February 19th, 2021

Hugs You've Got to Love!

by Margie Lawson

A hug is more than just a hug.

Hugs may be long or short, hot or cold, loving or perfunctory.

Hugs carry psychological messages. Do you have those messages on your pages?

Dig deep—and you’ll have more fun and depth and power on the page.

We’ve all read sentences like:

  • They hugged.
  • She gave him a quick hug.
  • He pulled her into a tight hug.
  • He grabbed his brother in a one-armed hug.

Nothing special there. No subtext. No power.

Hugs with Power

Check out these examples of hugs. I’ll share short deep edit points. The blog would be crazy-long if I Deep Edit Analyzed each one.

Please read them OUT LOUD. With feeling. Each one carries a compelling cadence.

(Plus I've sprinkled in some photos of happy hugs.)

Margie and Sheila

Amazing Grace, Elaine Fraser, 2-Time Immersion Grad

Emily wrapped herself around Grace in a hug so close that the thud and thump of their hearts harmonized, and for a few seconds, everything was close to perfect.

Deep Edit Point:  Notice the double alliteration – thud, thump, hearts harmonized

Since You’ve Been Gone, Christa Allan, Margie Grad

My mother hugged me, her elbows close to her sides. The kind of hug dispensed with brief and minimal contact, as if my body might scorch her hands if they lingered.

Deep Edit Points:  Definitely deepens characterization. Lots of power words too.

Test of Faith, Christa Allan, Margie Grad

1. Carried by the irrational current of the moment, Julia embraced her. As could be expected, there was a reciprocal effort—the teacher treated hugs like a contagious illness—but Julia didn’t care.

Deep Edit Point:  Universal Truth -- Most of us have been super excited and hugged someone we wouldn’t usually hug.

2. She passed around her signature faux-hug, one hand on your shoulder and enough forward body movement to suggest hugging.

Deep Edit Point:  Universal Truth. Conveys how the POV character feels about this woman.

The Mortician’s Daughter, C. C. Hunter (Christie Craig), Immersion Grad, NYT Bestseller

1. His arm comes around me and I feel him pull me closer. It warms my soul. But it’s the kind of hug that makes you want to fall against a shoulder and cry.

Deep Edit Point:  Shares impact on POV character. Smart. Smart. Smart.

2. We walk into each other’s arms. Her hugs started lasting longer since she and Dad separated. Mine got tighter when the big C stained our lives.

Deep Edit Point:  Uses a hug to slip in backstory.

This Heart of Mine, C. C. Hunter, (Christie Craig), Immersion Grad, NYT Bestseller

1. Brandy gives me a best friend hang-on hug. The kind that only comes from real friends.

Deep Edit Point:  Digs for her truth.

2. Mom and Dad give me the thumbs-up and a proud-of-you hug. There’s so much happiness in their expressions that I almost start crying.

Deep Edit Point:  Shares impact on POV character.

3. Moving in, I hug her, then Dad. It becomes one of those group hugs. I hear my mom’s breath shake, but it’s not the bad kind of shake.

Deep Edit Point:  Shares impact mom.

Jenny Hansen's "Little Bean" and my granddaughter, Scout

Summoned to Thirteenth Grave, Darynda Jones, 2-Time Immersion Grad, NYT Bestseller

1. By the time we got back to HQ, Belinda’s mother, Geri, was there. They hugged for twenty minutes before Belinda introduced her mother to her children. 

Deep Edit Points:  Hyperbole fun. And deepened characterization.

2. I bolted out of my chair and tackle-hugged him. He hugged me back, his lanky arms locking me into his viselike grip.

Deep Edit Points:  Fresh writing with a clear visual – tackle-hugged him.

3. I grinned and pulled her into a hug. She fought me, but it had to be done. I got about three-quarters of a second before she wiggled out of my arms.

Deep Edit Points:  Universal Truth -- Hugging a kid, And Humor Hits.

4. Two Paragraphs:

“I don’t care what you say, you are the bravest person I’ve ever known.”

I fought a tightening in my chest. Now was not the time to argue with her, so I simply thanked her and hugged her for as long as time would allow, wishing we’d had this conversation years ago. I think we could’ve been great friends growing up. We’d wasted so much time.

Deep Edit Points:  Shares visceral, shares impact on POV character

A Bad Day for Sunshine, Darynda Jones, 2-Time Immersion Grad, NYT Bestseller

1. Without another word, Quincy pulled her into his massive arms. His hug felt like home. Warm and comforting and oddly constrictive.

Deep Edit Points:  Shares impact on POV character. Frag with polysyndeton (Many Ands).

2. Sun tackle-hugged her. The duo soon became a dog pile when Elaine and Cyrus joined them, Elaine tickling her daughter while Cyrus held her down.

