Writers in the Storm

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October 25, 2019

Fresh Writing Sells: Make Hugs Carry Power

by Margie Lawson

Why a blog about hugs?

Because on the page a hug may be blah-blah. But it could carry this kind of power.

Her arms wrapped around me like chains, her whispered words the lock sealing my fate.


Steena Holmes, NYT Bestseller, 2-time Immersion Grad, wrote that hug.

Look at the words that carry psychological power: chains, whispered, lock, sealing, and fate.

Five Power Words in a fifteen-word sentence.

Power Words carry power.

And Steena played off chains and lock.

Brilliant writing.

Steena could have written: 

She wrapped her arms around me and whispered in my ear.

Aack! We’ve read that type of line. No power there.

Not brilliant writing.

Two more hugs from Steena Holmes. These are from The Patient, her Oct. 15 release.

1. I wait for Mommy to get upset at Daddy for leaving me here all by myself. Any minute now she’s going to scoop me up in her arms and have me sit in her lap. Her arms will be tight around me, like a big soft bear hug, and I’ll be okay.

The child knows the dynamics between her parents and anticipates a lovey hug from Mommy. But Steena took it deeper by sharing the impact that hug would have on the little girl.

2. I hugged her again so she couldn’t see the lie on my face. 

Now the POV character is an adult, and the hug has nothing to do with caring or comforting. That hug is a ploy to keep the other character from seeing she is lying.

And Steena made it CLEAR on the page. The reader knows what the POV character is doing and why.

Let’s dive in and check out powerfully written hugs from some more Immersion Grads.

Cassandra Cotton and Featherstone’s Folly, Marin McGinnis, Immersion Grad

Two Paragraphs:

“Mum!” Charles hurled himself into my arms, nearly knocking me arse over elbow given how much taller he was than I. But in that moment I forgot he was full grown, and I clasped him so tightly we were nearly one person. I imagined he was my little boy again, imagined I could make any hurt go away. Imagined I hadn’t just put myself in mortal danger trying to solve my uncle’s murder. 

But I had, and I was bloody lucky I was still able to hug my son.  

So many smart Teaching Points in that example.

  • Slipped in the difference in height in an interactive way.
  • Shared a Yes Set:  … and I clasped him so tightly we were nearly one person.

Most people have had that experience, but thought it with different words.

The Yes Set means the reader knows that feeling, identifies more with the POV character, and keeps reading and reading and reading.

  • Used anaphora. A couple thousand Margie grads know this rhetorical device. Using the same word or words to kick off a minimum of three phrases or sentences in a row.
  • Drop Down Power Line – White Space adds emphasis. That drop down power line carries perfect cadence and content.

The examples below are not analyzed. My Deep Edit Analyses would make the blog too long.

Curve Ball, Not Yet Published, Carrie Padgett, Immersion Grad

Grant moved deliberately, thanks to the sling around his shoulder, and gave her a one-armed hug as gentle as cotton candy floating on a breeze. 

Exit Strategy by Lainey Cameron, Immersion Grad, publishing mid-2020 

1. David stood, and she pulled him close. If hugs healed, she’d hold him all night.  

2. She set aside her mini champagne bottle, and they hugged long enough to hear each other's breathing.

Runaway Surgeon, Not Yet Published, Marie Timlin, Immersion Grad

She couldn’t see his face, but felt his rock-hard body pressed against her back. Closing her eyes against shock waves—tens on the Richter scale—she couldn’t prevent the shudder that rocked through her. His arm banded her midriff and he leaned in. Her toes curled as his lips brushed her ear.

Susan’s Story, Not Yet Published, Joyce Caylor, Immersion Grad

The little girl hugging the POV character is almost two years old.

She could feel all five fingers press into the right side of her neck, the other side enduring a strong tug of her hair. Two little arms, too short to reach all the way around. Her everything.

