From JT: I'm in Chicago for my very first Love is Murder convention today. I haven't made it to a con since Thrillerfest last year, so I'm excited to spend some time with good friends, and hopefully make some new ones. If you're coming to LIM, please stop me and say hello – I'll be around the hotel in all the usual places. I'll be back next week with a scintillating wrap up of the JK tour, and a little bit about the new writing methods – what's worked and what hasn't. (Promise!)
I'm so excited to have Camille Minichino with us today! Camille is a non-traditional cozy writer, and she's awfully clever, as you'll see, so ENJOY!
I'm a big fan of Steven Wright. This one-liner is one of my favorites:
I went to the museum
where they had all the heads and arms from the statues that are in all the
Now, my mind works in
strange ways, so it may not be clear how that line inspired my next
project: I'm going to write a crime drama using all the sentences
and phrases from all the other crime dramas.
I figure all I need to
do is take the following must-have elements of dialogue and throw in
a few "characters welcome."
0. "Are you okay?"
Standard question after a nuclear holocaust or removing a splinter.
1. "I never meant
for this to happen." Can be used for explaining an affair, a
murder, or binge drinking.
2. "Let's go.
Let's go. Let's go." Must be said three times; most apt for law
enforcement types about to storm a warehouse, but also useful for Mom
waving a briefcase and rushing kids to the carpool, or for thugs
waiting behind a tree to steal a bike.
3."I didn't see
anything." Appropriate from any suspect, any time.
4. "No one was
supposed to get hurt." Useful in a morgue scene.
5. "She was alive
when I left her," or its corollary, "He was already dead
when I got there." The easy way to establish a timeline for the
6. "I loved him.
I'd never hurt him." (or the reverse) spoken by one who usually
is not the killer.
7. "… so I
can move on with my life." Rationale for a transfer of
ex-spouse's funds to an off-shore account.
8. "What's that's
supposed to mean?" Acceptable even though the one asking the
question is the only one who doesn't know exactly what it's supposed
There are so many
more—those points in a drama when you and whoever is watching
with you say the line two seconds before the actor does. But for now,
I'm going to
9. "Get some
I'm always looking for
lines that are so specific that they can be used in only one context,
Remember this scene in
"Mrs. Henderson Presents" — theater manager Bob Hoskins is
walking away from Judi Dench, not interested in working with her.
Until she lifts her chin and says the line that turns the movie on
its heels: "I have a theater."
I wrote that line on a
card above my computer. I don't have a theater and I don't want one,
but someday I'm going write a line that good, a line that provides
unquestionable motivation for a character's actions, reveals the
dynamics of a relationship, and gives the story its momentum.
I'm sure you have your
own list. From one cop to another:
10. "What do you
* Technical note on my
numbering system: the first in the list has been numbered 0, for a
reason similar to that for the Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics—because
the need to state it explicitly was not understood until after the
First, Second, and Third Laws had been named and become commonplace.
The zeroth law: If two systems are in thermal equilibrium with a
third system, they are in thermal equilibrium with each other.
You can see the obvious
You can also see why
I'm having trouble writing that one extraordinary line.
Camille Minichino (aka Margaret Grace)'s taste runs to the dark (think
Natsuo Kirino and Jeff Lindsay).
She doesn't like any of the
hallmarks of cozy mysteries: pets, kids, cooking, and light humor.
And yet, she has written twelve cozy mystery novels, the latest three
releases featuring a ten-year-old. This in itself is a mystery. She's
on the Board of NorCal Sisters in Crime, past president of NorCal
SinC and NorCal MWA, past physicist, past nun, a minister, and a
miniaturist. She's married to her webmaster, loves writing, but
misses her He-Ne laser. Visit Camille at www.minichino.com
Hi Camille and welcome to Murderati! Wonderful lines, all.
My personal favourite of Stephen Wright’s is: “Yesterday I saw a subliminal advertising executive – just for a second …”
Cliché lines? “Let’s get the hell out of here!” Suitable for a whole variety of situations, but usually spoken just before things start blowing up.
