Friday, April 8, 2011

Every Word Matters

I came across No Country for Old Men on TV last night and watched it for a bit.

There's a scene where Tommy Lee Jones and his deputy are trying to reconstruct the events leading up to the shootout when the deputy says the following line as part of his recap.

"Gettin' set to trade. Then, whoooa, differences..."

It's not a plot-critical line, but it's not a throwaway line, either. (Full disclosure: I haven't read the book, so I don't know if the line appears in Cormac McCarthy's novel.)

But there's something about it that's just brilliant to me. Maybe it showed the young deputy's cynicism and coldness (which, sadly, he'd be needing in a world populated with folks like Anton Chigurh), compared to Tommy Lee Jones' character, who was struggling to keep up in a violent, lawless world that was nothing like the one he began his career in.

To me, it just reinforced the lesson we all know -- make every word in your story count. 


  1. How true! I wrote a post on my blog a long time ago about making your writing quote worthy. I find it interesting that you quoted this line from the movie. It reiterates my point. If it is worthy of being quoted it definitely matters to the story.

  2. Haley -- definitely.

    And the line is just brutally funny, given the bleakness of the movie.

  3. You're absolutely right. And you reminded me that I've been meaning to do a blog post on Hint Fiction, which is a terrific how-to-write-by-good-example book on making every word count. So I think I will.

  4. Natasha -- I will definitely check that out. Thanks.