Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Magic Paragraph

One of my favorite writing tips came from the late Ron Benrey. He taught it to me about ten years ago. He called it The Magic Paragraph. It and much more are in his book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Christian Fiction.

When Ron left us to enter heaven and teach them all how to write, his wife, Janet, gave me permission to pick up the mantle on his Magic Paragraph and pass it on. This little gadget has worked well for me.

The Magic Paragraph:
  • Signal which head to enter.
  • Record an appropriate sense, emotion or mental faculty
  • Show appropriate action or response
  • Repeat if necessary 

Breaking that down, the first one is fairly self explanatory. Begin by letting the reader know whose POV.
Jane plopped her backside down on the curb.

We know we’re in Jane’s head. You don’t have to start with the name, but give it fairly soon, so the reader knows who it is. In the book I’m writing now, I start it this way:

The morning fog was about as thick as the pea soup Great-aunt Lola used to make. Claire hated that soup then and she didn’t much like this fog now.

I give you Claire’s name in the second sentence. And you wouldn’t confuse the POV character with Great-aunt Lola, because she wouldn’t think of herself that way.

In those same two opening sentences, I have both the first and second bullets in the magic paragraph.

I signaled whose head to enter and then I recorded an appropriate sense, emotion or mental faculty for the character. Here’s another one to follow Jane’s opening line.

Her spirit was so low she could probably dangle her feet and not touch the water trickling in the gutter.

Next is to show an appropriate action.
For Claire it’s: She swished her hand back and forth in an impotent attempt to dispel it. 
For Jane: She pulled a crumpled tissue from her pocket and blew her nose, wishing she could blow away her problems as easily.

The last item is Repeat if necessary. You need to keep the reader grounded in your POV character’s head. This little gadget, the Magic Paragraph, isn’t a formula per se. It’s a guide to showing what’s in your character’s head. Take your reader on the journey, making them privy to your POV character’s innermost thoughts.

Jane plopped her backside down on the curb. Her spirit was so low she could probably dangle her feet and not touch the water trickling in the gutter. She pulled a crumpled tissue from her pocket and blew her nose, wishing she could blow away her problems as easily.

So there you have it, The Magic Paragraph. Use it to help keep your story and your reader grounded in your character’s POV.

Home to Chapel Springs, (available now)

A homeless author, a heartbroken daughter, and a theatre ghost. There’s trouble in Chapel Springs.

There’s always someone new in Chapel Spring, either coming home or stirring up trouble.

Bestselling author Carin Jardine’s latest book is a flop. While the reviewers are happily skewering her, her racecar-driver-husband walks out on her and she’s evicted, because he hasn’t paid the lease on their condo for the last three months. Then she discovers he also he drained their bank accounts. Homeless and broke, she and her little boy have no choice but to retreat to the house she inherited from her nana in Chapel Springs—the house that’s been gutted. Then, a stranger knocks on her door. One that will change the course of her life.

After the residents thwarted Howie Newlander’s plans for a Miami-style resort on Chapel Lake, he’s running for mayor and spreading rumors about diverted water and misused taxes. The Lakeside Players want to remodel the town’s old theater, but it’s rumored to be haunted. When Newlander and Mayor Riley go head-to-head, Claire gets caught in the middle.

Claire’s youngest daughter is in love with a young man whose daddy is none other than Mayor Felix Riley…the man who man who blames Claire for every wrong in Chapel Springs. Having him part of her family isn’t in Claire’s plan. The years of her heartache should warn her daughter off this boy. So far, her daughter’s heart isn’t hearing the warnings.

With hearts pulled in all directions, will they find a home in Chapel Springs?


While a floppy straw hat is her favorite, novelist Ane Mulligan has worn many including pro-family lobbyist, drama director, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. Ane writes her Southern-fried fiction in Sugar Hill, GA, where she resides with her artist husband, chef son, and a dog of Biblical proportion. You can find Ane on her Southern-fried Fiction website, her Amazon author page, Google+, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and Pinterest. 


Normandie Fischer said...

Excellent advice, Ane!

Southern-fried Fiction said...

Thanks, Normandie. It was a turning point for me and helped me get rid of a distant narrator. :)