His Unexpected Amish Family, Rachel J. Good, 2-Time Immersion Grad

Two Examples:

1. Mary leaned over to give Anna a one-armed side-hug along with a poor-you smile.

2. Levi longed to hug her. Although if he did, it wouldn’t resemble the encouraging hugs he gave the little ones. The gentle I’m-here-for-you or I-know-you-can-do-it hugs. Or even the cheery you’ll-be-all-right hugs. His hug for Anna would encompass all of those, but he worried it might turn into an ­I’m-falling-for-you hug. Or, if he wasn’t careful, a promise of much, much more.

Raewyn Bright, 4-time Immersion Grad

Five Paragraphs:

He cradled her head on his shoulder. She froze, left her hands dangling useless at her sides. She’d never been held like this, not by him, not by Ash, certainly not by Norna. But then, she’d never exposed her vulnerability before.

Would he use her weakness against her? Again?

A physical attack she expected and would’ve welcomed. This attack on her desire for affection and her constant, unmet need for love was a battle she’d lose.

She pulled back to shove him away. But a tender expression crossed his face. An expression she’d never seen on him. He looked as lost as she felt, as lonely and in need of love too.

It was too revealing, too confronting. She broke free from him. She was a strong warrior, fierce, and unafraid of anything. Yet her heart pounded out of control like she was petrified.

Untitled WIP, Rebecca Hodge, 2-time Immersion Grad

The POV character is a 13 year old boy.

She gave me a quick hug, but it wasn't anything like Mom's hugs. Mom's hugs were so fierce on my ribs it made it hard to move, and they smelled like her perfume. This ordinary hug hardly felt like a hug at all, and it just smelled like plain old tomato sauce. 

Believing Amos, Not Yet Published, Christel Cothran, Immersion Grad

Before I knew it, I was clinched in his arms, pressed to his chest, arms pinned to my sides, feet dangling. His hold was so tight, I wondered if I could breathe and just as quickly I was released. Amos set me down with all the concern of a Delta baggage handler.

From Christel Cothran’s Email to Me:

Know there are also hugs from me in this email. A good new-friend hug, a thank-you hug, and a hug to keep for just when you need one.

The Mortician's Daughter: Two Feet Under, C.C. Hunter (Christie Craig), Immersion Grad

Four Amplified Hugs

1. Before I realize what she’s doing, Mrs. Carter crosses the threshold and hugs me. Hugs me so tight that everything inside me feels squeezed. My lungs. My heart. My confidence. I instantly feel claustrophobic.

2. He moves in and hugs me. Burying my face in his shoulder, I breathe in, wanting to savor the daddy scent. The I’m-your-hero aroma that has gotten me through so many tough times in my life.

3. She comes around and hugs me. Tight. I hug her back, remembering the hug with Annie’s mom. Hugging people you barely know is awkward, but it’s feeling less awkward with Mrs. Carter after each one. Maybe because I feel the connection to her through Hayden. Or maybe because I know she needs the hugs so badly.

4. Still unsure of the right words, I hug her—tight. Hanging on, I start counting, because yesterday I read an online article that said for a hug to really be beneficial it needs to last twenty seconds. Which is why Dad’s short embraces don’t cut it anymore. Twenty-one. Twenty-two. At twenty-three, I still don’t want to let go. But I’m not sure if it’s all for her or for me. Probably both.

One more hug. This one is from a dog.

The Six-Percent Baby, Not Yet Published, Jenny Hansen, 2-Time Immersion Grad

Hoshi greeted us, her doggy body vibrating with joy until she looked into my face. She stilled, leaned against my leg, whined. I melted to the floor, burying my face in her soft black fur.

I chanced a look at Steve and the grief on his face wrecked me. “I’m sorry, Honey. I’m so sorry.”

He sank beside me in the entryway. Hoshi draped her ninety-pound self across our laps in her version of a group hug.

And finally, the real tears came. The ugly ones that turn your face into a chewed-up dog toy.

I had to include the last paragraph. It was too perfect to leave out.

How Can You Write Fresh Hugs?

