The moon was a thin white smile…

Word count: 332 words

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

A great way to improve your writing is to emulate the work of others. That’s why, every week, I present a sentence that I’d happily imitate. I comment today on sentence written by English author Neil Gaiman.

I loved the 2009 novel Coraline by Neil Gaiman — a dark, broody book in which a young girl discovers a dispeptic parallel universe in the apartment adjacent to her own.  In fact, I liked it so much I had absolutely no interest in seeing the movie. Movies so frequently spoil books and I didn’t want this one ruined for me.

Thus, when a friend gave me Gaiman’s most recent book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, as a birthday gift, I was thrilled. Gaiman understands children better than any other writer I’ve read. As I raced through this latest novel (I read it in just over a day) I was madly scribbling notes about the many sentences I admired.

Here is the winning entry in my sentence-of-the-week contest:

When I left, I went with Lettie Hempstock and her mother out of the front door, and the moon was a thin white smile, high in a cloudy sky; and the night was gusty with sudden, undecided spring breezes coming first from one direction, then from another; every now and again a gust of wind would contain a sprinkling of rain that never amounted to anything more than that.

Even though the metaphor of the moon as a person is well used, I like the way Gaiman gives it fresh life by focusing on the shape of a young moon — so similar to a smile.  I also appreciate the way he’s produced such an artfully balanced sentence — double-semi-colons resulting in a literary triptytch. Finally, perhaps because I live in the Pacific Northwest (where the weather isn’t terribly different from that of certain regions in England), I can relate to the sprinkling of rain following a gust of wind. That type of pattern frequently occurs in the Spring, in Vancouver, where I live.

Scroll to Top