Monday, November 12, 2012

Your Novel's Most Important Quote

I LOVE quotes. I can go for hours just looking up quotes, because I love them so much -- they mean so much to me. As such, I like to think of your novel's most important quote as your novel's thesis, and the way to find it is this:
What quote would you put before in the pages before your book starts?

You've seen this in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; JK Rowling included two poems; one by William Penn, and one by Aeschylus before the first chapter. Odds are, you've seen this in tons of novels (I just can't think of any right now -- call me stupid) and you might put one in yours.

If so, I applaud you. *Clap clap clap*

It doesn't matter if your future agent, editor, beta reader, etc. decides to cut it out in the end. This is much like what writing the query to a work in progress does to your plot; the query gives your plot a guide. As such, the quote gives your novel a theme.

Themes are important. About every single novel has a theme to it which is the book's message, angst, 'truth,' whatever you wish to call it. The theme is what makes the book live on in the readers' minds after they have finished it. The theme is what the reader stays up at night thinking about.

This is why finding a quote to sum up your book is so important; it guides the theme of the novel, and gives your book focus.

Now, probably, you don't have some amazing quote just yet to some up your novel, and if you do, it is truly wonderful (I mean it). But if you are at a lost to find a quote for your theme as I was (and am), I suggest you go to this website, which lists out quotes in terms of topic. Or, as I usually do, just search, "Quotes about love" and you will get links to websites chock-full of quotes for your budding romance novel.

Let me take a gander here and list some quotes for famous books:

A Tale of Two Cities:

“Sometimes when you sacrifice something precious, you're not really losing it. You're just passing it on to someone else.”

― Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven

The Great Gatsby:

"Love is blindness."
--- Jack White

And so on and so forth. (Don't attack me for the above quotes. I just threw something out there so you can get a picture of what I'm talking about. The quotes sum up the theme of the novel.)

My current manuscript (YA Fantasy) is split into two parts, Part One consisting of the MC going around (more like being forced) to different places and being desperate to find a place she feels... happy. Meanwhile, she's bombarded with insults saying that she is stupid for thinking in the way she does.

My quote for Part One is:

"Not all those who wander are lost."
--- J.R.R. Tolkien (Whoa, really? I never knew he invented this quote! I just Googled to check.)

I still have to find my Part Two quote, and my Part One quote might change. If you want (just as an exercise) you can put a quote for every single chapter (if you are in dire need of a focus for your novel).

That's the beauty of this system. You just go along and you come across the perfect quote, and you feel all happy because you know that's the one -- and it might change when you find another quote.

It's a remarkable feeling to find the quote that completely understands your novel, and that's what you have to find: the quote that understands your novel.

I wish you the best in your search :)

Do you have any quotes you are thinking of for your novel? Do you have an addiction for quotes like I do (I really do)?


  1. Never thought about finding a quote. I did create a logline for my current manuscript before I began writing.

  2. To be honest, I don`t read quotes at the beginning of a chapter. I`ve always wondered, though, which came first, the chapter or the quote. :)

    I do the same as Alex by creating a logline first.

  3. Such a great Tolkien quote. All that is gold does not glitter ...

  4. The one you chose for Gatsby is good, I liked the use of that song in the trailer. It actually sums up the book more succinctly than the actual epigraph in the book:
    Then wear the gold hat, if that will move her;
    If you can bounce high, bounce for her too,
    Till she cry “Lover, gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover,
    I must have you!”

    For my novel, What the Water Gave Us, I thought about using: "Time enslaves all in the past." for the epigraph, but I've ended up not having one at all.

  5. though if I could quote the entire lyrics from no light, no light by Florence + the Machine that would work well

  6. Awesome collection of Aeschylus . Thanks for sharing this Quotes.