Friday, July 15, 2011

Margie Lawson: Analyze This!

Please join me in welcoming one of my favorite people, Margie Lawson, to the Veranda on Digging Out of Distraction. She's a wonderful mentor and friend to all writers. I'm super excited about her blog today and I hope you join me in all the fun!! Put your thinking caps on because you will learn something, too!! 

by Margie Lawson
I’ve always loved analyzing things, including writing.
Of the 25+ Deep Editing Analyses on my web site, the one spotlighting Marcus Sakey’s is a favorite. If you don’t know his work, but you recognize his name, you may be recalling the two-page article in RT on Marcus Sakey.
The Deep Editing Analysis below provides a preview for what I’ll present in Birmingham on July 23rd.  Enjoy!

Marcus Sakey’s first crime thriller, THE BLADE ITSELF, was selected by the New York Times as an Editor's Pick, chosen as one of Esquire Magazine's Top 5 Reads of 2007, and won the Strand Critic's Award for Best First Novel. With his next two thrillers, AT THE CITY’S EDGE, and GOOD PEOPLE, Sakey kept the power up and electrified more readers and reviewers.
What do the giants in the film world know about Marcus Sakey? They know he writes a story guaranteed to mesmerize readers—and viewers. The film rights for all three of his novels have been optioned for film. Power-players Tobey Maguire, Ben Affleck, and Matt Damon, are buying slices of Sakey-talent—and likely salivating to play the leads.
You can count on dynamite writing craft in each of these stand-alone thrillers. My Sakey novels are mega-sticky-tabbed. Let’s dive in and check out a few of the several hundred examples.
“I heard someone was asking about you.”
Old instincts tightened Danny’s skin. “Who’s that?”
Patrick looked up at him, the joking in his eyes replaced by something more serious, like he was watching for a reaction. “Evan McGann.”
Danny’s mouth went dry, and he felt that tingling in his chest, the sense of his heart beating hard enough to rattle his ribs. He scrambled for his game face, almost got it.
ANALYSIS: Marcus Sakey makes it look easy. Note the two STIMULUS / RESPONSE patterns above. Since Danny learns critical information in this passage, Sakey gives us VISCERAL with each response from Danny. Plus—the reader is treated to fresh writing in a BASIC response with the ‘old instincts’ line. Five words, and they carry visceral power.
After Danny hears “Evan McGann,” he experiences an EMPOWERED response. Sakey loaded that response set with SIX EMOTIONAL HITS:
1) dry mouth
2) tingling chest
3) sense of heart beating harder
4) amplifies by adding his heart could rattle his ribs
5) Danny tries for ‘game face’ to block his reaction from Patrick,
6) ‘almost got it’ -- Danny failed.
Danny knows his facial expression tipped Patrick that Danny had a history with Evan. And we all know it wasn’t a happy history.
NOTE 1: Sakey uses some clichéd visceral responses: dry mouth, tingling chest, heart-pounding. Writers have to fall back on some clichéd viscerals, but stacking several together in a creative way, building a COMPLEX or EMPOWERED response, makes it an interesting read. It carries power.
NOTE 2 with a 1 – 2 punch: 
1) If you write a strong stimulus, include a visceral hit in your response. 
2) If you include a visceral response, visceral comes first.
“Ain’t you noticed, cop?” Dion’s voice was soft, his gaze weary, and for the tiniest second, Jason almost felt sorry for him.
ANALYSIS: Nice DIALOGUE CUE and GAZE CUE: It shows a good guy feeling sorry for a bad guy – and it’s tight, with stimulus and response in the same sentence.
The Set-up: Jason’s talking to his 8 year old nephew whose dad was murdered
“Hey, buddy.”
Billy didn’t look up. He pinched the crayon harder, the tip of his finger bloodless, and started stroking fast, hard lines.
Jason took a tentative step forward. “What are you drawing?”
Jason felt an acid shudder in his gut, like he’d put away a pot of coffee.
ANALYSIS: Sakey SHOWED Billy’s emotional response by sharing that Billy did not look up, and describing how Billy held and used the crayon. Writing ‘the tip of his finger bloodless’ informed the reader that Billy was holding the crayon so hard that his knuckles turned white. But Sakey dodged that cliché.
Extra credit awarded for fresh writing with ‘acid shudder in his gut’ driven home with the coffee-based simile. Fresh, fresh, fresh. And that simile had to resonate with every coffee drinker.
GOOD PEOPLE: Last example – a wife looking at her husband. It’s three paragraphs.
There was blood on Tom’s left hand, and the way he held it was odd, a swollen mess, the pinkie off-kilter. Her nerves felt like she’d bitten metal. She gasped, one hand covering her mouth, and started forward. Then she saw the look on his face, and stopped.
Sometimes it felt like they had known each other for a hundred years. She knew his every gesture, every expression. She could render them in her mind: the easy smile, titled a little to one side that drew crinkles around his eyes. The half-lidded head loll, lips barely parted, as they made love in the night. His precise squint when reading, meant not to bring the words into focus but to put the rest of the world out.
She had never seen the look that was on his face now. She recognized fear around the wide eyes. Pain marked in the press of his lips. And concern, concern for her, in the cock of his head and the readiness of his body. But there was something else too. A guardedness like a metal gate drawn across a store window. And through the slats, a sharp and sparkling accusation.
ANALYSIS: Strong example of a POWER INTERNALIZATION fueled by the POV character analyzing body language of a non-POV character. Sakey covers multiple stimuli and response patterns. 
First paragraph --  we see the husband’s mangled hand and pain – and the wife’s fear. 
Second paragraph -- Sakey draws the reader into the depth of their relationship, chronicling the husband’s nuanced body language and the wife’s caring interpretation. 
Last paragraph – the reader is hit with a contrast. The wife focuses on her husband’s body language – and sees fear and pain and concern and guardedness . . . and accusation.

