Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

Fiction is About the Cost of Things

Fiction is about the cost of things. The plot should always somehow scar or wound the protagonist and put something valuable at risk. Protagonists suffer. Period. Paying heavy costs make characters relatable. I swear by these statements. Use them to guide your storytelling because it creates stakes, motivation, and tension. Fictional characters take more risks […]

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Quick take: Take a cue from film directors

Fiction and memoir writers take a cue from film directors: In each moment and scene understand where you want to focus your reader’s attention. The director, and later the editors, have a distinct purpose for every shot, along with every detail, sound, color, tone, lighting, motif, subtext, and symbol.  Without knowing it, the audience is […]

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Quick take: Violence = consequences

I’ve worked on a number of manuscripts where violence happens on the page and the story just sort of moves along. Violence requires consequences–injuries, trauma, legal repercussions, banishment. It also requires enough back story to support the character committing violence. If a sweet young thing punches out an adversary, we need to believe she’s physically […]

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Characters We’ve Never Met Before

Fiction readers want to meet story people that they cannot meet in the ordinary world. They also want these people to possess complicated world views and unexpected moral codes. The cast members of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather are splendid examples of this. It’s one of the first novels that depicted mafia families in a sympathetic […]

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