Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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July 23, 2012

Put Your Reader in Your POV Character’s Skin ~ by Margie Lawson

This will be the only post here at Writers in the Storm until next Monday. We're leaving for the RWA 2012 Conference in Anaheim tomorrow.

BUT we'll be tweeting and Facebooking during the conference so those of you who aren't able to get to the Happiest Place on Earth will be able to experience some of the flavor and fun of the workshops, luncheons, mini conferences, and meet-and-greets.

Pre-conference activities:

Jenny Hansen, Fae Rowen, and Margie Lawson had dinner then worked together to construct a basket for the Kiss of Death Chapter's pre-conference meeting and dinner on Tuesday night.

Awesome goodies in the basket include three certificates from Margie - a lecture packet, one of Margie's online courses (valued at $40) and a 25 page triple-pass deep edit from Margie!

Here's a picture of Jenny and the basket.

Get thee to the Kiss of Death event! AND the Goodie Room...

Today, Laura Drake and Fae are taking Margie to Laguna Beach for sand, surf and the Sawdust Festival.

At Conference
Margie will be presenting Deep Editing Power at the Women's Fiction Mini Conference on Wednesday. On Friday at 4:30 p.m. her topic is In Media Res: A How-to Guide to Making Your Openings Pop.

We also begged asked Margie if she'd blog today so she could be with you guys ALL week while we go dark here at WITS.

If you've never read one of Margie's posts, you're in for a major treat. Whether you're a reader or a writer, you will love Margie Lawson. She has a way of breaking down a scene...we'll get out of the way so you can see her magic for yourself.


A giant hug to Writers In The Storm
for inviting me to be their guest for Conference Week!

Put Your Reader in Your POV Character's Skin
By Margie Lawson

Readers read for emotional impact.

Readers want to immerse themselves in the story world. They want to feel emotion.

We’ve all read books that should have emotionally engaged us, but didn’t. Why not?

One answer is the strength of the writing. Strong writing carries psychological power that speaks to the reader’s subconscious.


Did you catch my meaning? Here’s that sentence again:
Strong writing carries psychological power that speaks to the reader’s subconscious.

How do you add psychological power?
How do you speak to the reader’s subconscious?

That’s what my writing craft courses cover. I teach writers how to add psychological power and speak to the reader’s subconscious on every page.

I’ll analyze some excerpts and share a few deep editing points here. Please keep in mind what I cover in this blog is the itty-bitty tippy point of my teaching iceberg. An iceberg that is three miles deep.

Here’s that sentence one more time. This time, I’ll continue.

Strong writing carries psychological power that speaks to the reader’s subconscious. Strong writing is smooth and empowered. Strong writing creates page turners.

Here is an example from historical author Elizabeth Essex, The Danger of Desire. Elizabeth is a multi-Margie Grad and Immersion Master Class Grad too.

The Danger of Desire is set in London, November, 1799. Here’s a three-paragraph excerpt from page 3.

Meggs flexed her hands on the handle of her basket and wiped her fingers dry on the inside of her apron, swallowing the jitters that crawled up her throat. It would work. It always worked. Drunks were easy. Easy as taking gin from a dead whore. She gauged the distance and picked up speed, keeping even pace with the rising hammer of her heart, aiming to reach them just as they left the watery circle of lamplight. She’d be in the dark, and they’d never see her until it was too late.

Three yards to go. Two. Eyes and ears stretched open, blind to everything but the waistcoat pocket and deaf from the roaring of her blood, she put her head down and plowed right into them.

And it was dead easy. A turn of her body, a firm shove with the prickly reed basket, and the culls were separated and falling. And there she was, patient as the saints, waiting for the precise moment when his purse eased into her waiting hand, like a ripe plum plucked from a tree.

Deep Editing Analysis:

1. Compelling Cadence: Every sentence propels the reader into the next sentence.

2. Rhetorical Devices:

Three similes:

    • Easy as taking gin from a dead whore
    • patient as the saints
    • like a ripe plum plucked from a tree.

Metaphor: rising hammer of her heart

Anadiplosis: Drunks were easy. Easy as taking gin from a dead whore.

Alliteration – Last sentence: patient, precise, purse, plum, picked

3. Five Visceral Responses:

    • sweaty fingers
    • jitters in throat
    • heart hammering
    • vision narrowed
    • hearing roaring of her blood

4. Braided Scene Components: action, internalizations, body language, setting, visceral responses . . .

5. Power Words: jitters, drunk, dead whore, hammer, dark, blind, deaf, roaring, dead, falling

6. Sentence Structure: Varied. And the last two sentences start with “And.” They draw the reader in deeper.

7. Conflict/Tension - Throughout

The second excerpt is from Darynda Jones, Third Grave Dead Ahead released January 31, 2012. Darynda is a multi-Margie grad too.

Here’s an excerpt from page 32.

FYI: Charley is a private investigator, and the Grim Reaper. Charley’s dad says the first line.

“I want you to quit the investigations business.”

Though his statement was only slightly less welcome than chlamydia, I had to give him kudos for using the direct approach. For a former detective who’d retired with honors, he could be the most evasive man in my immediate gene pool, so this was a nice change.

But give up my business? The same business I’d built from the ground up with my own two hands and designer Louis Vuittons? The same business for which I’d sacrificed blood, sweat, and tears? Well, maybe not sweat and tears, but there was blood. Lots of blood.

Give it up? Not likely. Besides, what else would I do? I totally should’ve gone to Hogwarts when I had the chance.

