after-the-scandal-182x300ELIZABETH ESSEX is the award-winning author of the critically acclaimed Reckless Brides historical romance series.

When not rereading Jane Austen, mucking about in her garden or simply messing about with boats, Elizabeth can be always be found with her laptop, making ElizabethEssexup stories about heroes and heroines who live far more exciting lives than she.  It wasn’t always so. 

Long before she ever set pen to paper, Elizabeth graduated from Hollins College with a BA in Classics and Art History, and then earned her MA in Nautical Archaeology from Texas A&M University.  While she loved the life of an underwater archaeologist, she has found her true calling writing lush, lyrical historical romance full of passion, daring and adventure.  You can find Elizabeth at ElizabethEssex.com, on Facebook, and Twitter.

 Yay! One of my favorite authors and favorite people, Elizabeth Essex, is here. Elizabeth has appeared on my blog twice before with her Reckless Brides series. 

Welcome back! I’m excited about your new release, After the Scandal.

Elizabeth Responds: Thank you!. I am always happy to talk books with you, and I’m  really thrilled to chat about AFTER THE SCANDAL.  I worked on this book with you during my last immersion class.

Margie Chimes In: We spent 4 ½ days together digging deep into this book. I’ve read the BEFORE and the AFTER and I love the changes you made, especially to the first chapter. We always work hard in immersion, but we have fun too. One of the most fun parts of those 4 ½ days is the evening we spent acting out your scene. When I asked for volunteers that night, you rocketed off your chair. You’ve written eight novels, why did you want us to act out your scene?

 

Almost-A-Scandal-183x300Elizabeth Responds:  I’ve learned in my prior immersion classes that my motivation often comes before I’ve introduced the action. I knew this scene was pivotal. Openings are huge. The action and the emotion have to balance each other out and the first few pages have to be strong.

Margie Asks Elizabeth: Let’s look at your opening from chapter one. We’ll read it first and then you can tell us what deep editing techniques you used to make your opening strong.  

 

Lady Claire Jellicoe hadn’t thought to protest. She hadn’t thought Lord Peter Rosing  would ever do anything untoward. She hadn’t thought someone she’d just met on a ballroom floor could ever wish her irreparable harm.

She simply hadn’t thought.

She had smiled. She had smiled because she was Lady Claire Jellicoe, pretty, privileged daughter of the Earl Sanderson. She had smiled because she was polite and considerate, and did as she was asked—she had been asked to dance with the handsome, fair-haired heir of the Marquess of Hadleigh. She had been taught to smile, and say yes.

“No,” was what she said now. “No. No. No.”

No, when Lord Peter Rosing pushed her into the dark seclusion of the boathouse at the Dowager Duchess of Fenmore’s lovely riverside villa in Richmond. No, when he pulled Claire’s arm, and grabbed her by the neck. No, no, no, when he shoved her face-first against the rough brick wall.

The brick was hard, and hurt. Stone bit into her face. Sharp grit clawed and scratched against her skin and tasted like dust. But the chalky, bitter bile in her mouth was really fear.

Fear that for the first time in her life, she was powerless.

Powerless because she had been spoiled. Powerless because all her life, she had been pampered and cosseted and buffered and protected from all the truly ugly unpleasantness of the world. And she had never known it until that exact moment when she screamed, “No.”

Because her voice was too small—shadowed with the fear pouring like acid down her throat, filling her chest with the high suffocating heat of panic.

She bit the gloved hand choked across her mouth as instinctively as a wild animal caught in a trap. Her teeth tore through the thick fabric, and the taste of blood suffused her mouth with the metallic tang of hatred and shame.

But all she got for her desperation was a low profanity spewed hot into her ear, the shifting of his grip to grind her face into the brick, and the bloody glove shoved into her mouth, and held there as a gag.

He was everywhere around her, covering her mouth, standing on the train of her gown, pinning her against the wall with his weight. Closing out everything else, every hope of help, every thought of action. There was nothing but his body and his breath and his smell and his power.

And she had none.

 

breathofscandal-184x300Margie Chimes In: Love your opening. Stellar story. Stellar writing. You make every word work, often in multiple ways. And your cadence is incredibly compelling. But you have what I call a Cadence Ear. Everything you write is perfectly cadenced.

