Monday, November 20, 2006

The Perfect Line

For most of my writing life I've been on a search for the perfect line, the search for a single, distilled sentence that would convey both truth and beauty. I've seen such lines in other writers' work, primarily in their titles. 1) "I have no mouth and I must scream," from a Harlan Ellison story. 2) "For the world is hollow and I have touched the sky," from an original Star Trek episode. 3) "All heads turn when the hunt goes by," from John Farris's novel. The 1st and 3rd ones are the best, because they seem to convey an almost universal sentiment.

I've written two sentences of which I'm quite proud, although I would not consider them absolutely perfect lines. The first one I used a variation of here the other day in my seduction scenario. The original of that sentence appeared a couple of years back in a story called "Thief of Eyes," and it was: "She had the lips that Satan dreamed of in his long fall to Hell." The second good line that I've written is: "She spoke to me in the language of scorpions," which has appeared in slight variations in a couple of published poems.

I have, of course, seen many beautiful lines of writing embedded within beautiful paragraphs, but the perfect line must stand on its own. It must convey meaning, and, in fact, must seem to convey more meaning than a mere surface examination would imply. It must also flow sweetly off the tongue, and its very tone must demand that it be spoken aloud. Anyone out there have any candidates for the "perfect line" award? I'm eager to hear them.

2 comments:

Sidney said...

Love the scorpion line and I do love lines, like you say, that capture truth in metaphor. Those are certainly the times sentences become more than mere words and cut the deepest.

Charles Gramlich said...

Exactly.