THANK YOU to all the uber-talented and uber-fun WITS gals for inviting me to guest blog again!
Margie’s Rule #5: If the Hyphenated-Run-On Fits…
If you’re a Margie-grad, you know I love well written hyphenated-run-ons. That’s my term for stringing three or more words together with hyphens. They give you a boost on the write-fresh scale. You can make a hyphenated-run-on as fresh as you dare.
Okay. Dare may be too strong. Rewrite: You can make a hyphenated-run-on as fresh as fits the character and the scene.
Look at this series of hyphenated-run-ons in one sentence from an NCIS episode. Tony looks at Gibbs and says,
"Uh-oh. I know that look. That's the stay-up-all-night, no-sleep, take-one-for-the-team, I've-got-a-plan look."
Four back-to-back hyphenated-run-ons, probably not something you’d want more than once per book. Maybe zero times. But you may have a place where two or three in a row are perfect.
The Second Virginity of Suzy Green, Sarah Hantz, Margie-Grad
I look across at Lori, who’s smiling at me. Thing is I don’t know if it’s a wanting-to-please-teacher smile, or whether it’s a genuine I-want-to-get-to-know-you smile.
Sarah Hantz played up that contrast with two hyphenated-run-ons in one sentence. Smart!
Chasing Luck, Brinda Berry, Immersion-Grad, 7 examples
- JT takes a sip of red wine and relaxes into his you're-being-unreasonable smile.
- The older man who exited the men's room gives me the she-must-be-on-drugs look, mumbles apologies, and walks off.
- I hook the printer up and know I'm in for some death-by-reading and I'm definitely on a suicide mission coded please-get-to-the-point.
Brinda Berry took what could have been mundane, used power words (death, suicide mission), and added humor hits with two hyphenated-run-ons to make that sentence strong.
- And I almost melt into a pool of girly goo. Jerk. Totally gorgeous-beyond-words jerk.
Fun, fun, fun!
- I'm struggling to hold my totally-undeniably-pissed expression.
- Call me a coward, but I don’t know how to do this friend-with-a-female thing.
I shared the full paragraph in the next example.
- The scales definitely tip in the direction of bad news. She's not his trophy wife or barely-legal mistress. She’s his niece — the number one spot on the dateable-but-off-limits list. The girl looks at me and her gaze makes a slow run down the length of my body. I'm beyond screwed. Goodbye Miss Innocent, hello Miss Seductress.
Strong writing. Fresh hyphenated-run-on. Compelling cadence throughout.
The Last Breath, to be released Sept. 30th, MIRA, Kimberly Belle, 4-time Immersion-Grad, 4 examples
- By the time I make it to the front door, she’s standing on the welcome mat with a crate of medical supplies and a hurry-up-and-let-me-in grin.
- When the kitchen door swings wide a few minutes later revealing Jake coming at us with two plates piled high with tonight’s special, I realize I’m ravenous. Outta-my-way-and-let-me-at-it ravenous.
- Plus, one look at Jake’s just-got-laid grin and the purple love bite below his right ear, and everybody in the place will know.
- I give him an I’m-thirty-four-so-don’t-even-go-there look. “Out.”
Kimberly Belle used a hyphenated-run-on to slip in the POV character’s age. Brilliant!
When You Are Mine, Kennedy Ryan, Immersion-Grad, 3 examples
- “How are you holding up, Aunt Kris?” Jo kept her eyes on Kristeene’s thinner-than-usual face. “Don’t lie to me.”
Two examples with strong dialogue cues.
- “Walsh, you know Cam is serious about Kerris, right?” Jo used her don’t-play-a-player voice on him. “He’s going to propose again.”
- Walsh lobbed a silent yes-get-me-out-of-this expression to his mother. She returned with a mama-always-knows smile.
Love the way Kennedy Ryan used one hyphenated-run-on as a stimulus, and another one as a response. Smart writing!
Sixth Grave Beyond the Edge, Darynda Jones, NYT Bestseller, Margie-Grad, 4 examples
- I’d have to pull the talking-into-the-phone routine.
- If her puking-on-demand skills were anything like her acting skills, she’d nail it.
- “They definitely bugged. That whole gun-to-the-head thing was very annoying.”
Darynda Jones is a master of Humor Hits. Gun-to-head thing, annoying—great understatement.
- This was the part I didn’t handle well. The people-left-behind part. Their sorrow was like a boulder on my chest.
Darynda Jones can also grab your heart, and squeeze. You feel her characters’ pain.