Liz Talks to Margie:   This was not how this chapter originally opened. I wish I would’ve saved the original scene, but I’m not a saver. After we acted out the scene, we found that I had dumped too much introspection onto that first page and left out the action and the emotion. I distanced the reader.

Margie Chimes In: Your rewrite is powerful! Let’s look at the opening again. Elizabeth’s comments will be in red and mine will be in blue.  

 

Lady Claire Jellicoe hadn’t thought to protest. She hadn’t thought Lord Peter Rosing  would ever do anything untoward. She hadn’t thought someone she’d just met on a ballroom  floor could ever wish her irreparable harm.

She simply hadn’t thought.

 

I wanted to amplify the emotion so I used anaphora, a rhetorical device I learned in your Deep Editing class. I repeated—She hadn’t thought.

You also amplified that repetition the final time withShe simply hadn’t thoughtgiving that last phrase a big-time power boost. Everyone can identify with that line. Love it!

 

She had smiled. She had smiled because she was Lady Claire Jellicoe, pretty, privileged daughter of the Earl Sanderson. She had smiled because she was polite and considerate, and did as she was asked—she had been asked to dance with the handsome, fair-haired heir of the Marquess of Hadleigh. She had been taught to smile, and say yes.

 

The second paragraph shows Lady Claire reacting in a way the reader doesn’t expect. In this situation, many of us might cry or scream or at least try to make a scene. But Lady Claire smiled, which says a lot about her character and her background. She’s trying to distance herself emotionally and intellectually from the situation.

 Two rhetorical devices: anaphora and alliteration. Your double alliteration is subtle, and it enhances the read—pretty, privileged, polite, and handsome, fair-haired heir, Hadleigh.

 

“No,” was what she said now. “No. No. No.”

No, when Lord Peter Rosing pushed her into the dark seclusion of the boathouse at the Dowager Duchess of Fenmore’s lovely riverside villa in Richmond. No, when he pulled Claire’s arm, and grabbed her by the neck. No, no, no, when he shoved her face-first against the rough brick wall.

 

scandalinthenight-182x300I contrasted the smile with a “no” to show the pivotal moment of change. Lady Claire has been taught to always say yes. She’s never had a reason to say no. Until now. Everything changes and now she has to change. I emphasize how important this moment is by using that contrast, by using anaphora, andby repeating the word no.           

Great job emphasizing that crucial moment. I call it News of a Difference.

 

The brick was hard, and hurt. Stone bit into her face. Sharp grit clawed and scratched against her skin and tasted like dust. But the chalky, bitter bile in her mouth was really fear.

Fear that for the first time in her life, she was powerless.

Powerless because she had been spoiled. Powerless because all her life, she had been pampered and cosseted and buffered and protected from all the truly ugly unpleasantness of the world. And she had never known it until that exact moment when she screamed, “No.”

 

Next, I tried to ground the reader in the physical reality of Lady Claire’s crisis. I describe the crisis but then I give emotional hits with a visceral reaction by using the bitter bile taste in her mouth. I tied the above paragraphs together using the word fear. I end with the echo and power of the word no.

 

You were smart to spotlight the word FEAR.  Fear is always a power word. :-) Strong backloads: fear, powerless, spoiled, no.

 

Because her voice was too small—shadowed with the fear pouring like acid down her throat, filling her chest with the high suffocating heat of panic.

She bit the gloved hand choked across her mouth as instinctively as a wild animal caught in a trap. Her teeth tore through the thick fabric, and the taste of blood suffused her mouth with the metallic tang of hatred and shame.

But all she got for her desperation was a low profanity spewed hot into her ear, the shifting of his grip to grind her face into the brick, and the bloody glove shoved into her mouth, and held there as a gag.

He was everywhere around her, covering her mouth, standing on the train of

 

her gown, pinning her against the wall with his weight. Closing out everything else, every hope of help, every thought of action. There was nothing but his body and his breath and his smell and his power.

And she had none.

 

Here’s where I bring in the action, with each action followed by an emotional reaction. In the original version of this scene, I had pages of Lady Claire’s internalization before any action happened. When we

 

acted out this scene, nothing happened. The actors stood there because what was going on was all inside Lady Claire’s head. Way too much internalization. I went back and cut straight to the emotional and physical heart of the scene.