I shifted in my chair as Dad waited for a response. He seemed determined, his resolve unwavering. This would take tact. Prudence. Possibly Milk Duds.

“Are you psychotic?” I asked, realizing my plan to charm and bribe him if need be flew out the window the minute I opened my mouth.


“Dad, no. I can’t believe you’re even asking this of me.”

“I’m not asking.” His sharp tone brought me up short, and all the huffing and puffing that had built beneath the surface slammed into me, knocking my breath away. Was he serious?

Deep Editing Analysis:

  1. How many Humor Hits did Darynda give the reader in that 233 word excerpt?

* less welcome than Chlamydia
* the most evasive man in my immediate gene pool
* built from the ground up with my own two hands and designer Louis Vuittons?
* not sweat and tears, but there was blood. Lots of blood.
* I totally should’ve gone to Hogwarts
* This would take tact. Prudence. Possibly Milk Duds.
* my plan to charm and bribe him if need be flew out the window

Seven Humor Hits in one page.

2. We learned Dad’s back story in one sentence.
3. Every line in the excerpt is cadence-driven.
4. Visceral Response: slammed into me, knocking my breath away.
5. Varied sentence lengths, and sentence frags.
6. Conflict/Tension – Throughout

One more excerpt. This one is from a YA by Lara Chapman, Flawless. Lara Chapman is a multi-Margie Grad, and an Immersion Master Class grad too.

Chapter One

I love the first day of school. There’s nothing like a new start. New clothes, new classes, new goals. And maybe, just maybe, the possibility of meeting a new guy.

Especially when you’re a senior in high school.

With a last glance at the ensemble I’ve put together for my last first day of high school and a mental kiss to the hair gods for my stunning naturally blond wavy hair, I close my bedroom door then dance downstairs.

Where I slam headfirst into reality.

Next to my “You Are Special Today” plate, a tradition my mother started on my first day of kindergarten, polished silverware sits on top of a rhinoplasty brochure.

No napkin. Just the brochure.

I ignore my mother’s watchful eyes. “Real subtle, Mom.” I move the silverware, then flick the glossy trifold with the tip of my finger, scoring a beautiful two-pointer as it lands in the silver and black trash can.

I totally hate the word rhinoplasty. How can you not think of a disgusting two-ton mammal when you hear that word?

Just call it what it is – a nose job.

Spatula in one hand, she pops the other onto her hip. “Just a suggestion, Sarah.”

“Yet still offensive. Couldn’t you have waited until, like, the second day of school to start in on me?” I stab the tasteless egg white omelet on my plate, wishing there were some crispy strips of bacon sitting next to it. It’s hard to believe I was actually born to this health-conscious runway-worthy woman. Being a Burke can be a serious pain in the butt.

“I only want what’s best for you. Now that you’re a senior, you’re old enough to make those changes we’ve always talked about.”

I drop the fork to my plate. “Not we, Mom. You. I don’t recall asking for the privilege of having some whack chop away at the nose you gave me. Just because you changed yours when you were eighteen doesn’t mean I have to.”

The honest truth is that I never would have requested this particular nose, but I’ve spent seventeen years learning to accept it.

“Sarah…” Mom stares at me, the wheels of her brain churning at top speed while her own omelet sizzles in the abandoned skillet. She doesn’t have to say what I know she’s thinking. How in the world will Beth Burke’s daughter ever follow in her news broadcasting footsteps with a honker the size of a Buick?

BLOG GUESTS: Are you in Sarah’s skin? Do you feel what she feels?

It’s your turn. The excerpt above is for YOU to analyze.

You’ve read two deep editing analyses. They share points regarding what writers can do to add psychological power, to speak to the reader’s subconscious, and put the reader in the POV character’s skin.

If you have questions about my courses, or Immersion Master Class, please ask!

If you like, post a comment and share a deep editing point from the excerpt from Flawless, by Lara Chapman. Or – post a comment and say Hi!

I hope to see you at the RWA Conference.

Margie Lawson—psychotherapist, editor, and international presenter—developed innovative editing systems and deep editing techniques used by writers, from newbies to NYT Bestsellers. She teaches writers how to edit for psychological power, how to hook the reader viscerally, how to create a page-turner.

Thousands of writers have learned Margie’s psychologically-based deep editing material. In the last seven years, she presented over sixty full day Master Classes for writers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Upcoming classes at Lawson Writer's Academy include:

  • Writing Compelling Scenes taught by Shirley Jump
  • Fab 30 in 40 days:Advanced Deep Editing, a Master Class taught by Margie Lawson
  • Steampunk A-Z taught by Suzie Lazear
  • Panning for Gold: Self-Publishing for Do It Yourselfers taught by Lisa Norman
  • The EDITS System: Turning Troubled Scenes Into Winners taught by Margie Lawson

For more information on Lawson Writer’s Academy, lecture packets, full day master classes, and the 5-day Immersion Master Class sessions offered in her Colorado mountain-top home, visit: www.MargieLawson.com.

0 comments on “Put Your Reader in Your POV Character’s Skin ~ by Margie Lawson”

  1. Margie, I'm just bummed I don't get to go to the KOD mini-conference and enter to win that basket!! Thanks so much for letting me play in tissue and sparkly ribbons last night. 🙂

  2. Margie makes this look so simple. That's good. If I didn't believe I can follow her example, I'd stare at my manuscript and imagine multiple (painful) ways to destroy it. 🙂

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