JM Williams

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A Few Quotes from Discworld 37




It’s no secret I am a huge Terry Pratchett fan. Ever since I read, er…listened to the first book I was taken in by his whimsical world. I’m sure his influence can be readily seen in my work, either in humor or concept.


I just started Discworld book number 37, Unseen Academicals, and have been struck by just how good the prose is.  I  wanted to share a couple gems from the opening pages:

Mr Scattering then got a job in a pet shop in Pellicool Steps, but left after three days because the way the kittens stared at him gave him nightmares.

Classic Pratchet humor to turn mundane things on their head. I have no idea what sort of look from a kitten could cause nightmares, only that I never wish to see it.

There was so much silence you could hear it. Everywhere it went, it stuffed the ears with invisible fluff.  -and- Silence listened with its mouth open.

Silence can be a powerful tool for creating atmosphere or tension, or simply setting a scene. But all too often, the words come out cliche. “Dead silent” or “eerily silent” or countless other variations–many of which I’m sure I’ve used–fall flat. Leave it to Sir Pratchett to find clever new ways to convey an old idea.

From somewhere in the distance came a sound like a large duck being trodden on, followed by a cry of ‘Ho, the Megapode!’ And then all hell eventuated. -and- Then the thing disappeared down another gloomy corridor, incessantly making that flat honking noise of the sort duck hunters make just before they are shot by other duck hunters.

Sound is an important sense and one that is difficult to convey in words without going full-on phonetic, which can be off-putting. Here Pratchett manages to convey a distinct sound clearly, at least to me, and provide a laugh at the same time. Plus I just love the phrase “All hell eventuated.” Though, that might just be due to the fact that we don’t really use “eventuated” in that manner in American English.

Well those are just a couple bits that stood out to me, though the pages as a whole thus far have generally been great. It would take too much space to remark on all the little phrases that lit me up.


2 Responses to A Few Quotes from Discworld 37

  1. The second quote is my favorite of the three. “Silence listened with its mouth open”. Brilliant line. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • J.M. Williams

      Yes, I loved that one, too. It also appears in the context of a duck-bird-beast-thing running around, so that adds to the metaphor.

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