Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Wild and Whirling Words

by Stephanie Black

A couple of years ago while visiting in southern Utah, we went to the Utah Shakespearean Festival to see The Tempest. I’d seen it in high school and had been, well, bored. But I was older now, more mature, smarter, more refined—okay, one out of four isn’t bad—and figured maybe I’d enjoy it this time. Not so. Yawn. How very un-cool and un-erudite for me, a writer, to admit that I wasn’t blown away by Shakespeare that night, but for whatever reason, I just don’t like The Tempest.

But this year Hamlet was taking the stage, and off we went again to witness the Bard’s genius. I must add here, modestly, that I nearly performed in Hamlet once. I was cast as Ophelia. There are only two women in Hamlet, so I was doing very well indeed to get one of the rolls. My shot at stardom! But then the actor playing Hamlet got sick and rehearsals fizzled and the play got canned, which was probably just as well, because would YOU have wanted to be a parent sitting through a third-grade production of Hamlet?

But back to the Shakespearean Festival. Hamlet was wonderful. The actors were superb, the story gripping. I find Shakespeare a lot more enjoyable when it’s spoken aloud. For me, the written text has a high “huh?” factor, but when the actors speak the lines with gestures and inflections, it’s much easier to understand it--and enjoy it.

Hamlet is crammed full of punchy phrases that have permanently established themselves as quotable quotes.“To thine own self be true”. “Neither a borrower nor a lender be” (that line will always remind me of the Gilligan’s Island where they do the musical version of Hamlet. What a classic.) “Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.” And so on.

I love a good, memorable line. In yesterday’s blog comments, Rob quoted his favorite line from DaVinci Code. I must say, I can relate to Langdon’s need to get to a library NOW. This happens to me a lot and usually involves the need to return a book before the library fines exceed our income after taxes.

In my writing, I’m particularly concerned with finding a good, punchy phrase with which to end a scene or chapter. I don’t just want to stop writing—I want to stop with something fitting, something memorable, something that rings. And when it comes to the last line of a book, I really want it to to ring. The last line leaves the last impression, the impression the reader carries away. Just to irritate Rob—truly, what could be a more worthwhile achievement for today's blog?—I’ll use GWTW as an example. What if the book had ended with: “Scarlett sat down on the steps, rested her chin in her hands and thought, “Well, bummer, but I’m determined to get Rhett back and I’ll have another chance later.” Bleh. “After all, tomorrow is another day”—now THAT rings!

What lines from books, movies or plays have struck you as particularly memorable? Post your favorites and win a free wisecrack from Rob Wells.


At 6/28/2006 2:10 PM, Blogger Mean Aunt said...

I like the ending of Dr Seuss's Sleep book where he tells you that when you turn out YOUR light the the sleep count will be 99 billion 900 and 3 (or whatever the number is).

As a kid I thought that was so cool.

At 6/28/2006 2:51 PM, Anonymous Tristi Pinkston said...

Ah, powerful lines!

Pride and Prejudice (the Colin Firth version -- the only true version) "I will conquer this."

The Emperor's New Groove -- "Cheese me no likey."

Sense and Sensibility -- "Give me some occupation or I'll run mad."

Little Women (the Wynona Ryder version -- again, the only true one) "You spoke, and my heart understood yours."

Sigh. I may have to go put in some movies now.

At 6/30/2006 2:04 PM, Blogger Cheri said...

Stephanie, you have my sympathies regarding the cancellation of Hamlet, your chance to shine as a star. I was in a 5th grade version of Mabeth and was awarded the role of Lady Macbeth. The best part was being allowed to swear in public without getting chastized. That darn spot, anyway. ;)


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