Before you read this post, pause for a moment. Think of the most memorable book quote from a book you have read (that also happens to be your favourite). Cast your mind around for a while. Look at the books on your shelves if you have to. Got it? Great.
Throughout the ages, there have been many memorable quotes. They have been said in speeches, such as by Nelson Mandela, appeared on the internet, such as users on Tumblr and Twitter, or, most commonly perhaps, they have been written in books.
JK Rowling managed to make tons of people cry with just one word: “Always.” She also managed to make one of my favourite ones:
So quotes can be long or short. For example, one of my favourites is from The Great Gatsby and the entire sentence is 36 words long. When I started writing this article, the first quote that came to mind was, actually, “Always.”
You want – need – to make your readers remember you. Sure, you can do that with a lot of words. I remember plots of books, rather than certain bits. But think about the great series’ and books out there – if you google for posters for them, you’ll often find a picture of a quote. You only need one to make the desired effect (although lots are loved as well).
Making a great quote is harder than it looks (believe me, I’ve tried). Sometimes, they just come to you. That’s the most often way to do it. But if you really want to make it memorable, a fan-favourite, then there are a few things that can help you:
- Use a word/phrase that people use a lot anyway. Add a twist to it. For example: “Always.”
- Make it relatable. When the Prisoner of Azkaban came out in stores, many of those who had started reading Harry Potter at a young age (eg, 11) were around their early teens. This means the rebellious stage, so, naturally, a quote such as, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good,” is going to stick in their minds.
- Make it humorous. Even dry humour is good: for example, “Dobby never meant to kill. Dobby only meant to main, or seriously injure.”
- Make it short and snappy, or, if it’s in a long sentence, make the bit you want to be memorable short and snappy. On average, the human mind can remember 7 – 11 things (that’s why telephone numbers start with ’07’ – then you only have to remember 9 numbers, the middle of that scale). The Gatsby quote I mentioned above has 36 words, but the only bit I really like in it has 15 words (“…a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy’s wing.”). People remember less much easier than they remember more.
- Give it a human punch. By this, I don’t mean beating up your fellow citizens, I mean making it human. For example: “Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.” People can relate to it, people want to relate to it is more the thing. This kinda links in with the first point, but basically what you have to try and do is make people feel an emotional attachment to the sentence. It could be an emotional moment in the book – then, the scene sticks in their minds just as much as the character.
- Use big words people like. Now, I know that this one is a movie quote, but, let’s face it, it could have happened in a book: “I believe true focus lies somewhere between rage and serenity.” – Charles Xavier (X-Men: First Class). ‘Serenity’ is the ‘big word’ I’m referencing in this sentence. People like to remember big words, and if they’re unusual, such as serenity, which isn’t used as often as it could be because it’s an awesome word, they will remember it better, too. Think about your day, for instance: do you remember the boring parts or the exciting parts? (Unless you have a really dull life, the answer is exciting.)
One more thing:
- Make it be said by a character people love. People love characters, people remember characters, people remember what characters say. My favourite Harry Potter book is Prisoner of Azkaban – I remember quotes from that book. My favourite X-Men character is Charles Xavier (then again, he’s a very quoteable person). It’s just something that might help people to remember, too.
You can’t force people to remember your quotes (unless you use it as a tag line, such as Sisters Red’s “Who’s afraid of the big, bad wolf?”), but you can give them a gentle push in that direction.
Have fun with your quotes, even mix up ones that have already been used and create something unique! Remember, similes and metaphors are great ways to make a memorable quote, too.
Good luck quoting!
Questions, comments, thoughts? Shoot! 😀
PS: If anyone can tell me (no peeking!) the tag line underneath the title on my blog page, you get 10 house points and a cookie!