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:
Nothing special there. No subtext. No 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.)
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Want to share a fresh hug?
Or comment on these hugs?
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See you on the blog!
* * * * * *
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.
Top Image - Margie and Lori Freeland, West Texas Writers Conference
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