Tough to kill all the beautifully constructed darlings you had in those

Margie and Liz

internalizations. But you realized they didn’t carry the power you intended. Internalizations don’t pick up pace, don’t carry power, don’t hook readers. Kudos to you for nixing those thoughts and getting to the action faster.

Your writing in that passage is so smooth and eloquent and OMG powerful. I could point out deep editing brilliance in every sentence.  But the blog would be 2000 words longer.  ;-)

I’ll just comment on the last four sentences:

He was everywhere around her, covering her mouth, standing on the train of her gown, pinning her against the wall with his weight.  

Rhetorical device: asyndeton. No AND before the last comma. Boosts cadence. Makes the read more imperative.

Closing out everything else, every hope of help, every thought of action.  

Like the sentence before, uses asyndeton. Strong cadence. Imperative.

There was nothing but his body and his breath and his smell and his power.

Rhetorical device: polysyndeton. Using the same conjunction linking a series of three or more, and no punctuation. Empowers the words. The compelling cadence draws the reader in.

And she had none. 

This last sentence is a stand-alone. Spotlighted with white space.  The sentence starts with AND, which hints that the message is more special, more intimate.

IMC 2011 Liz Essex solemn on laptop MediumMargie Asks Elizabeth: You are great at using rhetorical devices. You’re also fabulous at peppering your paragraphs with power words. Can you pull those out for the reader?

Elizabeth Responds: Protest. Harm. No. Dark. Seclusion. Shoved. Face-first. Rough. Brick. Hard. Hurt. Stone. Bit. Sharp. Grit. Clawed. Scratched. Bitter. Bile. Fear. Powerless. Ugly. Screamed. Acid. Suffocating. Heat. Panic. Choked. Wild. Trap. Tore. Blood. Metallic tang. Hatred. Shame. Desperation. Profanity. Spewed. Gag. Weight.

Margie Responds: Elizabeth used forty-one power words in fourteen paragraphs. Nine of those power words are backloaded—at the end of a sentence or paragraph to give more even more of a boost. Out of her fourteen paragraphs, four are stand-alone paragraphs with backloading. Why did you make those sentences stand-alones?

Elizabeth Responds: Each of those stand-alone paragraphs highlights Lady Claire’s emotional state and her reaction to the trauma she’s experiencing. Creating all that white space spotlights her reactions, isolates her just as she’s isolated in the scene.

Margie asks Elizabeth: You’re brilliant. Do you plan to add all that power to your scene or do the techniques you use happen naturally as you write?

Elizabeth Responds: At this point it’s a combination of both because I’ve worked and applied  these deep editing techniques until they’ve become instinctive. I have you to thank for that.

Margie Responds: Your writing is incredibly strong. You’ve taken all of my online classes and done two 4 ½ day immersion classes and it shows.

Elizabeth Responds: Craft is really important to me. I want to put out the best book I possibly can. In order to that, I need to be constantly learning and you teach things no one else teaches. I learn something new every time I take a class. I learn new techniques and deepen my ability to naturally use a variety of techniques instead of relying on my favorites.

Margie Responds: You also do an amazing job of using character-themed words.

Elizabeth Responds: Character-themed words came from you. I write historicals and choosing period-appropriate words is very important. I wanted to heighten the impact of those words by making them both historic and specific to the individual hero or heroine.

Margie Chimes in: You’re going to share that technique in June when you teach an online class for Lawson Writer’s Academy. I can’t wait!

Liz Responds: I’m really excited too. The class is called It’s All About Character: Using Character Themed Words. 

I’m going to teach writers how to find and use character-themed words specific to their heroes, heroines, and even villains. Every word in a novel should serve two purposes—to move the plot forward and give greater insight into the characters. Using character-themed words accomplishes both and grabs the reader’s attention and keep it throughout the novel.

 A big THANK YOU to Elizabeth Essex for being my guest and for sharing the opening of After the Scandal.

Readers: Check out the upcoming classes.

And don't forget to leave a comment to win a copy of Elizabeth's new release or a free lecture packet from me. The drawing will take place on Sunday evening.

 Click on course name to see full description. 

Comments  
# RE: Elizabeth Essex After the ScandalLori Freeland 2014-04-04 03:19
I remember acting out your opening scene in immersion and what a difference that made. Love, love, love your new opening. You are the queen of Power Words!
# RE: Elizabeth Essex After the ScandalElizabeth Essex 2014-04-04 11:40
Thanks, Lori.

