June 21st, 2019

The Power of Silence on the Page

Margie Lawson

We’ve probably all read these sentences about silence, or variations.

  • The room went silent.
  • We all quit talking.
  • Everyone was silent for a couple of minutes.

And we’ve read these types of sentences about staying silent too.

  • He opened his mouth, but nothing came out.
  • She opened her mouth to talk then shut it again.
  • He started to talk, then decided not to.

They’re all overused. Clichéd.

When you read sentences you’ve read before, your mind can take a mini-vacation. It only takes a second to get pulled out of a story.

The more overused phrases and sentences per page, the more often you lose the reader.

You can use silence to:

  • share emotion
  • share backstory
  • share relationship dynamics
  • share how it impacts the POV character
  • elicit a visceral response
  • add tension or relieve tension
  • show a character acting in expected or unexpected ways
  • add power to any paragraph or passage or scene

Don’t go on autopilot and throw overused phrases and sentences in your WIP.

Dig deep and write fresh.

Got it?

No groaning.

Agents, editors, reviewers, and readers will thank you. Sometimes they thank me.

Now we get to dive in and enjoy examples from Immersion Grads. They’ve all taken at least one of my 5-day intensive Immersion Master Classes.

I’ll deep edit analyze the first example from each author.

Please read all the examples OUT LOUD. You’ll train your cadence ear.

We’ll start with a moment of silence. The silence that happens when a parent enters the room.

Amazing Grace, Elaine Fraser, 3-time Immersion-Grad

Silence—the sort of silence that sucked movement, breath, life, out of a room—descended. A presence behind her sent out a chill. It wriggled down her spine and she shivered. Mum stilled three teenage boys, a man, and a girl, just by entering a room. Her brothers were named after superheroes, but her mother owned the power.

Wow. Stellar writing.

Deep Edit Analysis:

  • Power Words:  Silence, silence, sucked, breath, life, presence, chill, wriggled, shivered, stilled, entering a room, superheroes, owned, power
  • Rhetorical Devices
    • Amplification – amplified silence, big-time
    • Alliteration – silence, sort, silence, sucked, sent, spine, she, shivered, stilled
    • Asyndeton (No And) – movement, breath, life
    • Structural Parallelism -- Last sentence
    • Visceral Responses -- Three Visceral Hits: chill, wriggling down spine, shiver
    • Power Internalizations: Last two sentences
    • Humor Hits: Last two sentences
    • Compelling Cadence: Throughout    
    • Deepened Characterization for All Characters

Two more examples from Amazing Grace by Elaine Fraser:

2. Whispers and giggles wafted around her, interspersed with eerie silence and weighty stares.

3.  Grace clutched the phone as if she could squeeze it into silence. The battery would go flat soon. Then no one would bother her. She wanted to stay in bed and never speak to anyone ever again.

Home at Chestnut Creek, Laura Drake, 2-time Immersion Grad, RITA Winner

A glacial silence fills the kitchen, dampening sound like a heavy snow.

Deep Edit Analysis:

  • Power Words: glacial, silence, dampening, heavy
  • Compelling Cadence

The Marriage Lie, Kimberly Belle, 5-time Immersion Grad, International Bestseller

1.  Silence stretches, long and leaden, and I feel the need to defend myself.

Deep Edit Analysis:

  • Power Words: silence, long, leaden, need, defend self
  • Double Alliteration: s, s. and l, l
  • Deepens Characterization: Shares impact of silence on POV character
  • Compelling Cadence

2.  For the longest moment, Corban is speechless, a lapse of silence that amplifies the coffee shop sounds all around us.

3.  He passes me one of the bottles, ice cold and sweating, and we set off for the alley that leads to the trail in painful, stomach-churning silence.

Dear Wife (Advanced Reader Copy), Kimberly Belle, 5-time Immersion Grad, International Bestseller

Dear Wife will be released June 25

  1. The silence that fills the hallway tightens the skin of my stomach.

Deep Edit Analysis:

  • Power Words:  silence, tightens, skin, stomach
  • Stimulus-Response: Silence is stimulus for a Visceral Response
  • Compelling Cadence

2.  The words bounce around the house, then fall into a silence so absolute it rings in my ears.

3.  He doesn’t share my joviality, not even a little bit. The silence stretches, long and painful.

Long Shot, Kennedy Ryan, Immersion Grad, Top 25 Amazon Bestseller

  1. We stare at each other in a silence rich with things I shouldn’t say.

Wow.  It grabbed you too. Right?

Deep Edit Analysis:

  • Power Words: stare, silence, rich, shouldn’t say
  • Amplification: Amplified silence in a personal way.

2. We’re separated by miles and an ocean’s worth of silence floating between us.

3. There’s a thick silence once they leave. Their mingled scents still linger. Their presence was so strong, I can practically see an impression of them left in the air.

