You know that perfect line. That line you can’t forget. The line that even if you wanted to you couldn’t scrub out of your memory with the scratchiest brillo-pad. If you still haven’t grasped the concept here’s two examples, one with no background (because I assume you all have watched Disney’s movie ‘Tangled’. If not, SPOILER WARNING) and one with a lot of background.So first, Tangled. The line Flynn says at the end (when we all think he’s dying) “You were my new dream”.
And just in case that wasn’t a good enough example of a perfect line. In the manga series ‘With The Light’(which you might be sick of me talking about with two posts in the last few weeks on it, here and here) the mother of the autistic child Hikaru needs to fill out a questionnaire on behalf of her son in which one of the questions is ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’. She eventually decides Hikaru would want to be (here’s the perfect line) “A happy working adult”. Even now, years after reading it for the first time, I remember that line. When I heard the manga-ka (Keiko Tobe) had passed away before completing the series I became frantic with worry that she may not have ended the series so I would never discover if Hikaru grew up into ‘a happy working adult’.
As a writer you can’t help but strive for that level of impact. Problem is sometimes it comes out cheesey. Other times the paranoid editor who hides within every writer thinks it’s too cheesey when in actuality it’s dead on and everyone but you can see it. Also it can be exhausting trying that hard on nearly every line of dialogue.
I’m currently revising ‘Storybook Perfect’, my first novel (which clearly this blog is titled after) in preparation for the Harper Voyager open submissions and every few pages (I’m lying, paragraphs!) I stop and agonise over a line, trying to make it perfect. This manuscript is being seen by the publisher, it hasn’t had an agents loving hand run over it to smooth out any creases, and a stay-at-home mum doesn’t easily have the money to hire an editor. I’m panicking that just about any imperfection could be the difference between acceptance and rejection – which of course it is. There will be thousands of authors competing and there is an undefined (at least not on the page I read) number of vacancies. If I’m rejected I know it won’t be the end of the world, I’m made of far tougher grit than that, but it would be awful to miss an opportunity like this simply because the work wasn’t perfect.
Of course perfection is all about perception.
What’s your favourite perfect line? It can be either your own creation (in which case please give us some context) or something you’ve seen/read.
Tangled image full rights belong to Disney.
***While trying to hunt down a picture of Flynn’s ‘death scene’ I came across a picture of a cosplayer ‘bringing the smoulder’ and couldn’t stop laughing. I got permission to link to it so please go here and enjoy! If you have a DA account comment too please ***