Sandra Orchard was the 2009 Daphne DuMaurier Award of Excellence winner in the unpublished category and sold to Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense the following year. Her newly released debut novel, DEEP COVER, is the first in her series, Undercover Cops: Fighting for justice puts their lives—and hearts—on the line. Sandra hails from Southern Ontario, Canada. She also is a graduate of Margie Lawson's Master Immersion class. Sandra's here to give us a glimpse about what she learned in this program. Please welcome Sandra Orchard.
When attending Margie Lawson’s Immersion Master Classes hosted periodically in Margie’s log home at the top of a Colorado mountain, I must say, the panoramic vistas alone are enough to kick start one’s creative engine.
For anyone who hasn’t heard of Margie she is a psychologist and writer and teacher who has compiled excellent resources to help fiction writers enhance the psychological power of their writing by empowering character’s emotions. Her lecture packets brim with inspiring examples from best-selling authors of how it’s done, and detailed explanations to help you do it even better. She has also developed a powerful editing system.
The beauty of the immersion class besides the great setting, great food, and great accommodation—and Margie would be proud of me for using “anaphora” to tell you that—is the intimate class size. Six participants per session allow for ample one-on-one time with Margie.
I arrived equipped with my DEEP COVER manuscript (which sold the following year) and spent three-plus full days dissecting, analyzing and deep-editing it under Margie’s tutelage. Hands-on work is interspersed with reviews of technique and opportunities to walk in the nearby National Park or just relax and chat with the other participants.
The prerequisites for the course are that you’ve read three of her lecture packets or taken the corresponding online courses. And although I’d already applied Margie’s deep-editing techniques to my manuscript prior to the class, I was amazed by the subtle changes we were able to make to ramp up the emotion.
For example, toward the end of my opening scene I’d written:
Given the trail of dummy companies and insurance claims he’d unearthed following Tom’s death, Rick had no doubt that Laud torched his real estate for the insurance money, but Ginny would never believe his story. Her uncle had done too good a job covering his tracks by playing the town philanthropist, while in Ginny’s eyes, Rick was nothing more than something she’d scrape off her shoes.
He’d let her keep that misconception, too, because once again, he had a job to finish. A job she could jeopardize if she knew what he really was—an undercover cop who wanted to put her uncle behind bars.
We revised the last sentence for emotional impact to:
A job she could jeopardize if she knew what he really was—an undercover cop who wanted to dump her uncle in the dankest, darkest, dirtiest prison cell the province had to offer.
You’ll notice that the change seems rather minor. Yet, the change from “put” to “dump” in combination with the alliterative description of the prison cell significantly ramps up the reader’s awareness of how angry Rick is.
Here’s another example of techniques you can use to empower your writing:
Mom smiled, the special indulgent smile reserved for Lori.
Margie encourages her students to avoid overuse of actions like smiling, and when using them, to write them fresh, empowering them with emotion. In this example, the reader sees the heroine’s recognition of her mother’s greater affection for her mentally-challenged sister than her.
And if the thought of what Snake might do to her if he’d figured out Rick was a cop hadn’t convinced him to let Ginny walk away, her horrified who-are-you expression would have.
“Who-are-you” is not your typical adjective. But the use of such hyphenated words is a quick and easy way to convey a description the reader immediately understands.
One last example:
“Wow, the story sounds so noble the way you tell it. So let me get this straight. You were in a gang, but you intended to sell them out, and you were afraid I’d get caught in the crossfire. Which makes you a hero instead of a liar?”
Look at the last word in each sentence: it, straight, crossfire, and liar. With the exception of the first sentence, these are examples of backloading sentences with power words for stronger emotional impact. This can often be accomplished by a simple rearrangement of an existing sentence, and yet, the enhanced effect is surprising.
These are only a few examples of the many techniques Margie teaches.
Look at the last sentence of your third chapter. (I’m picking the third because it’s the end of a partial and the last impression you’ll leave with an editor before she makes the decision whether or not to ask for the full.) Is the sentence backloaded for emotional punch? Can you rewrite it, or surrounding sentences so that it is? Share your before and after examples with the group.
About DEEP COVER: Maintaining his cover cost undercover cop Rick Gray the woman he loved. Sweet Ginny Bryson never really knew Rick. He never gave her the chance. Not then, and not now, when he's back with a new alias to gather evidence against Ginny's uncle. The man's crimes led to Rick's partner's death, and Rick wants justice to be served. But his investigation is stirring up trouble, and Ginny is smack-dab in the middle. Someone wants Ginny to pay the price for what her uncle has done. But how can Rick protect her without blowing his cover, jeopardizing his assignment...and risking both their lives?
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