Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Back Loading as a Writing Device

Still time to join the party—leave a recipe on this post from 3/7 and be entered to win a query critique by my agent Vickie Motter, a first page critique from Laura Pauling, a first page critique by me, or a signed copy of one of my nonfiction books.

A year ago I took a class on rhetorical devices with Margie Lawson through WriterU. I learned a ton of strategies, some of which I’m still processing. If you have a chance to take this class, I highly recommend it!

One of the best tools I learned from Margie is the concept of back loading a sentence. Basically, this is putting the most important word in the sentence last, thereby ending with the most powerful word. Sometimes you have to play around with it.

As Charles watched, the flames consumed his childhood home.

As Charles watched, his childhood home surrendered to the flames.

Ok, maybe not the best example, but you get the idea. In some situations it might depend on what concept or word is the most important. Do you want to leave the reader with the word “home” or the word “flames”? What’s the next sentence? If you find yourself ending sentences with weak words, try playing around with it to make it stronger.

As I’m working through the revision notes from my agent, I’m finding places where I could have back loaded a sentence but didn’t. The MS is slowly evolving. (see what I did there? I could have said "evolving slowly" but I think "evolving" is the most important word. So I back loaded.) :)

Update: Here's a link to Margie Lawson's blog.


Laura Pauling said...

I love Margie's classes. And you can purchase the packets for - I think - 20 dollars off her website. well worth the money. Backloading is just one of many of the techniques you'll learn to add more emotion and power to your story! i recommend it too!

Kristine Asselin said...

Thanks, Laura! You're right, you can purchase Margie's packet. I found it more helpful than some published books on craft!

mooderino said...

Thanks for the tip, I'm going to try it out, see if it works for me.

Lori M. Lee said...

Great advice! This is going beyond grammar and really picking your words carefully to show off your craft. Thanks so much!

Kristine Asselin said...

Mood, Lori -- Glad you found it helpful. Thanks for stopping by!

Ansha Kotyk said...

Margie's classes are the best! You're reminding me to go back and reread the class notes (Margie's info packets are literally packed with info and examples!)
Here's a link to an interview I did with Margie regarding her classes.

Tina Laurel Lee said...

Such a useful post! I'm gonna check my sentences out.

Cambria Dillon said...

Oooh, I'll have to check out Margie's packet. I'd heard of this technique before but didn't realize it had a fancy name! Good stuff. Thanks for sharing and good luck with your revisions!

Kristine Asselin said...

Definitely check out Margie's packets, well worth the investment. I love this technique. It really makes you think about how to structure your sentences.

Sophia Chang said...

hahahaha you and I were in the same class! I printed out all the chapters (except Ch 1, which I can't seem to find - ack!) but I haven't finished reading the binder I meticulously put together for the class. Still 2 chapters to go. It takes forever to highlight and tag the dense material.

I definitely worked on the ms I'm querying in that class. What did you work on?