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Beautiful Sentences in Fiction

Beautiful sentences

10 August 2023

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What makes a sentence beautiful? Is it word choice, style or content? Is it all three of these things? Can we call a sentence exceptional if it evokes an emotional response? Does a sentence need flowery language to describe it as spectacular or impressive?

We may all have different criteria, just as we have different tastes and opinions.

Here, I’ve listed some of my favourite sentences in fiction—some exceed a single sentence, some are short and some are simple, but I would argue that all have something pleasing about them. Let’s dive in!

Classics

1. “I must learn to be content with being happier than I deserve.”

— Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)

2. “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

— William Shakespeare, As You Like It (1623)

3. “I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be.”

— Charles Dickens, Great Expectations (1861)

20th-century literature

4. “And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”

— F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925)

5. “The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.”

— J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye (1951)

6. “It is good that we do not have to try to kill the sun or the moon or the stars. It is enough to live on the sea and kill our true brothers.”

— Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea (1952)

7. “Richard began to understand darkness: darkness as something solid and real, so much more than a simple absence of light. He felt it touch his skin, questing, moving, exploring: gliding through his mind”

— Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere (1996)

8. “We accept the love we think we deserve.”

— Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower (1999)

Modern marvels

9. “Time is a slippery thing: lose hold of it once, and its string might sail out of your hands forever.”

— Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch (2013)

10. “Sometimes people are beautiful. Not in looks. Not in what they say. Just in what they are.”

— Markus Zusak, The Book Thief (2005)

11. “We’re as likely to hurt the universe as we are to help it, and we’re not likely to do either.”

— John Green, The Fault in Our Stars (2012)

12. “Autumn leaves don’t fall, they fly. They take their time and wander on this their only chance to soar.”

— Delia Owens, Where the Crawdads Sing (2018)

The power of the opening line

13. “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”

— Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1877)

14. “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”

— Franz Kafka, Metamorphosis (1915)

Masterful world-building

15. “The city was a chessboard, carved of marble and shale. Moonlight was the players’ fingers, ghosts castling from one white square to the other.”

— Scott Lynch, The Lies of Locke Lamora (2006)

16. “The desert was the apotheosis of all deserts, huge, standing to the sky for what might have been parsecs in all directions.”

— Frank Herbert, Dune (1965)

Unforgettable dialogue

17. “Do I love you? My God, if your love were a grain of sand, mine would be a universe of beaches.”

— William Goldman, The Princess Bride (1973)

18. “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

— J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (1954)

Want to argue your case for why your favourite beautiful sentence should be featured in this list? Reach me at hello@beyondthechapter.com.

Now that we’ve covered beautiful sentences in all their glory, explore the best opening lines in YA fiction.

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Written By Eira Edwards

Eira is a writer and editor from the South of England with over five years of experience as a Content Manager, helping clients perfect their copy.

She has a degree in English Literature and Language, which she loves putting to work by working closely with fiction authors.

When she’s not working on manuscripts, you can find her in the woods with her partner and dog, or curling up with a good book.

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