Some time ago I came across this quote by John Irving:
“And when you love a book, commit one glorious sentence of it—perhaps your favorite sentence—to memory. That way you won’t forget the language of the story that moved you to tears.”
As I thought about which sentences I would choose, I realized that this could apply to writers as well as to readers. Which of us has not at some point been inspired by a book, and wanted nothing more than to write something equally beautiful? As writers, we should take note of good writing and study what makes it good.
Start a list. Write out your favorite excerpts: the ones that make you cry, or make your heart pound, or fill you with wonder. Examine them; see what makes them beautiful, why they move you. And then commit them to memory, or read the list through every so often. When you study great prose, it will influence your writing.
With that in mind, here are a handful of excerpts that inspire me:
He flung himself out the doorway—and stopped.
Across the street the Roman soldier stood alone under the broiling sun.
Haltingly, Daniel walked, not after Jesus, but across the road, till he stood before the boy. He had to try twice before the words would come. “My sister will get well,” he said, his voice harsh. “The fever has left her.” A quick guttural sound burst from the soldier. Daniel looked away. Who could believe that a Roman—?
“I think she would want to say good-bye to you,” he said.
The soldier waited, not understanding. Daniel looked down the road and caught the white flash of Jesus’ robe. Then he straightened his shoulders.
“Will you come in to our house?” he asked.
The Bronze Bow, by Elizabeth George Speare
Someone must have burst the membrane over one of the high windows and there had been no leisure to mend it; a long sunbeam slanted through the hole, straight across the hearth, and where the thread of smoke curled upward through the sunspot it was a blue a wild hyacinths. It seemed to Frytha the most perfect thing she had ever seen; unbelievably perfect; the slow curls and eddies like fern fronds made of jewel-blue air; no, like running water, water eddying among stones, like the Sell Beck above the mill dam. Suddenly she was remembering, across the years, little birch-bark long-ships on the Sell Beck, and Ari Knudson’s voice came to her so clearly that he might have been speaking beside her. ‘That is our Shield Ring, our last stronghold; not the barrier fells and the tottermoss between, but something in the hearts of men.’
Odd, that she should remember so clearly something that she had not truly understood at the time….
The Shield Ring, by Rosemary Sutcliff
At exactly the moment when Maureen turned Phantom over to Paul there was the sound of a ringing neigh in the distance. It speared the morning stillness. It seemed to come, not from the sea, but from the Spanish galleon, back across the ages.
Phantom’s ears pricked. She jerked her head in the direction of Assateague Island. Tremblingly she listened. The bugle came again, strong and clear. It brought Grandpa Beebe bounding over the gate, running toward Phantom.
“It’s the Pied Piper!” he yelled. “He’s coming to git the Phantom.”
Paul and Maureen strained their eyes toward the island of Assateague, but all they could see were the white spumes from the billows, and skeins of mist rising from the sea. Then suddenly one of the whitecaps seemed to be flying free. It was the foaming mane of the Pied Piper, racing in with the billows.
Misty of Chincoteague, by Marguerite Henry
Are there any sections or particular sentences in books that have inspired you? Feel free to share your favorites in the comments!