Mr Beach was too well bred to be inquisitive, but his eyebrows here not. 'Ah!' he said. '?', cried the eyebrows. '? ? ?' Ashe ignored the eyebrows. ... Mr Beach's eyebrows were still mutely urging him to reveal all, but Ashe directed his gaze at that portion of the room which Mr Beach did not fill. He was hanged if he was going to let himself be hypnotized by a pair of eyebrows into incriminating himself.
Rex Stout's narrative and dialogue could not be improved, and he passes the supreme test of being rereadable. I don't know how many times I have reread the Wolfe stories, but plenty. I know exactly what is coming and how it is all going to end, but it doesn't matter. That's writing.
...smoking is just a habit. 'Tolstoy', she said, mentioning someone I hadn't met, 'says that just as much pleasure can be got from twirling the fingers'. My impulse was to tell her Tolstoy was off his onion, but I choked down the heated words. For all I know, the man might be a bosom pal of hers and she might resent criticism of him, however justified.
I believe the only way a writer can keep himself up to the mark is by examining each story quite coldly before he starts writing it and asking himself if it is all right as a story. I mean, once you go saying to yourself, 'This is a pretty weak plot as it stands, but I'm such a hell of a writer that my magic touch will make it okay,' you're sunk. If they aren't in interesting situations, characters can't be major characters, not even if you have the rest of the troop talk their heads off about them.
Beginning with a critique of my own limbs, which she said, justly enough, were nothing to write home about, this girl went on to dissect my manners, morals, intellect, general physique, and method of eating asparagus with such acerbity that by the time she had finished the best you could say of Bertram was that, so far as was known, he had never actually committed murder or set fire to an orphan asylum.