I’ve been thinking about great snippets today – those short little passages that just fill me with delight as a reader. So I thought I’d share some of them, and ask you for your favorites if you can think of any.
First, there’s a snippet that I came across today, listening to “Betrayer of Worlds” on my digital audiobook player as I walked part of the way home from work. In this section, Louis Wu is undercover on the human-colonized planet New Terra, trying to get recruited by an alien-led crime gang:
Louis stopped as four burly men in greasy coveralls came up to him. “Somethin’ I can do for you gentlemen?”
“Yeah,” one said. “Take it outside. Minister Ausfaller’s saved this world more than once.”
Louis turned back toward the bar, only to be grabbed by the collar and dragged off his stool. He was shoved, none too gently, into the trash cans in the alley behind the saloon. Seconds later, this being an absurdly civil world, his pocket-comp, [containing his meager credit balance,] sailed out the door after him.
I think a lot of my favorite writing paints ‘word pictures’, and this is definitely part of the appeal here – the image of Louis getting the bum’s rush on a kinder, gentler world. They still throw you out of the bar for making a nuisance of yourself, but they make a point of tossing your (difficult to hack) digital wallet out after you.
The second snippet I’d like to share is actually one of my own – I’ve been rereading my first draft of Roswell Calling, and couldn’t stop from giggling when I got to this passage, as some of the teenage characters are gathering at an Italian restaurant. A little guide to the character relationships will help set the scene – Tess and Liz are both interested in Max, Liz and Kyle used to date, and Kyle has a new girlfriend now, Sarah, (though she isn’t mentioned in this snippet, but is sitting on the other side of Kyle in the booth.)
Tess looked around and realized that Liz was already crossing the room towards her. Somewhat impulsively she stepped back and waved Liz into the booth. Liz got close enough to see what the seating arrangement was and made a ‘no, after you’ wave in response. That’s as far as it goes, Tess decided silently, and took Liz at her gesture, sliding in enough to let Liz get in next to her if she chose to. Liz hesitated a moment and took the seat next to Kyle instead – which had all sorts of possible signals it could be sending, from ‘Hey, Kyle, remember how much you used to like me’ to ‘Hey, Max, can I make you jealous of Kyle’ or even just ‘Hey, Max, from here I can see your face.’
Here, the description is a little less visual, but I do like the little dance about who should sit next to Max, Tess deciding to take it after yielding once and having Liz yield back to her, and the evaluation of two somewhat devious and manipulative reasons for Liz to be sitting next to Kyle, before coming to a very simple and obvious one.
Finally, since good things should come in threes, here’s a snippet I like from “Ptolemy’s Gate”, in the Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. Bartimaeus the djinni is narrating with his usual flair, and by this point he has agreed to share Nathaniel’s body and do battle together against powerful rogue spirits. Half of the snippet is actually in the form of a ‘footnote’, which I find in this series are not to be skipped over lightly, and in fact contain some of the best punchlines.
We communicated with pithy, rather monosyllabic thoughts; viz Run, Jump, Where? Left, Up, Duck, etc. 3
3 The latter was an observation I made on the edge of the lake. Nathaniel unfortunately took it as a command, which resulted in our temporary immersion.
Again, it’s a funny picture, in fact a funny little episode that I can easily reconstruct in full narrative, including the mental argument that Nathaniel and Bartimaeus would have had afterward about who would find it necessary to point out a completely irrelevant duck, and of course they should limit their mental communication to important commands. And there’s something about the dry and breezy way that Bartimaeus tells us the headlines that just makes it even funnier to me.
So, any favorite snippets that you’d like to share?