Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

Archive for the 'fiction techniques' Category

Quick take: Aim for Messy Emotions

Storytelling must give readers an emotional experience. To bring about emotions in your readers stir in thorny situations that bring up messy emotions. By messy I mean the ones your characters have difficulty managing, perhaps would prefer not to feel or even acknowledge. Messy can also means complex–the character is feeling a troublesome brew of […]

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Crutch Words

Check out my article about crutch words over at Insecure Writers Support Group.  Sleuthing out your crutch words will make you more secure. Promise!

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Cathy Lamb:How To Create Compelling Settings In Your Books.

Build settings that encourage your readers to think, to be inspired, to dream. What if…what if I started painting again? Building again? Writing? Making a collage? What if I changed my life? What if I became a new me?

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Quick tip: one trick to creating backstory

Quick Take: Every protagonist comes into a story with emotional baggage and justifications for their behaviors. These qualities and foibles, acquired over a lifetime, are also called back story. And these emotional needs, blind spots and hungers motivate the protagonist to behave the way he or she behaves. Because these behaviors are also coping mechanisms. […]

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Needed: Milestones that Create Change

As your story moves along, each milestone the protagonist encounters will test, stress, and shape him or her in a new  way. It will force a reconsideration or recalibration of who he is. A milestone can be an emotionally-charged event or life passage such as a wedding, funeral, a harrowing childbirth, or death bed scene. […]

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Really quick tip: Bring on the clowns

I’ve mentioned this before: a portion of your story’s scenes need to rise, to explode, to provide surprises the reader never saw coming. In these pull-out-the-stops scenes your characters  can fumble, make mistakes, stage confrontations, discover dead bodies or that their beloved is sleeping around. Feature them stooping to new lows or achieving new highs. […]

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Ray Bradbury on feeding the muse

“It isn’t easy. Nobody has ever done it consistently. Those who try hardest, scare it off into the woods. Those who turn their backs and saunter along, whistling softly between their teeth, hear it treading quietly behind them, lured by a carefully acquired disdain. We are of course speaking of The Muse. The Feeding of […]

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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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Quick Take: Consequences II

       All storytelling is about cause and effect. All major actions in a story should have consequences and the consequences should escalate as the story goes along. Conflict equals consequences. It’s a simple way of thinking about a storyline. The inciting incident and first plot point in Act One create the consequences in […]

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Thought for the day: Let your subject find you

“Don’t go searching for a subject, let your subject find you. You can’t rush inspiration. How do you think Capote came to “In Cold Blood”? It was just an ordinary day when he picked up the paper to read his horoscope, and there it was — fate. Whether it’s a harrowing account of a multiple […]

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