Being Alpha, Aileen Erin, 2-time Immersion Grad, USA Today Bestseller

  1. “He’s here,” I said too quiet, but those two words silenced the room.

Deep Edit Analysis:

  • Power Words:  He’s here, quiet, silenced, room
  • Emphasizes the power of that he
  • Implies fear
  • Compelling Cadence

2. My ears were still ringing from my own screams in the silence that followed. 

3. The tiny gap of silence between the sounds meant that the demon was saying two words.

Never Let Me Fall, Abbie Roads, 5-time Immersion Grad,

1.  It didn’t faze him that she didn’t speak out loud. He wasn’t like the annoying social worker at prison who’d kept trying to convince her to talk. Or the COs who’d assumed she was either deaf or stupid because she didn’t speak. Or the Sisters who’d taunted her ten times worse because she never taunted them back. He understood and accepted her silence in a way no one else ever had.

Deep Edit Analysis:

  • Power Words: out loud, annoying, social worker, prison, convince, talk, COs, deaf, stupid, didn’t speak, Sisters, taunted, worse, taunted, understood, accepted, silence, no one else
  • Shares four big hits of backstory for POV character
  • Shares relationship dynamic
  • Compelling Cadence

2.  The gunshot was loud and obscene in the quiet of the night. The sound of the shot didn’t echo. Instead, it stretched out like a rubber band, getting thinner and thinner by the second until only silence stood between them.

3.  Lanning nodded as if he understood, but silence ticked by slow and suspicious.

Look at the alliteration (s, s, s) and the powerful and surprising backload, suspicious.

4. And the sweet, sweet silence felt like a miracle. A deep sense of peace subdued the bad memories that played on repeat in the back of her mind.

Hello, everyone!

I hope this blog motivates you to avoid clichéd writing, dig deeper, and write fresh.

Make silence, or facial expressions, or dialogue cues, or setting, or visceral responses, or any scene element more interesting. More powerful.

Want to learn how to write as well as these authors?

Drop by my website. Check out my online courses and lecture packets. W

You get a taste of my deep editing techniques from my blogs. But my online courses and lecture packets are each a couple of hundred pages long. And they’re loaded with teaching points and analyzed examples.

Learn how to make your writing bestseller-strong!

I’m so impressed with all the examples from Immersion Grads Elaine Fraser, Kimberly Belle, Laura Drake, Aileen Erin, Abbie Roads, and Kennedy Ryan.

If these examples impressed you, please check out their books.

You can also thank them in a comment.

Thank you so much for dropping by the blog today.

Please post a comment or share a "Hi Margie!” and you’ll have two chances to be a winner.

You could win a Lecture Packet from me or an online class from Lawson Writer’s Academy valued up to $100.


Drop by my website. Check out my online courses and lecture packets.


Lawson Writer’s Academy– July Classes 
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2.  Editing Magic: Work with a Professional Editor, Instructor: Lori Patrick
3. Battling the Basics, Instructor: Sarah Hamer
4. Two-Week Intensive on Show, Not Tell, Instructor: Shirley Jump
5. Publishing Gold: Self-Publishing and Self-Marketing for Do-It-Yourselfers

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Like this blog? Share with your friends. Give it a social media boost. Thank you soooo much!

I love blogging on Writers in the Storm. Thanks so much for inviting me to be your guest.

*  *  *  *  *  *

About Margie

Margie Lawson—editor and international presenter—loves to have fun. And teaching writers how to use her deep editing techniques to create page-turners is her kind of fun.

She’s presented over 120 full day master classes in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and France, as well as taught multi-day intensives on cruises in the Caribbean.

To learn about Margie’s 5-day Immersion Master Classes (in 2019, in Palm Springs, Denver, Dallas, Cleveland, Columbus, Atlanta, and in Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide, Australia), Cruising Writers cruises, full day and weekend workshops, keynote speeches, online courses, lecture packets, and newsletter, please visit: www.margielawson.com

Interested in Margie presenting a full day workshop for your writing organization? Contact Margie through her website or Facebook Message her.

Interested in attending one of Margie’s 5-day Immersion classes? Click over to her website and check them out and contact her.

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83 responses to “The Power of Silence on the Page”

  1. Wow. I think I need to run a search for 'silent' 'silence' and 'quiet' and see what I can do to improve! Great post as always, Margie.

  2. Laura Drake says:

    Thank as always, for the reminder that small details are the difference between 'good' and 'sold', Margie! And always, thank you for including me!

    Guys, I crit with Kimberly Belle - you are NOT going to want to miss this book!

  3. purlingoaks says:

    Great post! Thanks for mini-class.

