Monday, June 13, 2011

I Cut My Finger On The Mashed Potatoes!

By Janet Fogg

To be truthful, I didn’t cut my finger on the mashed potatoes, but my cousin Susan Guenther Garcia did cut hers, and she she has graciously allowed me to quote her.

I’ll often read an excerpt that immediately triggers a memory, one where I might laugh out loud, be thrust through time, or travel to a different world as I envision the lives of characters in books.

My cousin’s phrase is distinctive, and if I used it in a novel I might then explain that she really did cut her finger. She’d allowed the potatoes to dry in the pan and when cleaning up, the crusted edge of potato sliced her finger, made it bleed. Would I go into that much detail in a book? Probably. Would I need to? It depends.

Larry Schafer wrote, “She’s learning to breathe thru her feet.” Reading that, I paused for a long moment to consider what he meant. How in the heck do you breathe through your feet? I still don’t know, yet that phrase has stayed with me, as has his name.

Then there’s one that I can’t attach a name to, though I wish I could. “She looked like a hen in a fit.” Can’t you hear the fuss, envision the flapping as a cloud of dust filters through the air?

“Regular old cough drop she is, too,” from Georgette Rougier. No further description is needed. I can see the old woman quite well, hear her querulous voice.

A gentleman named Sam made me laugh out loud when he said, “His brain is as large as a pimple on a flea.” I don’t know if those are his words, an old saying, or a phrase he borrowed, but I remember it to this day.

“And the trumpets sounded for her on the other side.” Harriet is cradling Peter’s head after he hesitantly steps into her room so that together, they can face down his demons at the end of Dorothy Sayers’ Busman’s Honeymoon. Such a simple phrase, yet it carried all the power and glory of their love.

The words penned by our own Carol Berg often capture me, but one phrase made my tears flow as I read the last few pages of Breath and Bone. “She touched me that day – dipped her hand in the pool, and I burned with such fire at the remembrance of her hands...” Ah, Valen.

Simple words, quilted together in a multitude of patterns. Joy, agony, desire. Hope. Culmination of a story that tickles your funny bone or pierces your heart.

What phrases echo and rebound within your soul?


Giles Hash said...

I think two really resound in my mind. The first is when Harry Potter whispers to the snitch, "I'm ready to die."

The second is when Aslan (and a handful of other characters) shout out, "Further up and further in!"

The absolute finality and serenity of one character willing to give up his life for his friends, followed by the a scene that is the beginning of eternal joy for the characters of Lewis's Narnia.

Joyce Henderson said...

Hmm. The phrase I often read doesn't produce a warm fuzzy about one character or another. It's one I am soooo tired of reading.
With every part of her being... If I read that one more time, I swear I'll throw the book against the wall.

Well, maybe not if I'm reading the book on my Nook. :)

Ron at CM said...

With every part of her being, she flung her reading device skyward. The cliche wolf was at her door and there was no sense in beating around the bush.

"I wouldn't touch that story with a ten foot pole!"

I could put my nose to the grindstone, she thought, or my shoulder to the wheel.

But no, she went after the hair of the dog.

Kay Theodoratus said...

I think the most moving books I've read recently were Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay series. Are many passages that make you pause ... and even sniffle.

Just for the record: I did break a tooth on guacamole. There was even a witness.

Sisters of the Quill said...

The lines that stick out to me are often first lines. Examples:

"All those times me and Skip tried to kill his little brother, Donny, were just for fun." - Tawni O'Dell's BACK ROADS

“My mother had me sort the eyes.” -Elizabeth Graver'S short story THE BODY SHOP

I work hard to do that with my first lines:

"Sophie stared up at the ceiling, listening to the disembodied, authoritative voice coming from between her legs."
- from my novel adaptation of my screenplay HOT FLASH

"Wasabi on the nipples burns." - my novel STRANGE PEACE

Fun exercise, Janet!

Karen Lin

Patricia Stoltey said...

These are really nice examples. Kinda wish I'd thought of that one about the old lady as a cough drop.

Caroline Clemmons said...

One of my favorite lines is from an old book of Maggie Osborne's, THE PROMISE OF JENNY JONES. When she admitted to killing a Mexican soldier to keep him from raping her, Jenny says, "“Honesty is all I’ve got . . .I don’t have family. I don’t have beauty, or a man. I don’t have money, and I sure as hell don’t have a future. All I’ve got to prop up my pride is my word . . . When Jenny Jones says something, you can bet your last peso it’s true.”

Janet Fogg said...

@ Giles, what powerful examples. Thank you.

@ Joyce, you made me LOL!

@ Ron, you too!

@ Kay, I haven't read that series. Thank you for mentioning it. And watch out for the dip!

@ Karen, thank you for sharing your owns first lines, plus great examples!

@ Pat, I know what you mean, the cough drop description is so "simple" yet says so much.

@ Caroline, very powerful. Thank you for reminding us of Maggie's words.

Thanks, everyone!!

NC Weil said...

My two favorites, which I quote frequently, are:
1. "It's fun to have fun but you have to know how" from The Cat in the Hat, and
2. "They're funny things, Accidents. You never have them, till you're having them." Eeyore, from "In Which it is Shown That Tiggers Don't Climb Trees", from The House at Pooh Corner.
And on a more personal note, I am recovering from a bad burn I got making ice cream. (I was stirring the chocolate/sugar mix in a small pan with a too-flexible whisk, which flipped out blobs of scalding chocolate onto my fingers.)

Anonymous said...

A phrase I came up with: "I forgot more than I ever knew."

And there was something else....