trip up the invincible Luke McGee. But this, he was reluctant to admit … this had caught him off-guard, something evil and sinister he’d never seen coming, an invitation in a smile, drawing his lips to hers like a lamb to the slaughter. A blood sacrifice of his marriage vow on the altar of lust.
Gaze holding hers, he slowly leaned in, close enough to see the long sweep of her lashes, the pale gold in eyes so green, he felt like he was in Oz, about to be granted a wish.
Guilt lapped at his soul like the black, murky waters lapped against the dock of the verandah, drowning his peace.
With a wayward smile that suggested trouble, he ambled over to sit on the bed, leaning in to skim his lips against hers. The silver at his temples gleamed like the tease in his eyes. “So you decided to wait up and read, did you?” His thumb played with the strap of her gown while his lips played with the lobe of her ear. “Tell me, Marceline, can you read my mind now?”
One of my FAVORITE things to do is to use a simile that refers back to something else in the scene such as food, WHICH I’ve been known to add JUST to glean a simile as in the cases below where the metaphor item (i.e. beets, chocolate pie, etc.) are actually mentioned in the scene prior as something being served or eaten:
Sean winked at Emma, and her cheeks went head-to-head with the neighbors beets.
“Law school? Luke repeated, his voice as raspy and thick as if chocolate pie were lodged in his throat.
“Humph. I say given him his walking papers right now, Miss Emma. The boy’s a little too big for his britches, if you ask me.” Bert’s tone was as tart as one of those lemon drops she kept in a bowl on her desk.
She chewed slowly, savoring both the sweet fruit in her mouth and the sweet fruit she saw in Charity’s little sister.
The cup slipped from Annie’s fingers to rattle against the saucer and spill, Earl Gray pooling on the table as quickly as dread pooled in her stomach.
More metaphors/similes from my other books that I just like the humor, sound, rhythm or impact:
It seemed like years since that fateful moment her heart had been severed in two. And now the most cherished half —the man that she loved and needed—possibly lay at death’s door. While she—a woman in dire need of mercy—lay at God’s feet.
His lips were white, his eyes red and a vein in his temple throbbed a dangerous blue. Not a good color combination.
Her laughter floated in the air like the sound of hope.
He hesitated—prey stilled by the scent of the hunter.
His statement drifted in her brain, it’s impact silent, slow and deep, like a knick she didn’t know she had until she saw the blood on her hands.
A woman who was a feast to his eyes but a drought to his soul.
Well, she’d give birth, all right … but not to her dreams. No, she’d spend the rest of her life changing diapers instead of the world.
Annie’s innocence and purity had captured him from the start, a glimmering oasis in a parched and thirsty wasteland littered with his own mistakes.
She whirled around to where the phonograph circled soundlessly like the guilt in her mind.
And then, boom! Suddenly it was Thursday again, and her hampers were full of grimy clothes, and her mind, grimy thoughts.
“Why?” he asked quietly, and the word made her flinch, like a sudden shaft of light in a dark cellar where roaches and rats skittered.
The parlor was as dark as his mood and the foyer as empty as his patience, but at least a stream of light filtered out from the kitchen.
No, they were one flesh, just as God’s Word proclaimed—if her heart broke, he ached, if her dreams died, he mourned.
If God had given him the grace not to bash Leo’s head in, he could certainly give him the grace to be friends with Katie again. Week after week. Desire after desire. Ache after ache.
Like Luke, she had lived in the gutter all of her life. Not just in the streets of New York, but in the littered ruts of destiny as well.
“You’re the love of my life, McGee—yesterday, today and forever.”
“Me too, Bets,” he whispered, then bent to kiss her again.
Yesterday and forever.
FINALLY … as promised, more favorite lines from A Love Surrendered, just because I like them and it’s a good way to give you a sneak peek:
“I love you, Emma,” Sean said softly, “more than Snickers and baseball and beating Brady and Luke at sports.” The tease in his words faded with another tender kiss, and when he pulled away, he caressed her with a look that nearly stole her breath. Never had she known a man more who could make love with his eyes. “I adore you,” he whispered, and sometimes I wonder how I survived without you.”
Not hello … how was your day … or even Luke, I need a favor. And yet, somehow it didn’t matter because it was the most important call he’d ever had, reminding him just how much he loved his wife. And how much she had a right to be angry. Because at the end of the day, when all the slivers and pieces of his pride were picked up and swept away like the broken vase on the floor, the truth was that she was married to an idiot … and a pompous one at that.
Annie’s innocence and purity had captured him from the start, a glimmering oasis in a parched and thirsty wasteland littered with his own mistakes.
“Blast it, Marcy, I’m a man, not an invalid, and I need to make love to my wife.”
“Patrick, please—you were pale as death just last week, and Dr. Williamson said—”
“The deuce with Williamson,” he’d shouted, grasping her shoulders to give her a sound shake. “I will not allow fear to ruin my life, Marceline, do you hear?”
“No …” she said, body trembling, “but you’ll allow your death to ruin mine.”
A nerve pulsed in his cheek as he stared long and hard, finally cupping her face in his hands. He leaned in to gently brush his lips against hers, his touch tender. “Loving you won’t kill me, Marcy,” he’d whispered with grief in his eyes, “but not loving you will.”
SO … what are some of YOUR favorite lines you’ve written??? Go ahead and give us your best shot because we LOVE playing favorites in Seekerville … with great lines, that is! Or give me a favorite food or book or movie, and you’ll be entered to win your choice of a signed copy of any of my books OR a 5-page writer’s critique.