Q – Quotes

QI love quotes. Not going to lie. And I think most people do – whether it’s to show our fandom, or to use the thoughts of others; whether it’s for an academic purpose to support our thoughts, or for an argumentative one to use our opponents’ words against them. Quotes have power.

When it comes to creating fiction, however, or really any sort of writing – can you ever really know what parts are going to be quoted (if any)? Generally that’s not an element under your control. You don’t know whether you’ll be taken out of context, or people will catch a mistake, or catch that one phrase you worked really hard on. Many of the most influential academic papers tend to be ones with an important theory presented or word created or explained – which are often elements that happen early in the set-up of the paper, and rarely as the purpose of the whole paper. But these parts stick, even as the purpose is forgotten.

For fiction writing, I think that the go-to case study when it comes to quotes is Dune by Frank Herbert. In Dune, every chapter begins with a quote from somewhere in the science-fictional universe Herbert created – whether it is a quote from a history book (generally written after the time described in the book), or an ancient (though future for us) proverb, or a cultural proverb, or a quote from one of his characters from a scene we are not presented. There are poems and songs.

Herbert breathed life into this universe, and created one of the most lasting pieces of science fiction – and really the genre-defining work – in part by creating the important quotes of that world. The sorts of things the people would say, or turn to; the research in the world; the arts and writings. And by having these moments outside of the plot, though often enhancing the plot, he showed that this was a universe wholly realized and fleshed-out. He gave it substance.

What is the son but an extension of the father? To quote Dune. Brian Herbert kept this tradition going, and it is interesting to see it continued. It is a fantastic writing exercise and thought experiment. And though it would be hard to include quotes like this in another book without being compared directly to Dune, it would be good to be thinking about it: what sorts of quotes would exist in the world you are creating? Or what quotes would you like your readers to take away? Have those in mind, even if you don’t include them directly in the work!

Oh, and I found this collection of Dune quotes online.

[Edit]: And how could I forget this Dune quotes gem: http://calvinanddune.tumblr.com/


About CompGeeksDavid
Co-founder, editor, podcaster, web comicer, forum moderator, and writer for Comparative Geeks. Father, husband, geek, nerd, gamer, librarian, Christian, Libertarian, Science Fiction philosopher, and probably a number of other descriptors.

4 Responses to Q – Quotes

  1. I too love quotes. And I think they helped elevate Dune. The book would have been poorer without them. Great post!


    • Thanks!

      It’s tough though with Dune, because really, you can’t do that again without riffing Dune. However, you should maybe have an idea of some of the quotes in your world – and work them in some other way!


      • I thought that same thought. I have a list of quotes. I added them under the ‘extras’ tab in my blog because I couldn’t start each chapter the way they had in Dune. It felt like wrong. Still, if it lends itself to the story, I try to work them in.
        But, wasn’t it brilliant of them to do that? I really think that author has a bit of genius in him.

        Liked by 1 person

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