Deep Edit Point:  Tackle-hug again. Same author, different book.

3. Sun stood and hugged first Elaine, then Cyrus, and then she stole a sandwich.

Deep Edit Point:  Humor Hit!

4. Two Paragraphs:

Auri threw her arms around him.

He let her hug him for all of eleven seconds, then pushed away from her. Not in a bad way. Not to be rude. But to survive. He could only handle so much affection and Auri knew that.

Deep Edit Points:  Humor Hit. Deepened characterization.

5. Two Paragraphs:

Auri turned to Cruz, her top applicant and career hopeful, and she hugged him.

He hesitated, then hugged her back. His long arms wrapped around her and pulled her tight, and he buried his face in her hair. They hugged until someone, a teacher perhaps, cleared her throat.

Deep Edit Points:  Humor Hit. Clear visual.

6. Sybil latched onto her, and they hugged for a solid ten minutes. They both cried, and Sun sent up a quick thanks for having a kid like the one he’d given her.

Deep Edit Points:  Shared length of hug and impact on POV character.

2015 - Peggy, Mary, Edwina Hug!

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

She turned in to him and gave him a hug. He stood there not sure how to react, then hugged her back, the little boy inside him clinging to the comfort his big sister offered.

Deep Edit Points: Sweet and deep.

Mad About the Marquess, Elizabeth Essex, 2-Time Immersion Grad

He shook his head and hugged her as if he could possibly contain all the impossible, contradictory feeling careering around within him. “Devil take me, I was right. I did know a thrill-seeker when I saw one.” He wrapped his arms tight around her, to show her what she meant to him. To prove to her that he did not mean to let her go.

Deep Edit Point:  Amplified hug, shares what the POV character hopes to convey.

Dear Wife, Kimberly Belle, 5-Time Immersion Grad, International Bestseller

1. “Now get up here and gimme a hug so I can go.” It’s the fastest hug on record, as is my trek down the stairs.

Deep Edit Point:  Humor Hit!

2. “Oh, Jeffrey, you poor, poor dear. I heard about Sabine on the evening news.” She rushes around her desk to pull me into a hug. What is the proper amount of time to stand here while a colleague holds you in her wrinkly arms? I count to three, then extricate myself.

Deep Edit Points:  Universal Truth and Humor Hit!

3. She grabs me by a shoulder and yanks me in for a hug. I wasn’t expecting it, and for the first few seconds, stand stiff as a board in her arms, but she smells so good and her breasts are like two giant, soft pillows against my cheek, so I relax and give in to the embrace even though the clock is ticking. She pats me on the back with a giant paw, murmurs into my hair, “Poor, sweet girl. It gets easier, you know.”

Deep Edit Point:  Super Amplified Hug. Shows emotional shift.

Final Thoughts

No blah-blah hugs in those examples.

You can see the difference between a shares-no-power hug, and a makes-your-scene-strong hug.

Amplify. Use power words. Go deep. Share subtext. Share humor hits. Share the impact on the POV character. And make every sentence cadence driven.

BLOG GUESTS: IT’S YOUR TURN!

Want to share a fresh hug?

Or comment on these hugs?

Or just say Hi?

See you on the blog!

Big Hugs................Margie

*  *  *  *  *  *

About Margie

Margie Lawson left a career in psychology to focus on another passion—helping writers make their stories, characters, and words strong. Tired of the same old writing rules and tools? Try something new.

Using a psychologically based, deep-editing approach, Margie teaches writers how to bring emotion to the page. Emotion equals power. And power not only grabs readers, it holds onto them until the end. Hundreds of Margie grads have gone on to win awards, find agents, sign with publishers, and hit bestseller lists.

As an international presenter, Margie has taught over 150 full day master classes in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and France, as well as multi-day intensives on cruise ships in the Caribbean. Pre-COVID, she taught over a hundred 5-day Immersion Master Classes across the U.S. and Canada and in seven cities in Australia too.

COVID Update: Immersion Master Classes are now virtual, taught through Zoom. Virtual Immersion classes are limited to six writers. They're two days long and, as always, writers get one-on-one deep editing sessions with Margie.

She presents a monthly series of "Dig Deep Webinars" and hosts a "Get Happy with Margie" open house each month too. She also founded Lawson Writer's Academy, where you'll find over 30 instructors teaching online courses through her website. To learn more, sign up for Margie's newsletter.

March Classes at Lawson Writer's Academy

Top Image - Margie and Lori Freeland, West Texas Writers Conference

32 responses to “Hugs You've Got to Love!”

  1. LauraDrake says:

    Excellent, Margie! There ARE all kinds of hugs, but I never thought about delineating them in my writing before - thank you!