Marcus Sakey’s writing will hook your mind, your funny bone, and your heart. Edgy, yet loaded with compassion. The reviewers, Top Read’s and Bestseller lists got it right with Sakey. Winning stories. Winning characters. Winning writing craft. My money’s on seeing his heart-grabbing stories about bad things happening to good people on the big screen.
Now it’s your turn. Post a comment about the blog – or just chat. 
Everyone who posts a comment will be entered in a drawing for a Lecture Packet from one of my online courses.
    1. 1. Empowering Characters’ Emotions
    2. 2. Deep Editing:  The EDITS System, Rhetorical Devices, and More
    3. 3. Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist
    4. 4. Powering Up Body Language in Real Life:
      Projecting a Professional Persona When Pitching and Presenting
    5. 5. Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors
Here’s another opportunity to be a Winner!
Open House for Lawson’s Writer Academy – Today!
As soon as you post a comment on the blog, pop over HERE to my web site, to attend the Academy’s Open House.
Tour the LWA Campus. Check out the cyber classroom, the Coffeeshop, the Deep Editing Fitness Center. If you are a Margie-grad, check out the Margie-grad Forums, and pick up your cyber gift.
Drop by the Open House. You have TWELVE CHANCES to WIN a Lecture Packet or Online Course. Don't miss your chance to be a winner!

Margie Lawson —psychotherapist, writer, and international presenter—developed innovative editing systems and deep editing techniques for used by writers, from newbies to NYT Bestsellers. She teaches writers how to edit for psychological power, how to hook the reader viscerally, how to create a page-turner.
Thousands of writers have learned Margie’s psychologically-based deep editing material. In the last six years, she presented over sixty full day Master Classes for writers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
For more information on Lawson Writer’s Academy, lecture packets, on-line courses, master classes, and the Immersion Master Class sessions offered in her Colorado mountain-top home, visit:


Christine said...