Add to this Starter List for Types of Hugs

  1. Pat Your Back
  2. Hug with One a Step Higher
  3. Slow Dance Arms and Sway
  4. Squeeze and Release
  5. Squeeze and Hold
  6. Barely There
  7. Too Tight
  8. Trapped with Arms Locked Around Neck
  9. Feeling the Love in a Big Bear Hug
  10. Others?
  11. Others?
  12. Others?
  13. Others?

Add to this Starter List for Motivations for Hugs

  1. Love
  2. Caring and Support
  3. Excitement
  4. Doing What’s Expected
  5. Manipulation
  6. The Cover-Up: Showing the Opposite of How You Feel
  7. Pity
  8. Others?
  9. Others?
  10. Others?

Hug Homework:

Create a list of your hug experiences. Make notes about some of those hugs.

  • Type
  • Motivation
  • Impact on you

Some people are natural huggers. When you get a hug from one of them, you feel like you’re wrapped in pure love.

With others, you may feel like you’re wrapped in ______.  Fill in that blank. 🙂

When you initiated a hug and received a response you didn’t expect, how did you feel? How did you react? Could be negative or positive.

When you received a hug you didn’t expect, how did you feel? How did you react? Could be negative or positive.

Write hugs the POV character initiated and received. How did they feel? How did they react? Could be negative or positive.

Do you see how writing a hug in a fresh way can add depth and power?

I hope you all don’t settle for blah-blah writing. Remember, fresh writing sells.

So fitting that my topic is hugs. We all need more hugs. Given the catastrophic loss in my life, now I cherish hugs even more.

THANK YOU to the WITS team for hosting me again. Sending lots of lovey hugs to you all.

BLOG GUESTS -- THANK YOU for dropping by WITS.

Please post a comment. Say Hi – or share a hug you wrote.

I would love to read lots of fresh hugs.

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

The drawing will be Sunday night, 9:00 PM Mountain Time.

Lawson Writer’s Academy – November Courses

  • Potent Pitches and Brilliant Blurbs, Instructor: Suzanne Purvis
  • Giving Your Chapters a Pulse,Instructor: Rhay Christou
  • Biz Smarts for Writers,Instructor: Sarah Hamer
  • Ta Da! How to Put Funny on the Page, Instructor: Lisa Wells
  • How to Write a Novel in Evernote,
  • Instructor: Lisa Norman
  • New Course: Blood, Sweat, and Tears: Writing Realistic Scenes from the Front Seat of an Ambulance, Instructor: Julie Rowe and Jeffrey Petrock

* * * * * *

About Margie

Margie Lawson —editor and international presenter – teaches writers how to use her psychologically-based editing systems and deep editing techniques to create page turners.

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, full day and weekend workshops, keynote speeches, online courses through Lawson Writer’s Academy, lecture packets, and newsletter, please visit: www.margielawson.com

Interested in inviting me to present a full day workshop for your writing organization? Contact me through her website, or Facebook Message me.

Interested in attending one of my 5-day Immersion Master Classes? Click over to my website and check them out.

Registration is open for Immersion classes in Atlanta, Denver, Poulsbo (WA), Pittsburgh, San Jose, Jacksonville, and Milnathort, Scotland!

I’m adding three Immersion classes in Australia too. Email me if you’re interested.

Thanks so much for reading this blog. I can’t wait to read your comments and hugs!

51 comments on “Fresh Writing Sells: Make Hugs Carry Power”

  1. You always remind me that I'm not paying enough attention to detail, Margie. And that the detail makes all the difference. Like the long, open-up, take you in and telegraph-peace hug that I'm sending you.

    1. Laura --

      Just remember -- FRESH WRITING SELLS -- and you'll remember to write details that add depth and power.

      Loved your telegraph-peace hug. Fresh and needed.

    1. Hello Rebecca --

      I had such fun working with you in the Sullivan Island Immersion class.

      I can't wait until Feb. 11th, when WILDLAND is released. Love that book!

  2. Hugs. Just sending thank you hugs. Margie. I'm actually working on a scene where my main character is kidnapped and taken to a bad guy whose unwelcome hugs are frightening and loving hugs when she is saved by her love. Cliche Alert! I'll fix that. Love you, Margie.