Sweet On You, Laura Drake, 2014 RITA Winner, Immersion-Grad, 4 examples
- Doc spoke in his calm-a-spooked-horse voice, his hands running over the cowboy’s neck, checking his skull, his facial bones.
- Buster was going to get on a ton of pissed-off, stomp-your-guts-out bull, and he smiled.
In the next example, the male POV character is referring to a girl. Love it!
- “Tiny, blond, and shiny as a showroom-floor sports car. Fully loaded.” He closed his eyes. “It was more than that. She looked at me like I’d made the world just for her. That’s pretty heady stuff for a fresh-off-the-farm boy.”
I had to share the full paragraph in the example below too.
- But under that, deep in the bottom of her mind where light couldn’t penetrate, was fear. Helpless, paralyzing, curled-in-a-ball-blubbering fear. Every screw-up took her down farther into that hell-hole. She wondered when she’d reach the place where she wouldn’t have the energy to try again.
Wow. Look how Laura Drake kept amplifying and taking the reader deeper and deeper.
Notice the power words and phrases in that last example: deep, bottom, mind, penetrate, fear, helpless, paralyzing, blubbering, fear, screw-up, down farther, hell-hole, wouldn’t have energy
Hear the compelling cadence.
You’ll notice that all the examples in my blogs, and lectures, have compelling cadence. Yep. Cadence is that critical.
You’ll also notice that all the examples in this blog are from Margie-Grads.
I am proud, proud, proud of my uber-talented Margie-Grads!
You may have some common hyphenated-run-ons like door-to-door, hundred-mile-an-hour, or off-the-grid. They work. They’re fine. But I encourage you to write some fresh, make-the-reader-laugh, or carry-a-punch, hyphenated-run-ons too.
You can have too much fun with hyphenated-run-ons:
- If you have too many too close together
- If they don’t fit the emotional tone of the scene
- If they don’t fit the POV character’s voice
- If they don’t fit the writer’s voice
Hyphenated-run-ons can be all-purpose slip ins. You can use them to slip in a hit of backstory, setting, attitude, facial expression, dialogue cue, humor, angst…
You can use them to provide a contrast, or a balance.
You can use them to make the mundane more interesting, to make a character more interesting, to make a scene more interesting.
You can use them to share a concept or a visual in fewer words. They pick up pace.
If you haven’t included hyphenated-run-ons in your WIP, dig deep and write fresh.
If you have fun writing a hyphenated-run-on and it fits, your reader will probably have fun reading it too. Make your writing like chocolate mousse on the tip of the tongue. Make your reader want more and more.
BLOG GUESTS: IT’S YOUR TURN!
Want to post a hyphenated-run-on you’ve read, or a hyphenated-run-on you wrote?
Post a comment, and you’ll be in the drawing to win an online course from Lawson Writer’s Academy!
If you want to see the previous Margie's Rules you can find them here:
- Margie's Rule #4: Add Power to Blah
- Margie's Rule #3: Lock in the Emotional Set
- Margie's Rule #2: Write the Hard Stuff - Facial Expressions
- Margie's Rule #1: Never Take Any Word for Granted
Check out the courses we’re offering in October:
1. Scene and Sequel: Superpowered Writing Tool, Instructor: Kathleen Baldwin
2. Taking a Book From Good to Sold, Instructor: NYT Bestseller Shirley Jump
3. Taming Twitter and Facebook Too! Instructor: Julie Rowe
4. Create Compelling Characters, Instructor: Rhay Christou, MFA
5. Creating That Historical Feel, Instructor: Anne Mateer
6. 30 Days to a Stronger Novel, Instructor: Lisa Wells
7. From Madness to Method: Usingacting techniques to invigorate your story and make each moment Oscar worthy! Instructor: Tiffany Lawson Inman
The drawing will be Friday, September 19, 8:00 PM Mountain Time.
See you on the blog!
Margie Lawson teaches writers how to use her psychologically-based editing systems and deep editing techniques to create page turners. Margie has presented over ninety full day master classes for writers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Margie is excited to share that Romance Writers of Australia is bringing her back to present at their conference next summer!
To learn about Lawson Writer’s Academy, Margie’s 4-day Immersion Master Classes (in Denver, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Dallas, Seattle, San Antonio, Columbus, Jacksonville, Houston, and on Whidbey Island), her full day Master Class presentations, keynote speeches, on-line courses, lecture packets, and newsletter, please visit www.MargieLawson.com.