Hi Margie: I love this analysis. I am currently reading the EMPOWERING CHARACTERS' EMOTIONS lecture packet with the EDITS system. I love it. My only question is where I can I find more romance novel examples to show visceral responses and the types of deep and empowered emotions and powerful hits that you describe and share via the Romantic Suspense and Thriller novels? I love Jodi Piccoult and CJ Lyons, but any other authors you can recommend that I read for this?

And I can't wait to see you on the 23rd. I have my retractable highlighters ready to roll along with my handy dandy red pen.


Pam Asberry said...

Hi Margie! What a great post! This will be so helpful to me as I continue my novel revision. I am looking forward to meeting you on the 23rd, as well, representing Georgia Romance Writers, but I still need to go shopping for supplies. ;-) Thank you for your informative, helpful analysis.

Anonymous said...

Hi Margie,
I always come away from reading your analysis feeling excited about writing. Thank you for that.
I took Deep Edits at Georgia Romance Writers conference a few years ago and it was great but rushed.
Don't know how I missed you were coming to Birmingham. I'll see if I can rearrange my schedule and talk to Christine to see if there's any space left.
Have a safe trip out to the east coast.
Sia Huff

Sandy Elzie said...

Hi Margie,
Lady, I can't wait for the all-day workshop you're doing in a couple weeks in Alabama.

RedPeril said...

And here you are again, Margie!
Excellent bit of insight there, as always. Thank you for sharing your wealth of understanding, and in such a comprehensive way.
I sure hope they've got enough room for everyone in your upcoming B-ham workshop! :)

~Angela Blount

Linsey Lanier said...

Wow. What inspiration. Without Margie Lawson, I would have quit writing long ago. Thanks Christine for having her. And thanks, Margie for sharing your exceptional insights.

Playground Monitor said...

Okay, none of that made sense to me (and I'm a psych major!). But I'm going to be at the workshop in Birmingham on the 23rd. And I have all my supplies too. I just have to print out the first 5 chapters of a manuscript. I've heard great things about your workshops and am very excited about attending.


Sharon Wray said...

Hi Margie,
What a great analysis! I love Marcus Sakey's work and this was a great example. Thanks for your insight and willing to share. I never could've figured this out on my own.

Margie Lawson said...

Christine -

Thanks for inviting me to be your guest today!

Keep in mind, some of the authors I throw on the screen here may write fresh visceral responses and deep editing gems several times in each book. Others may have strong examples I can use for teaching on almost every page.

Off the top of my overworked brain.
Nalini Singh, Dianna Love, Margaret Daley, Allison Brennan, Robin Kaye, Brenda Novak, Karen Tabke, Darynda Jones, Jaye Wells, Erica Hayes, Christa Allan, Jessa Slade, Tracey O'Hara, Melinda Curtis, Lila DiPasqua, Melanie Milburne, Elizabeth Essex, Deborah Kaufman, Sandy Elzie, Nancy Haddock, Jeri Smith Ready, C.J. Lyons . . .

I'm proud to share -- all those authors are Margie Grads. :-)

My online courses and lecture packets are loaded with stellar examples.

See you in seven days!

Margie Lawson said...

Hello Pam!

Ah - GRW. I presented a half-day master class at M &M in 2008. Such strong committed-to-adding-power-on-the-page writers. Loved that conference!

Hmm...Wonder if they'd be interested in one of my advanced master classes. :-)

See you soon!

Margie Lawson said...

Hello Sia --

Thank you.

Hope I get to see you next weekend!

Margie Lawson said...

Sandy --

Time doesn't just fly, it zooms!

I'm presenting in Birmingham on July 23rd. Next weekend!

Can't wait to get together with you again.

Margie Lawson said...

Hello Angela!

So fun to cyber connect three times in 18 hours. :-)

Thanks for dropping by the Open House for Lawson Writer's Academy -- and for posting a comment at the Coffeehouse.

Drop by again and say HI, to enter today's contest. You may be a winner!

