Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

Archive for the 'fiction techniques' Category

NaNoWriMo Hacks & a Bit of Tough Love

Thirty days has November and for thousands of writers around the globe, that means NaNoWriMo or National Writing Month, a giddy, exhausting yet exhilarating, marathon and  communal activity where writers jam on the page, producing a 50,000-word novel in a month. It teaches writers discipline, commitment, and how to survive on not much sleep. A […]

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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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Just say no

Most of us could not hack the lives of fictional protagonists because everything they do and everywhere they turn, events are designed to shriek denials, thwart desire, and erect roadblocks. Plots and scenes are built on forces and characters that stand in their way, blocking something they desperately wants or needs, delaying gratification. The results […]

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Quick take: Turn down the lights

Setting is a powerful device for creating tension in fiction. When you’re planning scenes where danger lurks, here’s the trick:  turn down the lights. Link moonless skies, gray curtains of rain, or gloomy weather to a deathbed vigil, a battle scene, or harrowing journey. Force characters to travel down lonely, lawless stretches of road.  If […]

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If I could offer writers only one piece of advice…

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Start with the Tangible

I was corresponding with a client a few days ago about his opening paragraph. In it there was a sentence bloated with abstract terms that just sort of hunkered or sprawled flattened on the page. Instead of abstractions, here’s a foundation from where  you can begin most writing:  with the artifacts of everyday life. You […]

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Act one: Disturb the equilibrium

If you don’t understand the underpinnings of fiction, you’ll likely  suffer and bumble when you try to create it. Without some knowledge of the why, when and how things work, your story has little chance of success. Writing something as complicated as a novel without a plan is like building a house without an architectural […]

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Quick Take for writers: Remember your Scars

Stephen King once said, “A little talent is a good thing to have if you want to be a writer. But the only real requirement is to remember every scar.” Fiction is based on a dramatic situation where interesting people experience interesting problems that seem unsolvable. As the story progresses important events will unfold until […]

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Quick take: Use Weather Verbs

We’ve been suffering  through a series of punishing  heatwaves here in the Pacific Northwest and I’ve been longing for a rollicking thunderstorm to sweep through, spit out icy rain,  drench the place and cool the air. Oh, to be able to change the weather. Which brings us to verbs, because they add oomph to your […]

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Quoting Margaret Atwood

“When you are in the middle of a story it isn’t a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless […]

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