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:~: Tuesday, April 25, 2006 :~:

Writing Tip...Backloading

I was introduced to this concept by Margie Lawson in her course Empowering Characters Emotions, which I mentioned in a previous post. And I've been having some fun playing with it in my revisions.

Yes, I'm still revising.

So, the overall principal of backloading is rather simple. Removing your strongest words from where they are embedded at the center of your sentence structure and putting them at the end to add emphasis, to provide more psychological weight. This technique is particularly powerful at the end of paragraphs, scenes and, of course, chapters.

But beware of backloading at the expense of either your voice or a smooth read.

Here are a few examples I took from my own work so you could get an idea of how the concept works.

1) Original: This was the first time she saw her own death looming, a grim reaper lurking in the corner shadows of this cellar.

Empowered: But this was the first time she saw her own death looming in the shadowed corners of this cellar like the grim reaper.

I love this revision. Ending with 'grim reaper' is much more powerful than 'this cellar'.

2) Original: Somewhere deep inside, she knew she was inching closer to death, to the last minutes of her life.

Empowered: Somewhere deep inside, she knew she was inching closer to the last minutes of her life, to death.

Very small change, but this example ends both more powerfully with 'death' and I think power is added when I go from the softer description 'last minutes of her life' and echo it with 'death' than visa versa.

3) Original: His eyes lowered and focused on his hands, the pleasure glinting there unmistakable.

Empowered: His eyes lowered and focused on his hands with an unmistakable glint of pleasure.

This one is subtle. One could argue it's so subtle, it's ambiguous. But I believe every little positive change, no matter how subtle, add up to a killer book. (Take that with a grain of salt...Considering I have yet to be published.)

4) Original: The insult stung and stole her breath for a second.

Empowered: The insult stung and stole her breath.

Another minor, subtle change.

5) Original: She couldn't help but smile back at him, but her pleasure dimmed when he took hold of her upper arm and turned her toward Geoff.

Empowered: She couldn't help but smile back at him, but when he took hold of her upper arm and turned her toward Geoff, her pleasure morphed into dread.

This sentence ends a chapter, and I think it not only adds power to the passage, but gives the reader more of a reason to turn the page.

That's it. My little lesson for the day.

Sometimes, while I'm cramming information into my head, struggling to take that next step in bettering my craft skills, I get bogged down with all the techniques, suggestions, even conflicting suggestions, and end up feeling overwhelmed, which often leads to paralysis.

I found this technique both powerful and simple to apply.

Tell us about some of your favorite techniques. Give us examples so we can apply it to our work. We can all grow together.


Blogger Paty Jager said...

I've never heard of this, but is is intriguing. I'll have to see what I can do with it while revamping my contemporary.

At the moment, I can't think of any techniques to marvel you with, but I'll think on it!

8:49 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Man, you always make me think.

As IF I'm not having enough trouble with the revisions on SOS. Gah!

Thanks for the tips. You're a wealth of great info.

9:52 AM  

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