Margie Lawson

Make your writing soar


What Size Are Your Sighs?

In real life, a sigh always means something. It carries a psychological message.

But writers often plop a plain sigh on the page without sharing that all-critical subtext.

Plain sighs are bland. They’re blah-blah bland. Carry-no-power bland.

We’ve all read these overused sighs.

  • She sighed.
  • He huffed a sigh.
  • She sighed audibly.
  • She blows out a sigh.
  • He heaves a heavy sigh.
  • He let out a frustrated sigh.
  • She breathed a sigh of relief.
  • She sighed and shook her head.

Whoops. Not strong.

If a sigh is worth writing, share the feeling behind it. Don’t just share the action of sighing.

Ask yourself, “What feeling do I want to share with the reader here?”

You may realize that some of the time that sigh was used as a beat or to tag dialogue. You could nix that sigh and share something else.

Nix or fix!

You could amplify. Go deeper. Make your sighs more meaningful. You’ll write sighs that carry more interest, more depth, more subtext, more power.

I’ll analyze sighs from some Immersion Grads and share some goodies you can use.

Please read the examples out loud. With feeling. You’ll hear the powerful cadence.

A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby, Vanessa Riley, 5-Time Immersion Grad

Vanessa Riley could have written:

He sighed.

But she really wrote:

1. Deeply sighing, he relaxed and let the strain of the chase fall away.

Deep Edit Analysis:

  • Power Words—sighing, relaxed, strain, chase, fall away        
  • Sounds Natural—Sigh, relax, and let something that’s made you tense fall away.
  • Compelling Cadence—Beautiful. Read it out loud. The cadence is relaxing.

2. Gantry sighed, and Busick imagined fire launching from the viscount’s dragon nostrils.

Deep Edit Analysis:

  • Powerful Visual—Shares impact on the POV character, how they feel about the viscount.
  • Power Words—fire, launching, dragon
  • Compelling Cadence

The Marriage Lie, Kimberly Belle, 5-Time Immersion Grad, International Bestseller

Kimberly Belle could have written:

I sighed.

But she really wrote:

1. I sigh, a hard huff filled with resentment and something sharper, something that gnaws at me like hunger—but for revenge.

Deep Edit Analysis:

  • Power Words—hard, resentment, sharper, gnaws, hunger, revenge
  • Backloaded—Revenge
  • Amplification
  • Double Alliteration—hard huff, something, sharper, something
  • Shares Impact on POV Character
  • Compelling Cadence

BTW—One of my webinars is Game-Changing Power: Sharing Impact on the POV Character. Just had to share. Now you know.

2. I can’t stay in the house, not with Ma’s weighted sighs and worried stares.

Deep Edit Analysis:

  • Deepens Characterization
  • Structural Parallelism—weighted sighs and worried stares
  • Double Alliteration—weighted, worried, sighs, stares
  • Compelling Cadence

The Patient, Steena Holmes, 4-Time Immersion Grad, NYT Bestseller

Steena Holmes could have written:

I released a heavy sigh.

But she really wrote:

1. I didn’t mean to sigh as heavily as I did.

Deep Edit Analysis:

  • Universal Truth—resonates with readers.

2. He sighed, the sound similar to the wind that blew through a haunted forest. Eerie. Heavy. Dreadful.

Deep Edit Analysis:

  • Power Words—haunted, eerie, heavy, dreadful
  • Amplification
  • Strategic with Style and Structure
  • Compelling Cadence

The Forgotten Ones, Steena Holmes, 4-Time Immersion Grad, NYT Bestseller

1. She sighs, as if the answer should be obvious.

Deep Edit Analysis:

  • Universal Truth—resonates with readers.

2. Gertie’s long, hard sigh held the weight of two innocent lives.

Deep Edit Analysis:

  • Power Words—long, hard, weight, innocent, lives
  • Backloaded—innocent lives
  • Emotional Boom! So powerful!

Heart and Seek, Luna Joya, 4-Time Virtual Immersion Grad

Luna Joya could have written:

She heaved a sigh.

