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Quotes: Making or Breaking

Lost Words by vimark (detail)My 46th article for Fantasy-Faction. I have now written more of these than I have years of life and not many to 50. And always the eternal question; what to write about?


On Saturday night I was moved to tears. I cried. Not a snotty, snuffling, huffing, heaving cry, but a tear or three rolled down my cheek and I refused to wipe them away. I wore it as a badge, a medal, an honour.

The honour that I got to read and enjoy… no…to read and LOVE the books of Terry Pratchett. When Neil Gaiman cried, I cried too, but I’d already felt a trickle down my cheek by then. Paul Kaye did a great job of being Terry. All those side shots, those quotes from speeches and books, the rarely straight on look. The illusion was great. But Pratchett isn’t the purpose of the article, he is the catalyst, the spark that set fire to the idea.

In a good book, in a truly great book, there are little quotes, little snippets of prose that lift a character, a scene, an emotion to new heights. So what I’d thought I’d do, if you don’t mind, is look at a few of those.

I’ve asked some friends, some fellow readers and writers, to give me their favourites and I’ll try to worm those into this article. You’ll recognise some names from the Facebook group. Ready? Here we go…

The Name of the Wind (cover)Julia, a book buyer (professional no less), book seller (professional also) and book reader (superhero status), piped up with an answer first. This is one of her favourites and is from a lady that keeps quotes on her phone. Every time she reads it she shivers, and there is no better recommendation than that. However, the quote, really a passage, is too long to include in its full here. You’ll probably know it anyway as it is from The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

“The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.” (Rothfuss)

Marielle reckons this quote from The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White encapsulates what love really is, the enormity of it all, the certainness. It certainly is beautiful.

“And I’d choose you; in a hundred lifetimes, in a hundred worlds, in any version of reality, I’d find you and I’d choose you.” (White)

Peter has chosen a quote by an author that seems infinitely quotable, Mark Lawrence. This quote, to Peter, speaks to him of the problems we face in everyday life and the struggle to overcome them.

Prince of Thorns (cover art)“Every man has his thorns, not of him, but in him, deep as bones. The scars of the briar mark me, a calligraphy of violence, a message of blood-writ, requiring a lifetime to translate.” (Lawrence)

I’m not going to argue any of those choices, they each stand on their own and are in their own way beautiful and meaningful. These quotes lift the books they are in, speak to the reader of something. Something that stays with them.

But I am going to return to the author I mentioned at the start. There are quotes from his books that have stuck with me ever since I read them. And I am not going to pretend that, on the first read, these quotes contain the same reverence for the human condition as those above. But, read them twice or thrice and I’d argue they speak of the same things. The messages are the same, but the delivery differs. In their humour and charm they conceal a much deeper truth about us.

“Build a man a fire, and he’ll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life.” (Pratchett)

Check Mort by Paul KidbyIn this first quote, Pratchett takes a common phrase and twists it. It is darker and less hopeful than the original but it offers us a view of modern life, modern sensibilities; that which you cannot improve, destroy. That’s the message that comes from this, to me. The humour conceals it… but it is there. (Bit worried that marks me out as a psychopath… where’s me axe?)

“It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it’s called Life.” (Pratchett)

And how can you argue with that? This quote seems dark and lacking in hope. Yet, turn that around. It is not about death, it is about life and living it to the full. One chance, that’s all you get. Make the best of it. And on Saturday evening that is what I thought the man had done. Totally.

But there are other quotes, other sections of writing that come back to me at times. Even first lines of books…

“The first thing the boy Garion remembered was the kitchen at Faldor’s farm.” (Eddings)

The Fellowship of the Ring (cover)And poems from books…

“I sit beside the fire and think of all that I have seen.” (Tolkien)

… can stick with you beyond the end of the book.

A good quote, a snippet of text, are lessons. They teach us about the character, the setting, the world the book is set in. More than that, we read into them things from our own lives.

This is why writing is great past-time (oh how I wish it was a good living too) and why reading is such a pleasure.

Do you have a favourite quote? (and what am I going to write about for number 50!?!)

Title image by vimark.



  1. Avatar Barnaby says:

    “What’s it going to be then, eh?”
    Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange

  2. Avatar Michelle says:

    My favorite among the quotes: “And I’d choose you; in a hundred lifetimes, in a hundred worlds, in any version of reality, I’d find you and I’d choose you.” (White)
    Thank you for sharing!

  3. Why someimes I beleive as many as 6 impossible things before breakfast…Lewis Carroll

  4. Avatar Kerri Maguire says:

    “There’s a lot of things that ought, I daresay. But they ain’t!” – Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum.

  5. Avatar Michael Maguire says:

    ‘in a hole, in the ground, lived a hobbit…’ in my opinion probably the best and most important bit of writing in fantasy fiction, ever!

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