The Art of the Sentence

A month or so ago I asked some social media friends what sentence from a book rocked their world. The replies were delightful, and I shared some of them in my June 27 post on this site, titled “In Praise of Memorable Sentences.” There were too many, however, to include them all at that time, so I offer the rest below, with  the author, title, and (in parentheses) the friend who answered my question:

“This is what they do for us, both books and friends: they remind us what it is to be human.” Barbara Hambly, Homeland (Kim Hampton).

“Then she noticed that there was something crunching under her feet. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis (Joshua J. Masters).

“There is no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever.” Keep Moving, Dick Van Dyke (Judy Gyde).

“People will take a limitation from their external environment, internalize it, exaggerate it, and bolster it in their imaginations until they’ve shackled themselves.” Reality-Based Leadership, Cy Wakeman (Kass Fogle).

 “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that’s been given us.” The Fellowship of the Ring, J. R. R. Tolkein (Lisa Sucaciu Kibler).

“Stay gold, Ponyboy.” The Outsiders, S. E. Hinton (Cheryl Lynn Childers).

 “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis (Annette Marie Griffin).

“But detours, roundabouts, and imperfections, as the incarnation͛s setting straight of our sidetracked humanity makes clear, are the paths used by the Spirit to take us home.” Nudge, Len Sweet (Chip Kelly).

“There is no cure for being who you truly are.” The Mermaid’s Sister, Carrie Anne Noble (Kristen Stieffel).

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.” To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (Melissa Sivels).

“Perhaps when you are old and are one day counting up your assets, you may be awed to come across twelve baskets of bread and fish among your family treasures.” Parents in Pain, John White (Dianne Barker).

“How old is the child driving your emotional car, and is he or she old enough to have a license?” The Missing Commandment: Love Yourself, Jerry and Denise Basel (David Sanford).

“Jesus didn’t see a human interruption; He saw a divine appointment.” Wild Goose Chase, Mark Batterson (Cathy Baker).

“No one helps the poor like the poor.” City of Joy, Dominique Lapierre (Elaine Joyce Rader).

“We need to be crushed in order for our fruit to make wine for the needs of others.” The Christian Home: A Woman’s View, Shirley Rice (Callie Law Daruk).

“You got to know where your towel is.” The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams (Nigel Horridge).

These bits of paper [telegrams] which could fall from stunned hands and blow about in the knife-sharp wind, which told you that the boy you’d suckled, bathed, scolded and cried over, was—well—wasn’t.” The Light Between Oceans, M. L. Stedman (Nancy Lohr).

“The trunks of the trees too were dusty and the leaves fell early that year and we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching and afterward the road bare and white except for the leaves.” A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway (Lawrence W. Wilson).

“Wisdom is the power to see, and the inclination to choose, the best and highest goal, together with the surest means of attaining it.” Knowing God, J. I. Packer (Michelle Mann Adserias).

“When we walk, praying for guidance, to the edge of all the light we have and breathlessly take that first step into the foggy mystery of the unknown, we must believe that one of two things will happen: either God will provide us with something rock-solid to land on and stand on, or he will teach us how to fly.” The Crime of Living Cautiously, Luci Shaw (Joyce Ellis).

“I was on fire.” The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (Linda Clare).

It’s amazing, isn’t it, the power that a single sentence can hold? It is also a valuable lesson for writers (of both fiction and nonfiction)—not just to write sentences, but to craft them.

What about you? Do you have a favorite sentence to add to the list?


19 Responses to The Art of the Sentence

  1. Avatar
    Shirlee Abbott July 11, 2018 at 4:13 am #

    “A trickle of evil got into him somehow and now it’s a toxic spill, plain and simple.”
    Judy Baer, “An Unlikely Blessing”

  2. Bob Hostetler
    Bob Hostetler July 11, 2018 at 5:29 am #

    Thanks for adding to the list, Shirlee, as always.

  3. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 11, 2018 at 6:57 am #

    “Think you used enough dynamite, there, Butch?”

  4. Avatar
    Ruth A. Douthitt July 11, 2018 at 7:16 am #

    “He was a great thundering paradox of a man, noble and ignoble, inspiring and outrageous, arrogant and shy, the best of men and the worst of men, the most protean, most ridiculous, and most sublime.” -American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur by William Manchester.

  5. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 11, 2018 at 7:56 am #

    Bob, you might want to get your IT dudes to check things out – I didn’t get an email notification for this post, and Gmail is pretty reliable in delivering them.

    Another wonderful sentence – again from a movie, Guardians Of The Galaxy:

    “I’m going to die surrounded by the biggest idiots in the galaxy.”

    • Bob Hostetler
      Bob Hostetler July 11, 2018 at 7:59 am #

      Thanks for the heads up, Andrew. The notifications are coming through for me. Did you make sure your computer is plugged in? 🙂

      • Bob Hostetler
        Bob Hostetler July 11, 2018 at 7:59 am #

        Just a little IT humor for you there.

        • Avatar
          Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 11, 2018 at 8:12 am #

          Plugged in? No, Bob…I use The Force.

          I’m getting notifications of new comments, but the initial email announcement that the post is up, that was the one that didn’t come through. Thought at first there might not be a post, and then decided to check the website.

          And speaking of Star Wars…

          Q: Why do nuns make the best Jedi?
          A: Force of habit.

  6. Avatar
    Pepper July 11, 2018 at 10:38 am #

    “Deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised.” Aragorn, Lord of the Rings

  7. Avatar
    Pepper Basham July 11, 2018 at 10:39 am #

    “You doubt your value. Don’t run from who you are.” Aslan- Chronicles of Narnia, CS Lewis 🙂

  8. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 11, 2018 at 11:50 am #

    Perhaps my very favourite, especially now…again from a movie (The Rock). Imagine it spoken by Sean Connery:

    “I nurtured the hope that there was hope.”

  9. Avatar
    Tisha Martin July 11, 2018 at 11:27 pm #

    “I’d rather be alone than bound to a man who didn’t meet my impossibly high standards . . . He hadn’t read a book in the past six months? He was out . . . Didn’t like The Princess Bride? He was out, and he was a warthog-faced buffoon.” Second Life by Jaclyn Reiswig.

    More than a sentence, but these lines were classic! In fact, the entire book had me laughing and nodding from all the literary-infused sentences.

  10. Avatar
    Stacy Simmons July 13, 2018 at 3:03 pm #

    “Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.” John Keating (Robin Williams) Dead Poet’s Society.

  11. Avatar
    Steven Fantina July 14, 2018 at 8:50 am #

    In Rick Warren’s Book God’s Power to Change your Life, he wrote “the church is a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for saints.”

    That should rock a few worlds.

  12. Avatar
    emma September 30, 2019 at 7:22 am #

    I have both situations in my life; some of my grandchildren live close by and some live across the country. I feel that I have missed out on so much with the two that are far away It’s wonderful that you are reaching out to another grandma that has found herself in that situation.

  13. Avatar
    treerootprotectors October 16, 2019 at 12:49 pm #

    He was out . . . Didn’t like The Princess Bride? He was out, and he was a warthog-faced buffoon.” Second Life by Jaclyn Reiswig. Altavista Costa Rica

    More than a sentence, but these lines were classic! In fact, the entire book had me laughing and nodding from all the literary-infused sentences.

  14. Avatar
    emma October 18, 2019 at 1:51 am #

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