jessicamorrell.com

The online home of Jessica Morrell, because stories matter

Motivational Mondays

Written By: jessicap - Oct• 20•14

Thoughts about living with awareness and openness:

We waste so much energy trying to cover up who we are clarita statues kissingwhen beneath every attitude is the want to be loved, and beneath every anger is a wound to be healed and beneath every sadness is the fear that there will not be enough time.
When we hesitate in being direct, we unknowingly slip something on, some added layer of protection that keeps us from feeling the world, and often that thin covering is the beginning of a loneliness which, if not put down, diminishes our chances of joy.
     It’s like wearing gloves every time we touch something, and then, forgetting we chose to put them on, we complain that nothing feels quite real. Our challenge each day is not to get dressed to face the world but to unglove ourselves so that the doorknob feels cold and the car handle feels wet and the kiss goodbye feels like the lips of another being, soft and unrepeatable.”
~ Mark Nepo

Written By: jessicap - Oct• 18•14

Writing-is-my-hearthfire

Matthew Quick on Writing

Written By: jessicap - Oct• 15•14

”  The most difficult part of the writing process was and is sending my words into the world. Writing is a very personal, therapeutic, and maybe even spiritual process for me. And the emotions I feel when I am sitting alone writing are very intense and often not what I show people face-to-face. But writing is an act of communication, and an act of faith—trusting the reader to be someone who is willing to shake the hand that comes up out of the page. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that I really should be showing people all these naked words I try to write passionately and bravely and honestly, that it does matter and writing fiction is not a waste of time, or a self-indulgent act. Believing that I really do have something to offer people, and that people need and will want what I send out into the world, that’s the most difficult part of the writing process for me. It’s a daily battle. The most difficult part of the writing process was and is sending my words into the world. Writing is a very personal, therapeutic, and maybe even spiritual process for me. And the emotions I feel when I am sitting alone writing are very intense and often not what I show people face-to-face. But writing is an act of communication, and an act of faith—trusting the reader to be someone who is willing to shake the hand that comes up out of the page. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that I really should be showing people all these naked words I try to write passionately and bravely and honestly, that it does matter and writing fiction is not a waste of time, or a self-indulgent act. Believing that I really do have something to offer people, and that people need and will want what I send out into the world, that’s the most difficult part of the writing process for me. It’s a daily battle.”  ~ Matthew Quick author of The Silver Linings Playbook

for more Matthew Quick go here

Silver Linings Playbook

New feature here: Motivational Mondays

Written By: jessicap - Oct• 07•14

“What’s your story? It’s all in the telling. Stories are compasses and architecture; we navigate by them, we build our sanctuaries and our prisons out of them, and to be without a story is to be lost in the vastness of a world that spreads in all directions like arctic tundra or sea ice. To love someone is to put yourself in their place, we say, which is to put yourself in their story, or figure out how to tell yourself their  story.” ~compass old school Rebecca Solnit

Advice from Don Delillo

Written By: jessicap - Oct• 03•14

Child's hand in mudFirst you look for discipline and control. You want to exercise your will, bend the language your way, bend the world your way. You want to control the flow of impulses, images, words, faces, ideas. But there’s a higher place, a secret aspiration. You want to let go. You want to lose yourself in language, become a carrier or messenger. The best moments involve a loss of control. It’s a kind of rapture, and it can happen with words and phrases fairly often—completely surprising combinations that make a higher kind of sense, that come to you out of nowhere. But rarely for extended periods, for paragraphs and pages—I think poets must have more access to this state than novelists do. ~DON DeLILLO

Registration still open for Claim Your Story Writing Conference

Written By: jessicap - Oct• 01•14

Lithia ParkOctober 4

You can find the details for the conference here.

Here’s the short version: a day of workshops and inspiration for $125 at the Lithia Springs Resort, one of the most charming places you’ll ever set foot in. Melissa Hart is the keynote speaker. I’ll also be teaching along with Midge Raymond.  Includes a catered lunch and beverages.

Also, there is a scholarship available for a writer in need.

In case you have never visited,  Ashland, OR is stunning in the autumn.

Quick Tip:

Written By: jessicap - Sep• 27•14

bare branches against sky

     Leave room in your story for the grey area between right and wrong. This is especially powerful when a character wrestles with a moral dilemma.