But she really wrote:

1. She heaved a sigh that shoved her breasts up and forward. How long had she practiced that move?

Deep Edit Analysis:

  • Fresh Idea—Using a sigh to be provocative.
  • Compelling Cadence

2. She made a happy sigh that shot through him, one he wanted to hear again and again. She couldn’t hate him forever.

Deep Edit Analysis:

  • Shared Impact on POV Character
  • Amplification
  • Compelling Cadence

Evil’s Unlikely Assassin, Jennifer Windrow, 7-Time Immersion Grad

I sighed, a sigh of someone who knows when they’ve made the wrong choice but can’t make the right one.

Deep Edit Analysis:

  • Amplification
  • Compelling Cadence
  • Universal Truth
  • IMB—Impress-Margie Brilliant! It has that clever something special that makes readers love it!

Evil’s Avenging Angel, Jennifer Windrow, 7-Time Immersion Grad

He took the paper from my hand and read through it. When he was done, he sighed. The deep soulful sigh of someone who was just done. Done with all the bullshit. Done with all the fighting. Done with the vampire race.         

Deep Edit Analysis:

  • Power Words—done, deep, soulful, done, done, bullshit, fighting, vampire race
  • Backloaded—done, bullshit, fighting, vampire race
  • Amplification—That sigh is amplified three times:
    • deep
    •  soulful
    • of someone who was just done
  • Anadiplosis—done. Done
  • Anaphora—
    • Done with all the bullshit.
    • Done with all the fighting.
    • Done with the vampire race.
  • Compelling Cadence

A Good Day for Chardonnay, Darynda Jones, 2-Time Immersion Grad, NYT Bestseller

1. Not one to let a foe seize the upper ground, he released an exasperated sigh and stood to his full height of sexy feet.

Deep Edit Analysis:

  • Amplification
  • Shared Impact on POV Character
  • Humor Hit—his full height of sexy feet.
  • Compelling Cadence

2. He released an annoyed sigh, drawing it out as though he were competing for Miss Drama Queen, USA.

Deep Edit Analysis:

  • Humor Hit—Competing for Miss Drama Queen, USA.
  • Deepens Characterization – Funny and true!
  • Compelling Cadence
  • Amplification—Powerful!

These authors could have just written basic sighs.

Darynda Jones could have just written: 

He released an annoyed sigh.

But she really wrote:

He released an annoyed sigh, drawing it out as though he were competing for Miss Drama Queen, USA.

What if you did a FIND on sigh in your WIP?

What do you think you’d find?

You may find you need to nix or fix.

Want to do that FIND?

You’ve seen some ways to make your sighs fresh.

  • Using power words, words that carry psychological power.
  • Amplifying, amplifying, amplifying.
  • Using rhetorical devices like alliteration, structural parallelism, anadiplosis, and anaphora.
  • Sharing Impact on the POV character.
  • Sharing Universal Truths.
  • Creating a Compelling Cadence—in every sentence you write.

Those are just a few deep editing goodies I teach to make your writing stronger.

I teach 3,752 other deep editing goodies too.

That could be hyperbole. Or not.

I believe every word in your WIP counts. Pay attention to everything, including the size of your sighs.

Remember, if a sigh is worth writing, share what motivated it. Put that feeling on the page.

Thanks so much for being here! Feel free to post a comment. I’ll reply!


Margie Lawson

Margie Lawson left a career in psychology to focus on her true passion—helping writers make their stories, characters, and words strong. Tired of the same old writing rules and tools? Try something new.

Using a psychologically based, deep-editing approach, Margie teaches writers how to bring emotion to the page. Emotion equals power. And power not only grabs readers, it holds onto them until the end. Many Margie grads have gone on to win awards, find agents, sign with publishers, and hit bestseller lists.

As an international presenter, Margie has taught over 150 full day master classes in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and France, as well as multi-day intensives on cruise ships in the Caribbean. Pre-COVID, she taught 5-day Immersion Master Classes across the U.S. and Canada and in seven cities in Australia too.

COVID Update: Immersion Master Classes are now virtual, taught through Zoom. Virtual Immersion classes are limited to six writers. They're two days long with two big topics--and as always, writers get one on one deep editing with Margie.

She also founded Lawson Writer's Academy, where you’ll find over 30 instructors teaching online courses through her website. To learn more, sign up for Margie’s newsletter.




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