    • Hugs to Immersion Grad Laura Drake --

      Your in-person hugs are always powered-by-love. I bet you'll have fun writing power-packed hugs!

      Miss you... I'm counting on seeing you sometime this year!

  2. Sia Huff says:

    Hi Margie! As always, great examples! I love reading the illustration of different kinds of hugs!
    Big hugs to you!
    Sia

  3. Eldred Bird says:

    Love the examples, Margie. Spot on as usual! Sometimes a good hug in the right context can say much more than trying to describe the emotion involved. Here's an example from my first book, Killing Karma:

    As he moved out of the shadows, he saw her jump and run straight at him. James held out his arms and caught Missy as she leapt off the ground and wrapped her arms around his neck. Clamping her legs tightly around his waist, she planted a huge kiss on the side of James’s face before zeroing in on his mouth. The two stayed locked together for close to a minute before coming up for air.

    Much more effective than saying she was excited to see him.

  4. Delicious as always, Margie. Love to give you a tender teddy-bear embrace right now....or maybe its breath-stealing cousin, a grizzly-bear hug.

    • Hello Immersion Grad Chris --

      Your hugs are always from-the-heart real. No pass-on hugs from you!

      It would be so fabulous to work with you in another Immersion Class. Check out Virtual Immersions. Two full days or four half-days. We'd have such fun making your writing bestseller-list strong!

      • Jenny Hansen says:

        I am totally interested in a 4-day immersion. This summer or Fall would be optimal for me.

        • Hellooo Immersion Grad Jenny --

          You know I'd love to work with you in another Immersion! Check out this Virtual Immersion class on my website.

          Advanced Virtual Immersion: Powering Up Emotion with Emphasis on Turning Points

          May 5 - 8, 4 half-days -- Special hours for Australians or Evening/Late Night Americans and Canadians, 5:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. Mountain Time

          It has 2 openings!

      • I'm ear-deep in my WIP (WWII love story set in Hiroshima). Once I have the first draft in good shape, my day-glow markers will transform my black-and-white pages into a Technicolor wonderland. I hear you in my head as I'm drafting so I know I'm writing better the first time, but I certain a world of whoas await me...in a good way, of course. And you can bet you'll see my smiling face again, because I want more of your pixie dust and I definitely want to be bestseller-list strong.

    • Winona Cross says:

      Great post. I have plenty of hugs in my work in progress. I'm going to visit them with a multi-edged scalpel, also known as delete.

      Thanks, Margie and WITS. You truly are the best.

  5. Jay Hicks says:

    Just checking comments are working. I posted a hug to Margie which seems to have been snatched by gremlins.

  6. Jay Hicks says:

    Hello Margie. I want to send you the huggingest hug, a hug so strong it straddles the seas, and brings you Aussie sunshine.

    Look at these super strong examples! Your teachings reach way beyond our
    Margie-powered pages. We touch hearts, open minds, give messages of love and joy, and turn pain into hope. Just like a wholesome hug.
    X jay

  7. Great! Must share... Hugs & Happy Writing!

  8. Jenny Hansen says:

    Here's one of my fictional hugs for you:

    The difference between her parents could be measured in their hugs. Her mother's embrace offered the spicy warm cinnamon scent of safety. Hugs from her father suffocated every sense with a miasma of malice and menthol, bourbon and fear.

  9. Barb DeLong says:

    Love, love all the hugs! Here's two from my WIP:

    Wren pulled her into a sis-hug, tight, short but with all the feels.

    He engulfed her in a teddy bear hug all softness of belly and richness of pipe tobacco.
    Virtual hugs to all!

    • Hello Immersion Grad Barb --

      Miss you! So fabulous to see you here.

      You WOWED ME with your hugs. Love both of them!

      Hope I get to hug you in person sometime in the next couple of years!

  10. Loving the Hugs, real, virtual, prose and heart-felt.

    Her heart had never known this embrace from Mother or Father. THeir arms never encircled her/
    But this safety.. This---heat. This -- certainty of being precious and cherished. Here in his arms, tucked under his chin, his heartbeat firm under her ear. She believed she could own the world.

    Margie you and your classes inspire me to the highest in my writing.

  11. dholcomb1 says:

    so many hugs. I ache for the hug from a friend or loved one. What I wouldn't give to see one and have a big bear hug.

    denise

  12. Christa Allan says:

    Margie....I so appreciate and am humbled by your sharing my work. Because of you! I’m hugging you in my heart.

  13. juliegloverwrites says:

    Love 'em! (And the pics with familiar faces. ♥) I went looking for a hug example from my novels...and realized I could work on them a bit. Thanks for the tip! Here's the best I came up with: "I threw myself into her hug, as if I was a little girl again and the warm arms of my mother would make everything all right."

    Hoping to hug YOU someday soon(ish), Margie!

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