    1. Hello Winona --

      Timely post for you. Glad you caught those need-to-fix-'em hugs. You may decide to nix the hug from the bad guy and give him a different action.

      Have fun writing fresh!

    2. Margie, thank you so much for these. I need to check my WIP for improved huggability. Hugs to you!

      1. Hello Debbie --

        Thank you.

        When you check your WIP, remember you don't have to use the word hug.

        I bet you'll find a place that needs an amplified hug.

        Thanks for posting.

    3. Wonderful post. You're right. Hugs are neglected too often. I will have to go through my ms now and hunt for hug moments.

  3. Great post, Margie, and I’ll honored to be included. Sending you hugs like a worn and soft quilt of comfort.

    1. Hellooo Vicki --

      Yay! I'd love to work with you in the Jacksonville Immersion class, Sept. 23 - 27. It's really South Ponte Vedra Beach, ocean-front house. There are three openings in that class. If you and friends are interested, contact me SOON!

    2. This is wonderful Margie. Thanks for sharing such great examples! No writing samples from me, but virtual hugs over the airwaves, from my heart to yours.

      1. Hello Roxanne --

        Aww... Thank you. I need those cyber hugs. Bug I'd rather have a real-life hug from you.

        You're an Immersion grad. I know you can write hugs with lots of power too.

        Miss you.

    3. Hi Margie. Love reading your blogs. Here is my attempt at a hug for you.

      He wrapped his arms around me like bubble wrap. And my fears slipped away on a muffled sigh.

    4. Sending you mega-hugs for love and strength. And some squishy, just-because-you’re-you hugs. Also, thank-you for all this great information & for including me. Hope I see you again soon in person so I can give you a straight-from-the-heart hug.

      1. Hello Rachel --

        Such lovey hugs. I'll take them all. Especially the squishy one.

        So great to spend time with you in Immersion on Sullivan Island a couple of weeks ago.

        I hope I get to see you again soon too!

    5. Hi Margie. Goodness,what a perfect timed article--it was the perfect 3:00 am hug for my brain, Perfect, cause I just finished revising another chapter. And now for a quick power nap, and then more revising-revising-revising. Thank you-hugs back at ya,

    6. Great post--and a great reminder to keep writing fresh. And I'm so delighted to see my words get some Margie love. 🙂 Hugs to you!

    7. Five-year-old Daisy tentacled my leg, while ten-year-old Poppy barnacled herself around my waist. I looked down at their faces grinning up at me, and laughed.

      Big tentacled, barnacled Hug to you Margie! I am doing a wellness program at the moment and one of the questions was - Are you hugged every day? My lucky answer was Yes! Jean x

  4. Fabulous post, Margie. Love the photos, the examples, the deep edits, and the lists. Miss you.

  5. I love your hug post! Those hig photos at the top transmit so much joy. I am wishing a joyful peace-giving, rest-your-worries hug for you today. You deserve one. 🙂

    And I'm so honored to have my doggy hug included. Thank you!

    1. Hey Jenny --

      Thank you. Lori Freeland is visiting me, so I'm getting lots of hugs and lots of love.

      Your doggie hug is fabulous.

      Thanks so much for sharing it.

  6. What a great thing to cover, Margie! Love this one. And here are a couple of hugs from my books:

    1. From SHARING HUNTER (which you know well!), releasing November 20. Two best friends haven't talked in a while, and one comes to the other's house and is greeted by the 9-year-old brother:

    He barreled into me with the force of a bull on Red Bull. The slam knocked a gust of laughter out of me.

    I hugged him back, enjoying the feel of his slim body in mine. “Hey, kid. You been taking care of my best friend?”

    2. From AWAKEN, a YA sci-fi I need to deep edit. Male teen POV here:

    All day long, I’m jittery, distracted, lost in last night’s dream. Lost in her smile. In her kiss.

    I run faster and finish sooner. I shovel food into my mouth into scoops, as if that will make time speed up. I pull the Shakespeare book off the shelf in the library and read two love sonnets, feeling and understanding every word. I give random shoulder hugs and back pats to the guys.