What I remember is everyone just standing there. BORING! I knew I had to make the action and the emotion gallop along at a really fast pace, but that Action and emotion had to be together!

And now, because I don't always have a room full of Immersioners and Margie to look over the top of her red glasses and say very kindly, "I think you can do better," I act or 'block out' my action/emotion scenes to make sure I get everything in the right sequence. :)

(And I can't wait till we can do one of your scenes!) Cheers, EE
# RE: Elizabeth Essex After the ScandalJacquie Biggar 2014-04-04 06:56
Loved your examples above Elizabeth and Margie. I've just finished Margie's class on emotional cues and learned so much. After reading your work above I can see I still have a long way to go.
Especially loved the line, There was nothing but his body and his breath and his smell and his power.
And she had none.
So powerful :)
# RE: Elizabeth Essex After the ScandalElizabeth Essex 2014-04-04 11:44
Jacquie,

I think I have taken almost every single on of Margie's classes, and some of them I have taken twice, because there is so much writerly goodness I can't take it all in at once. And frankly, I was just in the middle of a BIG revision, and I felt that the MS was a bit flat, and that I hadn't captured what I wanted to—so I got out my lecture packets from Margie and found places where I needed better dialog cues, more visceral emotional reactions, and places in the introspection that could be powered up with rhetorical devices.

There is always room to learn more! :)Tthanks for stopping by to chat with us today. Cheers, EE
# Hey Jacquie!Margie Lawson 2014-04-04 21:04
Jacquie --

I enjoyed working with you in Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues class.

Elizabeth Essex works hard to make her writing soar.

You can learn it all and work hard and make your writing soar too!

Hope I see you in my May class on Make Your Openings Pop. ;-)
# RE: Elizabeth Essex After the ScandalJulie Glover 2014-04-04 11:35
Loved hearing and acting out Elizabeth's scene! One of the highlights of Immersion was being introduced to her fabulous writing. When I returned home and picked up her books, I got happily lost in the stories.

One of my favorite things about Elizabeth's writing is how well she expands time when a pivotal moment occurs. Everything seems to halt as she describes the scene and the character's reaction, and she pulls and pulls on that thread of tension.

Can't wait to read the next book! Thanks so much for going over this, Margie & Elizabeth. Finally...anoth er terrific polysydenton here: "pampered and cosseted and buffered and protected." Yes! :)
# RE: Elizabeth Essex After the ScandalElizabeth Essex 2014-04-04 12:53
Julie!

(First — Hugs!)

Second, thank you so much. But one of the things I want other writers to know is that scene took work, and disappointment, and more work. "Killing your darlings", your lovely words is hard, but when they are not doing the heavy lifting, especially in an opening sequence, they GOTTA GO!

And now that you show me that last sentence with polysyndeton, I want to change it for better cadence and put the two 'P' words together for more power....

There is ALWAYS something that can be improved!

Lovely to chat with you again! Cheers, EE
# Hey Julie!Margie Lawson 2014-04-04 21:07
Hello Immersion Grad Julie!

I remember your writing from Immersion class, and it is STRONG!

Must be why you just finaled in a contest!

I'm so proud of you and your writing.

Can't wait until you get published, and I get to feature you on my Pubbed Margie-Grad Blog!
# RE: Elizabeth Essex After the ScandalBonnie G 2014-04-04 12:07
OMG, all the rhetorical devices in this opening make the scene totally pop and crackle with what's-going-to - happen-next tension.
I love Elizabeth's cadence too.
This scene makes me want to relook at my first scene to see how I can improve it.
Margie, your interviews are always so inspiring and educational.
Thank you both for a wonderful post.
# RE: Elizabeth Essex After the ScandalElizabeth Essex 2014-04-04 12:57
Bonnie,

I'm so glad this was helpful! And again, I want to point out that the original scene had all these elements—just not in this order and not to this degree.

Look to put action and emotion together. Choose more power words, and power words that are specific to your character and their world, and READ IT OUT LOUD!!!!

This is where I find cadence. When it flows OUT LOUD it's going to work on the page for the reader and compel them onward.

Best of luck with powering up the opening, and thanks so much for stopping by to chat! Cheers, EE
# Hey Bonnie!Margie Lawson 2014-04-04 21:10
Hello Immersion Grad Bonnie -

Thank you.

