Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell


Written By: Jessica Morrell - Nov• 02•23

Evil Laughter

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Oct• 31•23

In honor of Halloween or Samhain, here’s a link to the PBS site and “The scary thing about evil laughs.”  Because evil laughter needs to be chilling, terrifying, and as this piece points out, recall childhood traumas.


Written By: Jessica Morrell - Oct• 04•23

Just. Show. Up.


Written By: Jessica Morrell - Oct• 02•23

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