My favourite movie line was one in ‘Serenity’, the spin-off from Joss Whedon’s brilliant but short-lived space/western ‘Firefly’.
The chief bad guy has set his minions the task of capturing our heroes, which seems a foregone conclusion – they have more or less walked right into his clutches. There then follows a beautifully brief scene, containing only one line of dialogue, where the bad guy is standing gripping a railing, looking highly naffed off, while a cowering minion stands a respectful distance behind him, having obviously just delivered some off-camera bad news.
The chief bad guy says, through slightly gritted teeth, “Define ‘disappeared’?”
I loved the idea of that one perfect line that could only come from one book. Or at least one that evokes that book or film for me. Like “Who are these guys?” from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Hannibal Lecter’s dinner description. Bogie’s “Here’s looking at you, kid.” Dirty Harry’s “Do you feel lucky?”
That’s great about single lines that encapsulate a story. It reminds me of my WIP. I’ve got one character who’s lazy and another who is tired of lugging things around. While those two descriptions seem similiar, I’m focused turning each of their lines to specifically fit only one or the other.
I actually do this with my kids, just to keep the atmosphere light in my class. I’ll write specific quotes from movies and they have to figure the film out. One I can’t put on the board in my room is one of my favorites that illustrates the animosity between the two characters, but their willingness to put it aside to deal with the task at hand. It also shows they both have a sense of humor. In X-men, Wolverine returns to the group, but he might be Mystique in disguise, so Cyclops immediately puts his finger to his visor to shoot.Wolverine: “Whoa, it’s me.”Cyclops: “Prove it.”Wolverine: “Okay…you’re a dick.”Cyclops: [Pause] “Okay then.”
Oh, and while I don’t think it’s his funniest, I always remember Stephen Wright’s, “I spilled spot remover on my dog. Now he’s gone.”
Thanks for giving me a great start to my morning, everyone! I’m copying all your lines.
My husband wanted me to add one, but I’d already sent the blog off to JT.
“Last night was a mistake” — oops, I hope he didn’t mean that for us!
Yea Camille! My favorite English teacher ever wanted to write one perfect line of poetry before he died. His love of lines he considered perfect was a powerful thing–he would read them out to us with such relish.
I remember him explaining to us that the opening line of Poe’s “A Cask of Amontillado” was the most perfect opening sentence ever, and that we had to pay very close attention to it, then proceeded to read the opening, twice, before letting us hear the entire story…
“The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as best I could, but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge.”
I can still hear Mr. Rainer’s voice, reading that. He died last year.
“Cask …” is one of my favorite Poe stories, one of the first pieces of writing that gave me chills, but I’d forgotten that amazing first line.
Thanks Cornelia; I’m going to read it again trying to hear Mr. Rainer’s voice.
Camille,How wonderful to see you at Murderati. Sorry to respond so late.
I’m thinking of fun cliches: “We’ll always have —– ,” (Fill in the blank. I usually think it should be “Vegas.”)
“You lookin’ at me? Are you lookin at ME?” BANG!!
My absolute fave, For evermore.
Great piece. I also like, “You know more than you think you do,” spoken by the unnaturally sagacious detective to the unnaturally dense witness, and “Do I look like a murderer”: usually said by a character in a novel who was under-described in the first place.
This is the kind of piece that should keep us all on our toes as we write. It might even keep some of us from writing the words I probably like least to see in a narrative: “If I had only known then . . .”
Thanks Pari, Kathryn, and Timothy — love your examples!With all the additions today, I think it would be possible to write a whole script using only these lines.
There’s also the detective who presents an ultimatum, gets up to leave, and the perp says — drum roll — WAIT!
THANKS Murderati bloggers for having me here today! I’m delighted to be in your ranks for a day!
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Nice post. I enjoyed reading your composition specially when you write write a crime drama using all the sentences and phrases from all the other crime dramas. Thanks for posting this.