All of us have connected with an emotional scene in a movie or a line in a book that leaves a lasting impact. Some of us remember the line word for word, while others can remember where they were when they read/saw it. It’s interesting how those small little moments make such a huge impact on us. It isn’t the dramatic scenes of dialogue or description, or the funny little quips between characters, but the small fragments of the story that are so powerful. In writing, those are what some of us call “one-liners.” Sentences with four or five words that make a huge impact on the reader. They grab you by the throat and say “connect with me, feel my emotions” and don’t let you go until you’re there. Some people know this one-liners as words of wisdom, like:
They have the same impact on anyone who reads them. They’re little nuggets of wisdom that make you want to live a better life and live using this little phrases. We are programmed to be impacted by honest, brutal emotions, and that’s why emotional statements like those are so effective. Writers (of all types) aim to create these effective phrases, and connect with an audience that way. A lot of times they will come out of nowhere while you’re working on an intense scene, or when you really start to connect to the character you’re using.
One of my previous posts was about the differences between using a plot that comes naturally versus one that you think of scene by scene. The issue between each of those ideas was the motivation level, and trying to have equal inspiration to write every plot. The beauty of one-liners is that they either come or they don’t. There’s no struggling over how to make an effective phrase, unless you’re editing one that you’ve already written.
One-liners are the true definition of creativity in my opinion, and they should be recognized as such. That being said, there are some amazing writers that don’t include one-liners in their pieces, and that doesn’t mean that they’re not creative. It just means that it comes in all forms and hits us all differently. That’s the beauty of creativity, there are so many layers and routes that it can take, it just amazes me everyday.
What I’m wondering about, though, is if there’s such a thing as over-doing one-liners. Sure, they’re natural and come when they’re welcomed, but what happens if you’re writing a novel, and there’s an effective one-liner in every chapter? I think, personally, there’s such a thing as too many, but I’m not sure where that limit is. I mean, should we put one-liners into the piece wherever they pop up, even if it’s two per page? Or, should we squelch some of them (which is a struggle itself, because we have to choose which ones!) in order to preserve the effectiveness of others? Let me know your thoughts and opinions! Also, what are somer really effective one-liners that you’ve come across? Go ahead and share them!