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.
THE BLADE ITSELF:
“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.
AT THE CITY’S EDGE:
“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
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. Empowering Characters’ Emotions
- 2. Deep Editing: The EDITS System, Rhetorical Devices, and More
- 3. Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist
- 4. Powering Up Body Language in Real Life:
Projecting a Professional Persona When Pitching and Presenting
- 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: www.MargieLawson.com.