Christine said...

Hi Margie: Thanks for the great list. I love so many of the authors you suggested. Melanie Milbourne is a favorite of mine in the Presents line, too. Stellar! See you in 7 days!

Lawson's Leap said...

I am a believer of the creativity gene. Thanks for sharing it with me mom! Everytime I pick up a book I read it with the Lawson Analytical Eye, I swear I feel like I've been deep editing since middle school! And yeah...thanks to you I will now have to extend even MORE cash to my reading fund. Unless you happen to have a spare copy of The Blade Itself?? :) Oh - and congrats on the Lawson Writers Academy Openhouse-----I am proud to be on the teaching staff under such a fantastic leader!

Tami Brothers said...

Wow! Incredible visuals. LOVE the examples and the analysis of each. That helps a TON!!! I really need to take one of these classes. Seriously.

Thanks for sharing this today Christine and Margie! Great appreciated.


Maxine Davis said...

Margie, that is amazing! I really needed that post. Wish I could be there the 23rd, but doesn't look likely. I need and will take another class!

Christine, Margie, thanks for sharing!

Heather said...

Thank you Christine for hosting Margie on your blog. I can't wait for her workshop next week.

Margie - I am ready to become a convert! I am looking forward to you helping my characters' emotions come alive - right now my heroine suffers from acid reflux and restless leg syndrome based on how my manuscript is reading!

Margie Lawson said...

Linsey --

I want to meet you face-to-face some day. Where do you live?

I hope you are loving your writing now. :-)

Margie Lawson said...

Marilyn --

I bet it will make sense on Saturday.

See you SOON!

Margie Lawson said...

Sharon -

So fun sitting with you all at the Daphne Awards. And even more fun when you WON!

You could learn to deep edit analyze like I do. It would help if you could make it to an Immersion Master Class up here on my Colorado mountaintop . . . :-)

Ah - another Marcus Sakey fan!

Marilyn Baron said...

I really enjoyed this post and learned a lot. I had never read Marcus Sakey but from the samples you cited, he is amazing. I enjoyed your M&M workshop.

Marilyn Baron

Margie Lawson said...

Hey Christine!

Melanie Milburne is one of my BFF's!

My husband and I even visited Melanie at her home in Tasmania. :-)

Glad you love her books!

Margie Lawson said...

Hello Lawson's Leap Tiffany!

I'm glad you got my creativity DNA. You have my fun social DNA too. :-)

Thanks for chiming in!

Margie Lawson said...

Tami --

Glad my deep editing analysis of the examples helped you.

Hope to see you in one of my classes!

Oh - I'm not teaching my first series of editing courses until next year - Feb., March, and April. But -- you could order the lecture packets.

I teach two advanced editing courses this fall, October and November.

Want me to move in with you for a couple of months? I could teach you all my deep editing systems and techniques. ;-)

Margie Lawson said...

Maxine --

Sorry I'll miss you in Birmingham.

Hope to see you online!

Margie Lawson said...

Heather --

Your characters need fresh ways to react!

Can't wait to work with you next weekend. :-)

Margie Lawson said...

Marilyn --

I love Sakey's writing -- and his stories.

So do Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. They've optioned two of his books for film. I'm betting it's because they want to play his characters!

Margie Lawson said...


I had fun with you all. Thanks for chiming in!

I used a random number chart, and selected a winner.


Heather won a Lecture Packet!

Heather, please email me at
margie @ margielawson . com.



Big hugs...........Margie

Margie Lawson said...


I'm having such fun with the Open House for Lawson Writer's Academy -- I decided to have more drawings on Sunday!

FYI: The LWA campus is an open campus. You can drop by any time and check out the coffeeshop, the Resource Center, the Deep Editing Fitness Center . . .

I look forward to seeing you on campus!

Edie Ramer said...

Margie, this is stunning writing. Wonderful examples. I'm going to read them a few more times and hope they get imprinted on my brain.

You're the best!