  4. jayjhicks says:

    Hi Margie! So glad to find you here on WITS - a double hit of fun with brilliant examples and your deep edit analyses to point the way. Thank you xxx

    • Hugs to Immersion Grad Jay --

      Love the content and cadence of your sentence.

      So glad to find you here on WITS - a double hit of fun with brilliant examples and your deep edit analyses to point the way.

      Hear that lovely cadence? Kudos to you!

  5. Loved these powerful examples! There seem to be two kinds of silence. One is a denser silence that spreads and lingers, indicating atmosphere. The other is a sharper kind that appears suddenly, signaling that something new has just taken place. The first kind is often described by more sweeping generic images, while the second kind (I think) tends to be described in terms of the POV character's sensations and perceptions. Does that seem right? I would love to hear what others think!

    • Hello Barbara Linn Probst --

      I like your brain. It works like mine.

      I've developed more on writing silence than I could share in this blog. And one of the things I did was break silence into two types. I call those two types of silence short-term and pervasive.

      See? Matching brains.

      You described the two types well.

      Hope I get to meet you sometime. I clicked over to your website and saw that Barbara Claypole White wrote a review for your book that's coming out in 2020. Barbara is one of my Immersion Grads. Love her!

      Maybe I'll see you at a WFWA Retreat some year.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Barbara, I love how you defined these two sides of the silence coin. I have SO much fun in Margie's comment section. 🙂

  6. spurvis500 says:

    Hi Margie, another fabulous post. Who knew silence could be so intriguing. Thanks as always for sharing your wisdom and fantastic examples.

  7. Laurie Wood says:

    Wonderful post! And inspiring examples, too. Thanks for including the explanations for why they work so well.

  8. Hi Margie, your post was just what I needed this morning. Thanks for not keeping silent. 🙂

  9. Adrienne Giordano says:

    Great post, Margie! Thank you for the reminder as I head into edits!

  10. Omigosh ... the examples blew me away. And inspired me to do better! Thanks, Margie!

  11. Lisa Heartman says:

    Wonderful blog! Thank you for the reminder that even silence can (and should) deepen the story. The examples are so powerful and beautiful.

    • Hugs to Multi-Multi-Multi Immersion Grad Lisa Heartman --

      So excited that you're a GOLDEN HEART FINALIST!

      Your writing always impresses me. I'll be cheering for you from home!

  12. Hi Margie--always enjoy your posts. They pull, push, prod me to dig deep and paint the picture in my head with stronger, more vivid color. You rock!

  13. DLWillette says:

    I just did the silent, silence, quiet search. Holy moly, so many good places for revision! Thanks Margie.

  14. LivRancourt says:

    Such great examples! Thanks for the post.

  15. Wow, this was fantastic! Made me really stop and realize what I've been missing for silence. This blog post gave me some great new insights into this technique.

    • Hello Claudia -

      Great to e-meet you.

      Are you new to my deep editing techniques? Hope you click over to my website and check out my lecture packets and all the LWA courses.

      Thanks for chiming in!

      • Claudia Shelton says:

        Hi, Margie, this is Claudia Shelton. For some reason my post went through as claudiathewriter and thus you didn't know who was writing. Of course I've already enjoyed your lectures and am an Immersion Master Class grad, but your post on silence amped up an area I hadn't realized needed work. Thanks!

  16. Elaine Fraser says:

    Wow! Thank you for including quotes from Amazing Grace in such stellar company. When I read others’ work I’m humbled.

    You’re a wonderful teacher and mentor, Margie. Kudos to you! 👏👏👏👏👏

  17. Fae Rowen says:

    Last night I was editing and quit when I couldn't get the silence between my characters to work with the noise on the busy dock. THANK YOU! After reading this, I went back and re-read your post on subtext from a couple of years ago. Together, they supply the one-two punch for a knock-out revision. I love you, Margie.

  18. Margie, the power of silence . . . you don't always have to be heard. I love Abbie Roads example: He understood and accepted her silence... Silence a chance to build bravery, or cower in the corner. Thank you!

  19. I always appreciate the examples and your analyses.

  20. Shana Lindsey says:

    I love these examples of writing fresh silence. My favorite ones are... a lapse of silence that amplifies the coffee shop sounds all around us and eerie silence. Thank you so much Margie for the great blog and great examples and always reminding me to write fresh!

  21. Another excellent post to add to my collection. And more words to add to my editing search for weak words. Thanks again, Margie.

  22. L.D. Rose says:

    Amazing examples, as always! Always look forward to these posts, Margie. 🙂

  23. Rick George says:

    Wonderful examples, Margie. I've bookmarked this page and written down Kimberly Belle as an author I'm going to read. I see that Dear Wife's official pub date is June 25. I love the blurb for it--enticing for sure.

  24. Great tips and examples! 🙂 Thank you.

  25. Julie McCullough says:

    Amazing how 'nothing' can really be 'something'. Loved it, as I do all your advice and info and courses. Am finally back in the writing world after 18 months of Breast Cancer hell. You've inspired me to work harder. Thanks Margie.

  26. Lynda says:

    Thanks for all the ideas about using silence to convey so many moods, emotions, subtexts.
    Excellent post

  27. Great reminders and powerful examples, as always. Thank you, Margie!

  28. Becky Rawnsley says:

    Thank you so much, Margie. Wonderful post and inspiring examples. It's good to stretch the old brain cells!! I did a search on silent and silence - found a few I can be proud of...and a few BIG opportunities to improve 🙂 Huge hugs xx

  29. Ahhh, now you've done it! 😉
    Now I have to go through my latest wip checking for how I handled silence. I LOVE your challenges! Always enlightening. Thank you for not letting us slide on this one. Great post!
    --XOXO

  30. dholcomb1 says:

    It's amazing how getting away from the cliches and using a bit of thought changes the whole thing.

    denise

  31. April says:

    Great blog with the best advice.

  32. Jean Ross says:

    Just another golden tip to add to the list of Margie isms at the top of each page xx Jean

  33. Thanks Margie for these wonderful examples and how I can amp the tension with a fresh silence.
    Sherry

  34. Always inspired by your examples, Margie. Thanks for sharing them. Thanks to the authors for writing fresh. It really does make a difference.

  35. Mary Chase says:

    I was just struggling with a passage where there is silence. I haven't fixed it yet and these passages were great inspiration to find a better way. Thanks, Margie, for always inspiring me to dig deeper.

  36. Great examples and breakdown of exactly why they’re good. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  37. Maria says:

    Thanks for the post!

  38. Jeanne Kern says:

    Stupendous examples. I'm..um..speechless. Thanks, Margie.

  39. Eileen Richards says:

    Great examples. I struggle with getting the description of silence right and usually just awkwardly fudge my way through... Thanks, Eileen

  40. Lexi Greene says:

    Thanks for the refresher, Margie 🙂 I LOVE your work, always!! Big love to you. Lexi xxxx

  41. Ann G. says:

    ;very helpful, Margie. I'm heading over to your website for a look.

  42. Brynn Spears says:

    Thank you, Margie, for these wonderful examples. I know I've struggled with writing fresh silences. I appreciate these examples. They are great inspirations.

  43. C. K. Crouch says:

    Thank you Margie for these great examples of silence, not cliched.

  44. Sarah Hamer says:

    Wow, Margie! Always great, great, great ways to make our writing better!
    Thanks!

  45. Your blog posts always make me feel like a beginner but also make me want to rewrite to make the story better. Thanks for the inspiration, Margie! Love these examples.

  46. MaryAnn Clark says:

    Always something to be learned. Even with topics which have been covered before, you always bring a fresh touch. Love your classes. Love you! (hugs)

  47. Vickie Marise says:

    I don’t think any post you’ve written hasn’t helped me elevate my writing. Your immersion grad examples rock!

  48. Carla Cloutier says:

    Great points! We are always thinking so hard of what to say it's easy to overlook the power of saying nothing at all.

    Thank you! Carla

  49. Jocelyn Elise Phillips says:

    Excellent blog, as always Margie. And perfect timing too! I’ll keep these examples in mind while writing my current book. I know it will be better because of advice like this!

  50. Andrea Grigg says:

    Thanks for the encouragement to keep on writing fresh! So worth the effort. Loved, loved, loved Elaine's example 😀

  51. Ani says:

    You are amazing Margie

  52. candacecolt says:

    How just a few words can change hum drum to amazing. Great mini-lesson!

  53. Thank you so much for this post. I just had some "silence" in a paragraph and thanks to you, I can now write it fresh, because what I wrote made me cringe.

  54. Allison Collins says:

    Wow! Very fresh writing! I need to add "quiet" and "silence" to my list to make sure I write them fresh and impactful.
    Thank you to all the authors who contributed their work for this blog! Y'all rock!
    And thank you to Margie for taking me to the next levels. XOXO

  55. Deb Atwood says:

    Margie, I love how you identify these small moments that we all use and show us how to make them work double and triple duty. Great bullet list!

  56. pilot543 says:

    I like the idea of being able to add a quiet moment in a book, I agree that it shares an emotion with the people that are reading the book. One I love to use is when the night fell silent and only the stars and the moon are having their conversation.

  57. Laurie Evans says:

    Great examples. I was struggling to describe silence recently in a WIP. You've given me some fresh ideas.

  58. Julie Glover says:

    Wow, wow, wow. As always, I really appreciate the fresh writing you teach and show by example. Thanks, Margie!

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