On Writing – X is for X-Spot (or the line that says it all)

In literature and in drama, there is often one word, phrase or sentence that somehow manages to condense and capture the core theme of the story, novel play or film. I call it the x-spot. It’s an old theatrical trick and Shakespeare was the King of the X-Spot – think of the soliloquies of Hamlet, Richard III, Macbeth..

The X Spot in fiction can appear at any point in the story. It could be right at the start, as in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, it might be buried within the narrative or pop up in the denouement. But some writers like to leave it right to the end. The advantage of this approach is that the story continues to reverberate in the mind beyond the end of the book, and the writer leaves us with a sense that life goes on in one way or another.

Here are a few of my favourites.. what are yours?

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
–F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925)

The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which. –George Orwell, Animal Farm (1945)

The aircraft rise from the runways of the airport, carrying the remnants of Vaughan’s semen to the instrument panels and radiator grilles of a thousand crashing cars, the stances of a million passengers. –J. G. Ballard, Crash (1973)

Somebody threw a dead dog after him down the ravine. –Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano (1947)

For the final consummation and for me to feel less lonely, my last wish was that there should be a crowd of spectators at my execution and that they should greet me with the cries of hatred. - Albert Camus, The Outsider (1941)

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4 Responses to On Writing – X is for X-Spot (or the line that says it all)

  1. “It’s a dwarf thing, Sir, you wouldn’t understand.” Terry Pratchett, The Fifth Elephant.

    See – I was very good and resisted the urge to quote from Shaman’s Drum!

  2. Helen Howell says:

    I knew I had an X spot, if only I could find it…..^_^

  3. A bit topical for me…”History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I’m trying to awake.” James Joyce- Ulysses.

  4. Deb Hunter says:

    “I’ll think about it tomorrow.”

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