Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

According to Ansen Dibell

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Sep• 14•23

Make everybody fall out of the plane first, and then explain who they are and why they were on the plane to begin with.

Unlike Nancy…..don’t eavesdrop

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Sep• 12•23

Mild weather here, thank goodness. Took yesterday off to go antiquing with a friend in Aurora, a small town nearby. Not all the stores were open because it was a Monday so I’m happy to report we’re returning.  Besides a pub lunch, buying old books, strolling around charming old neighborhoods, and a good, long catching-up chat, the day felt soft and bonny. Please indulge me; I’ve never used bonny in a sentence before, but it suits. A sense of change brewing in the trees and air. The leftover flavor off almost-chilly nights. Pumpkins in store fronts.

As for writing–always on my mind–I’ve been thinking about Nancy Drew, the young fictional sleuth who came into our midst in the 1930s. Anyone out there read all the Nancy Drew books? I read every Nancy book available in the school and town library, at least twenty. Without realizing it at the time, she was one of my heroes. A blue roadster? Sign me up. But looking back, her indefatigable nature was what I most admired. It was a trait common to the biography subjects I read and characters I hoped to emulate. And Nancy Drew demonstrated more bravura than was the norm during my growing-up years.

Here’s a beautiful article on Ms. Drew, her stories and adventures. And www.nancydrewsleuth.com is a fun site to explore.

While Nancy–with some help from her friends–was clever and practical, some of her detecting was, well amateurish. Schoolgirlish.  Now of course she WAS an 18-year-old amateur, but techniques like eavesdropping near an open door or behind lilac shrubs are written for the convenience of the author.  When writing adult fiction find another way to gather the information. Serendipity of any sort needs to be handled with utmost cleverness. And rarely. And how about using current spy technology instead? There are a lot of gadgets available.

If you’re writing historical fiction, improvise, misdirect, and use props from the era.

The rational behind your characters’ actions are more important than providing your readers clues. Sure, move the plot forward. But finesse matters because clues–along with dead bodies–are the most memorable parts of suspense stories. 

Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart


Written By: Jessica Morrell - Sep• 06•23

Here’s a question for fiction writers: Does your protagonist have a place of refuge?

Will this space be available during the story events? Or inaccessible? How does he or she cope without refuge if it’s not available?

Or does the character carry a sense of refuge within? 

Or will your character ‘earn’ an inner refuge by story’s end? 

If you want to immediately improve…

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Sep• 05•23

If you want to immediately improve your fiction writing, inhabit your viewpoint character, breath by breath, bone by bone. The more dangerous, momentous, and dramatic the scene, the more readers need to see, hear, and feel what your character feels. Their thoughts should land directly with no filters like ‘she thought’ or ‘she wondered’ or  ‘she searched her mind.’ Internal dialogue needs to feel internal.

Act the part.

If you don’t know how your character would react amid danger or a painful recognition, then make certain you know his or her backstory. It should provide the emotional wounds that need healing, the regrets that need addressing, along with motivations, goals, and problem solving.

Backstory includes personality and ways of standing, walking, and hiding emotions and reactions.

Backstory will reveal the triggers that might set them off. The secrets they must keep.

Backstory + key personality traits are your basis for living within the characters you write. Come to know them intimately. Stalk them, sleep with them, dance with them, wipe away their tears.

And keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart


Written By: Jessica Morrell - Sep• 05•23

DPP_0003.JPG free stock photo


Written By: Jessica Morrell - Aug• 03•23

July, and…

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Jul• 04•23

The year is half over.

People are shooting off fireworks on this Fourth eve. Such resonant booms on a full moon night. And quicker, higher explosions some distance away. More gunshotty types closer. It’s the Buck Moon, and it’s still  not risen above the firs. It’s also a super moon because of its proximity to earth.

Fireworks, even when they wake us {make that me} at 1 a.m., are so miraculous, arent they? Sometimes I try to squint to the long past at the those first Chineses inventors, the early fireworks manufacturers.  Well, actually according to this great Smithsonian article on the history of fireworks, they came about accidently with overheated bamboo sticks in a fire. Thus an explosion. And who knew that Henry VII had them at his wedding in 1486?

But back to July fourth. Such brilliance was afoot back then in the Colonies, wasn’t there? And a brilliant madness.  Lots of sacrifice, but oh, the optimism. Oh, the beautiful, truly historic dream.

My fellow writers and world citizens out there; it’s been a tumultious few years we’ve just wobbled or limped through. Some of us still don’t feel as balanced as we did five or ten years ago. But alot of us are finding our footing, looking ahead, digging in.

The way I see it, no matter where you live, the planet and future generations need us.

Which brings us back to writing. Because doesn’t digging in mean writing?  Writer friends, how does the writing go?

Because if ever there was a time for telling stories, it is NOW.

And let’s all gaze up at the sky and search for the miraculous, shall we?

Are your fiction characters frustrated?

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Jun• 24•23


~ Nancy Kress

If you want to watch a film {make that rom-com} where frustration is woven into the storyline again and again, you can’t go wrong with When Harry Met Sally. 



Written By: Jessica Morrell - Jun• 02•23

The child raised on folklore…

Written By: Jessica Morrell - May• 08•23

Fairytales are more than moral lessons and time capsules for cultural commentary, they are natural law.  The child raised on folklore will quickly learn the rules of  crossroads and lakes, mirrors and mushroom rings. They’ll never eat or drink of a strange harvest or insult an old woman or fritter away their name as if there was no power in it. They’ll never underestimate the youngest son or touch anyone’s hairbrush or rosebush or bed without asking, and their steps through the woods will be light and unpresumptious. Little ones who seek out fairytales are taught to be shrewd and courteous citizens of the seen world, just in case the unseen world bleeds over. ST Gibson