Your writing is strong too. I bet I'll get to feature you on this blog. Keep deep editing!
# Moving the Ancient BoundariesDiAne Gates 2014-04-04 13:37
Elizabeth, I'm headed to the bookstore. Great opening and I can't wait to read the rest. Margie, you're the greatest. Looking forward to my teens meeting you in June.

DiAne
# RE: Moving the Ancient BoundariesElizabeth Essex 2014-04-04 14:05
DiAne,

You are so kind! And yeah for bookstores!

Thanks so much for stopping by to chat! Cheers, EE
# Hey DiAne!Margie Lawson 2014-04-04 21:18
Hello Immersion Grad DiAne --

Great to connect again!

So glad I get to work with your teen writers for a full day in Dallas. Can't wait to stretch their stretchy brains!
# RE: Elizabeth Essex After the ScandalVonnie Alto 2014-04-04 18:06
Fascinating! Now I know why you have a powerful opening. You followed Margie's excellent advice and techniques. Power words. Emotional hits and so on all make for an engrossing read! I can't wait to read this book!
# RE: Elizabeth Essex After the ScandalElizabeth Essex 2014-04-04 19:59
Thank you, Vonnie.

And you are exactly right—all I did was follow Margie's excellent advice. But its has taken me years to completely understand and internalize her techniques to make them work for me.

So much work, for every book, every time. But it's all worth it. :)

Thanks for stopping by to chat. Cheers, EE
# RE: Elizabeth Essex After the ScandalArizona Dutt 2014-04-05 01:37
Love the opening!I definitely look forward to reading this one! Although, I ALWAYS look forward to your writing! Thanks for the great article!
# RE: Elizabeth Essex After the ScandalElizabeth Essex 2014-04-06 14:15
Arizona,

You are so kind. :) And the fact that this opening is so strong is a testament to Margie's teaching. Some books have a real corker of an opening, and this was one of them. I so glad I got to work on this during an immersion, or it never would have had all the power and goodness that it has now.

Thanks so much for stopping by to chat with me today, and best of luck in the drawing! Cheers, EE
# RE: Elizabeth Essex After the ScandalShanda 2014-04-05 02:39
I enjoyed this dissection from both points of view. And that was a well-executed scene/opening. Great job!
I've seen your name on my sister's shelves. Did you write a Scottish romance? I may have read one when I stayed with her. Inspiring to know you're a Margie grad. Best wishes. :)
# RE: Elizabeth Essex After the ScandalElizabeth Essex 2014-04-06 14:18
Shanda,

Thank you for your kind words on the opening—just doing what Margie tells me. :)

As to Scottish historicals—no, I've never written one. I have had a Scots heroine in SCANDAL IN THE NIGHT but that was set in India and the English countryside. Most of my stories are all set in the same fictive world of men who have served on Royal Navy ships together. They aren't brothers biologically, but brothers in spirit, bonding together throughout he hardships of the Napoleonic era.

Thanks so much for stopping by to chat with me today, and best of luck in the drawing! Cheers, EE
# RE: Elizabeth Essex After the ScandalYolanda Barber 2014-04-05 04:16
What a power packed opening. So many great examples back to back. It's so helpful the way you ladies dissected each section, spotlighting both the rhetorical devices and the rational behind the choices.

Elizabeth, the cadence is spot on. What a gift you have. Looking forward to reading AFTER THE SCANDAL.
# RE: Elizabeth Essex After the ScandalElizabeth Essex 2014-04-06 14:25
Yolanda,

You are very kind, but I really want to emphasize that this is CRAFT and not a GIFT. Seriously, Margie taught these techniques, and I applied them, over and over until I got it right for my voice.

I work really hard on the cadence, and two of my best craft tips for getting cadence are reading poetry, and reading your own work out loud. When I read poetry there is a lift and fall to the words that inspires me and gets inside my head. And then when I read my own work out loud, wherever I stumble or find myself lost, that's where I know I have to edit.

I recently had the pleasure of reading out loud to a Lady Jane's Salon in Raleigh/Durham and it was eye-opening to me to prepare for that. It also showed me where some rhetorical devices, especially polysyndeton, pushes the action and the emotion long at a terrific clip. :)

Wishing you happy reading! Thanks so much for stopping by to chat with me today, and best of luck in the drawing! Cheers, EE

© 2017 Margie Lawson

Back to Top