Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Magic Paragraph for Writers

by Ane Mulligan @AneMulligan

Today I'm excited to have another guest on The Write Conversation. Ane Mulligan is one of my favorite new authors to watch, as well as a dear friend and president of Novel Rocket. Be sure to leave a comment below welcoming her. Everyone who leaves a comment will be entered in a drawing as well!

The Magic Paragraph
The Magic Paragraph was the brainchild of the late great Ron Benrey. I sat in a class Ron taught at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference a number of years ago. That was, for me a benchmark in my writing career. I’ve been given permission to carry on teaching it by his widow, Janet Benrey. For more of Ron’s witty delivery of writer advice, do yourself a huge favor and buy his book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to WritingChristian Fiction.

So, what is the Magic Paragraph? It goes like this:
  1. Signal whose head to enter.
  2. Twang an appropriate sense or start a thought process.
  3. Show appropriate action or reaction (what the character experienced).
  4. Start the character thinking.

Repeat as often as needed.

Here's an example from my debut novel:

Claire hung her tote on the stairs newel post. From the looks of the set table and the appetizing aroma permeating the house, the girls had been home for some time. She wondered what they'd fixed. It didn't really matter, of course. Twin-cooked anything was her favorite. They definitely inherited Joel's culinary talents.

1. In this paragraph, Claire is whose head we’re entering. She’s the POV character in this scene.

2. The next sentence twanged two senses, sight “from the looks of the set table” and smell “and the aroma permeating the house” and it started her thought process, wondering what they cooked.

3. Next is something Claire has experienced: “Twin-cooked anything was her favorite.”

4. She starts thinking how they have inherited their daddy’s culinary talents.

Here’s one more. See if you can pick out the Parts from the Magic Paragraph:

Patsy gave the fluffy duvet a final tug then aligned her and Nathan's pillows. The bed appeared department-store-perfect—nothing out of place. Beneath the top cover, the sheets hadn't been changed, but from the outside, all looked ideal. Hiding imperfections seemed to be the story of her life.

If you’re having problems keeping the reader turning pages, try this technique. Definitely start each scene with a Magic Paragraph, and then repeat as necessary.

Don't forget to give the magic paragraph a try, leave your answers (along with any questions)  in the comments section below!  

Don't forget to join the conversation!


While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, Ane has worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that's a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction (try saying that three times fast). She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. President of the award-winning literary site, Novel Rocket, Ane resides in Suwanee, GA, with her artist husband, her chef son, and two dogs of Biblical proportion. You can find Ane on her Southern-fried Fiction website, Google+, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and Pinterest.

With a friend like Claire, you need a gurney, a mop, and a guardian angel.

Everybody in the small town of Chapel Springs, Georgia, knows best friends Claire and Patsy. It's impossible not to, what with Claire's zany antics and Patsy's self-appointed mission to keep her friend out of trouble. And trouble abounds. Chapel Springs has grown dilapidated and the tourist trade has slackened. With their livelihoods threatened, they join forces to revitalize the town. No one could have guessed the real issue needing restoration is their marriages.

With their personal lives in as much disarray as the town, Claire and Patsy embark on a mission of mishaps and miscommunication, determined to restore warmth to Chapel Springs —and their lives. That is if they can convince their husbands and the town council, led by two curmudgeons who would prefer to see Chapel Springs left in the fifties and closed to traffic.


  1. Edie, thanks for letting me share here. The Magic Paragraph is a wonderful legacy Ron left us and I love to share it. Gina Holmes, Jessica Dotta, and I always incorporate it.

  2. And, Edie, we're doing a giveaway on The Write Conversation today. :)

  3. Ane, thanks for the insights. I'll apply these helpful nuggets to my WIP for children.

    1. You're so welcome, Sally! I promise you it works! And you're entered in the drawing.

  4. Replies
    1. You're welcome, Andrea. It truly is good advice. It made a huge change in my writing back then and I still employ it. :) And you're entered int he drawing.

  5. Thanks so much for the great study on opening paragraphs.

    1. And it's not just opening. Sometimes, mid scene we need to ground the reader again. You're entered in the drawing.

  6. Great tip, thanks for sharing! And--welcome!!

  7. Thanks, Tammy! I always love to share the really great tips I've received. You're entered in the drawing.

  8. This is great advice Ane - one of those simple, yet profound tidbits ;-) Thanks!

  9. Thank you, Nan. They really are profound, aren't they? Thanks for stopping by.

  10. Ron's advice was spot on! And so easy to understand once you hear it. To think he was an engineer, yet could teach us how to focus on the senses so well! We will miss him.

    Thanks for sharing Ane!

  11. Ane, I like the magic paragraph, and I love the example you used. Right now there's a sweet aroma of bread pudding in our home, since my teen daughter made it today.

    Blessings ~ Wendy ❀

  12. Thanks, Wendy. And can I run over to your house? I love bread pudding!! :o)

  13. Thanks for sharing the Magic Paragraph concept with us. It's one of those things that makes you say, "Why didn't I come up with that?" Blessings on your journey to teach these principles to others.

    1. I know, Cathy! I wish I'd come up with it, but I get to carry it on for Ron. Thank you so much!