Avoiding the Perils of Expositional Dialogue

Written By: jessicap - Sep• 24•14

Jack Nicolson courtroom speech     There comes a time in many stories when a character must deliver needed information via dialogue. It’s called expositional dialogue—a conversation with a whole lot of facts or explaining going on. It provides the back story and details necessary to understand for the story. Trouble is, after not too long these dialogue exchanges can easily become tedious and bog down your story. Especially if the conversation, speech, sermon, or testimony goes on for pages or the scene is solely based on delivering these facts.

So what’s a writer to do? Here are some solutions:

  • Tuck the information into scenes laced with  heavy conflict, especially with high stakes. Courtroom scenes typically contain expositional dialogue, but the stakes are sky high and jurors need to learn what they don’t know.
  • Add tension—perhaps the characters are afraid of being overheard or it’s improper for them to be meeting.
  • Try summarizing some of the information instead of only using direct dialogue.
  • If possible the character delivering the facts should be fascinating, funny, brilliant,mysterious, or somehow loaded with personality—and keep it lively whenever possible.
  • Tighten it to the bone. Not a single unnecessary word.
  • Set it up—readers need to experience the need to know before the exposition happens.
  • Feature the protagonist tracking down the information or somehow being proactive.
  • As one character is listening to the dialogue he or she doesn’t need to simply sit there. He/she needs to actively participate—become agitated, struggle to control emotions, ask difficult questions, etc.
  • Another trick is to have a necessary object or situation or fall apart and exposition is used as the object/situation is fixed.
  • Figure out when readers need to be kept in the dark and give out information on a need-to-know basis, especially in Act 1
  • Never discuss information that both characters already know.
  • Determine if the back story is sufficiently complicated; a flashback might work better to bring forth the information.

Keep writing, keep dreaming, heave heart

Inner Logic

Written By: jessicap - Sep• 18•14

Does this happen to you? You’re reading along in a novel written by one of your favorite authors and you feelspeed run swirl colors blue and yellow yourself somehow slipping out of the story. Or, you’re stopped, puzzled or bothered by an action or dialogue exchange that just doesn’t feel right. As if it doesn’t belong in a story or the protagonist, a hip twenty-year-old tattoo artist,  would never call the guy in the bar a cad or dilettante.

These are small illustrations, but usually a faulty inner logic usually  happens on a larger scale. For example, it could be the hero (as in good guy) killing off another character not because this death is necessary for the story, but just because the hero didn’t like the guy. If the hero is supposed to rescue the world, or solve the case, or win the day, we need to trust him. If he’s going to break bad, then the whole story should be about his downward arc. You say your protagonist is an antihero? These types can star in any story and use unusual and even illegal means to solve problems, but they still need a moral compass that readers understand.

Other problems that fall under inner logic: There isn’t a truly dramatic conflict at the center. The protagonist’s goal isn’t story worthy or it changes so much as the story goes along that readers cannot track what the protagonist wants. Too much of the story is not spent on answering the central dramatic question. A subplot or secondary character takes over the story. The story turns into the author’s soapbox. Or the real story doesn’t start until page 150 after a lot of back story and stasis.

One of the biggest problems with weak inner logic gone is motivation. Why did the protagonist whack his ex-girlfriend? Desperation? Jealousy? Fear? Revenge? The solution is to know the morality of your main characters—their values, moral dilemmas and decisions are the plot’s backbone.

Readers want the whys of life answered when reading fiction. Readers have internalized story structure from a lifetime of reading. They know that Act Two—things growing more complicated and surprises popping up—is followed by Act Three where matters come to a head, then a resolution follows. Fiction is a way to transfer nontransferable knowledge—that is knowledge a person cannot learn from his or her own experiences. This means readers learn and experience through fictional characters.

Humans are the only creatures that believe in worlds inside their imaginations. Worlds found between the covers of books. But all imaginary worlds are built from cause and effect, conflict coming to a boil, scarred, vulnerable characters going up against huge odds. For a reason. purple center radiant sun

Quick Take:

Written By: jessicap - Sep• 17•14

Blooming treeWriting is like marriage or a healthy partnership. It needs nurturing, surprises, tender attention. Honesty is required and you cannot take your beloved for granted. And you cannot hold grudges for things that went wrong in the past.

Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart