What makes Nora Roberts so great? As of 2011, her novels had spent a combined 861 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List, including 176 weeks in the number-one spot.
How about Debbie Macomber, a best-selling author of over 150 romance novels and contemporary women's fiction? Over 170 million copies of her books are in print throughout the world, and four have become made-for-TV-movies.
We can ask the same question of Stephen King, James Patterson, and many others and the answers would ultimately boil down to one word. Words. That’s the word—words.
And yes, there are brilliant marketing schemes, editors, publicists, and book events, but really what makes a book is word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph. And there are storytellers and there are poets. Not every storyteller is a wordsmith, and that’s okay.
So here’s the challenge. It’s easy to do. Go to your bookshelf, grab a few books (including your own if you’re a writer) and turn to page 5. Why page 5? I don’t know…I just chose page 5. You can choose a different page if you want. It doesn’t matter. Random is the goal. Skim the page and look for your favorite sentence. Just one sentence.
Here are five sentences from five page fives.
She was the same, she assured herself, the same woman she had been that morning. Nora Roberts
I was meant to own this bed-and-breakfast; it was as if it had sat on the market all these months waiting for me. Debbie Macomber
I actually had a hard time finding my favorite sentences in Nora or Debbie’s books. Notice both are passive sentences. I chose them because they moved the plot. In a Sarah Dessen novel, an author who has had a fraction of Nora’s or Debbie’s financial success, I had a hard time picking just one sentence. She writes beautiful sentences, over and over again. And great stories.
They were so scholarly that every time I saw either of them without a book in their hands they looked weird to me, as if they were missing their noses, or their elbows. Sarah Dessen
Marisa de los Santos also writes beautiful sentences, but if I’m honest, I’ll admit that I sometimes leave her books half read. Why? Because her beautiful sentences can’t carry a story fast enough (for me).
As soon as the merry-go-round inside her head slowed its whirling and jangling enough for her to think anything, she thought, Oh, Cat, followed by, Finally.
And here’s one of my own sentences from page five of my soon to be released novel, Beyond the Fortuneteller’s Tent.
His eyes and the small smile curving his lips sent a jolt of recognition up her spine although she knew they’d never met.
I’ll be honest…this isn’t my favorite sentence on that page. It’s probably the best sentence, but my favorite is: This guy would never wear a coral colored vest. Which isn’t a great sentence, but it says a lot about Emory…the character I’m currently in love with, so it’s my favorite, even if it’s pretty beige.
If you’re a writer and you have a favorite sentence off page 5, please share.