    At one point, Colton even asks me what’s up. He nudges my shoulder while we’re waiting for a weight machine to free up. “You’re bouncing, dude.” He points to my feet. “Literally bouncing.”

    Catching myself, I stop. For a moment. Then the jitters take hold again. “I’m not bouncing. I’m struggling to keep feet on the ground.”

  7. Hi Margie. Here’s the only version of a hug my protag, Maisy, is ever likely to receive from her bossy-big-boots sister. The family are packed in the car, racing for the hospital:

    Pammy swiped at Maisy’s hand. ‘Stop picking at your arm. Look at yourself. You’re bleeding.’ She got out a hanky, licked it and dabbed at Maisy’s sore. Then Pammy did something she’d never, ever, done before. She held Maisy’s hand and gave her little squeezes along the way. Once, twice, three times.

    Thank you for your brilliant lectures and classes, the Immersion, and Fab30. You’ve changed my way of seeing (and feeling.) ❤️ U ? x Jay

  8. Hugs are universal. A hug can say many silent words, can solve many problems, can soothe many hurts. Thanks Margie.

  9. Again, a brilliant guest post, Margie. You always remind me to make use of every word. I can hardly wait to begin editing my short story using your techniques. Your classes are the best.

  10. What a fun read! Hugs are so cool...and so often under-represented. I love how you home in on these small but important moments and writing opportunities. Hugs to you!

  11. Oh, Margie, your brilliant words and inspiring examples are hugs in themselves. Thanks.

  12. Hi Margie, After reading your post, I quickly scanned my WIP for "hugs." I was surprised to read a few I'd used in a variety of ways! (yes, I wrote them . . . ?) One was a "fake" hug another one was "manipulative" but this is my fave of a child and grandmother:

    "How did she know this? I never said a word to her. I don’t think I would’ve even known what to say—it was so tangled in my mind. But, she knew. She studied me with one pair of glasses perched on top of her head, another pair on the slope of her nose. Those glasses musta been good for something, cause she saw right through me. I dove at her, wrapping my arms around the folds of her thick waist and buried my head underneath her heavy breasts. She hugged me tight. It was the first day I felt like somebody understood. Somebody saw me for who I really was. It’s the happiest memory I got."

  13. From a work in progress:
    He did what he always did. He drew me against his chest, pressed my head to his shoulder and applied just the right amount of pressure that said everything was going to be okay. I inhaled his sandalwood scent. I pressed a little closer, squeezed a little tighter. I wanted to crawl inside of him and swap skin. For once, I wanted to be the strong one. For once, I wanted to know what it was like to hold someone together before they shattered into a million pieces.

  14. Wonderful post! I've used hugs in writing before but usually for affection or to whisper information. I really like your suggestion for hugs used as diversion and will be able to use that in my next manuscript. Lots of helpful information here. I enjoyed reading the other writers' snippets. Great learning post. Thanks!

  15. Missed this yesterday. Hadn't really thought a lot about hugs, and then I realized I'd used them in a recent release:
    “Would a hug help?” The words escaped as if a ventriloquist had put them in his mouth. ...
    “A casual hug,” Nash warned. “Like you’d give someone you haven’t seen in a while.”
    “I didn’t realize you could categorize hugs,” she said, dropping her arms.
    Nash went along, trying to keep the mood light. “Sure. In addition to the good to see you hug, there’s the congratulations on a job well done hug, or the I’m sorry and won’t ever do it again hug.”
    Or the oh, you poor thing hug, but Nash preferred to forget those. He’d had enough of them when he was twelve.

  16. Great post! I’m reminded of two guys I worked with. One hugged every breathing thing—women, men, kids, animals. His friendly hugs made the grumpiest people smile. The other guy tried to do the same, but his hugs were also followed by some smirky comments. His hugs creeped people out—made you want to take a quick shower.

  17. The power of words, the why of actions. This is something all writers need to remember. Thanks so much for this clear and concise post. I need to remember this. Oh and by the way, I always need my hugs. All best to you.

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