Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

Write for the Night 1: Pull readers in from the first sentence

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Oct• 24•17

Yesterday was dazzling and golden, the kind of autumn day many of us dream of.  I spent time outdoors deadheading flowers and sweeping up after a big storm blasted through over the weekend.  I drove through town after a medical appointment gaping at leaves transformed into burnished and magical hues.

I’m reviving an old reading habit, reading stories inspired by the season. In November I plan on reading Truman Capote’s The Thanksgiving Visitor and in December his A Christmas Memory. (‘Oh, Buddy, it’s fruitcake weather.’) Yesterday I finished reading Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle one of the most unsettling stories I’ve ever gotten lost in. I read the final creepy 30 pages after dusk fell.

When you write horror and psychological suspense it’s important to create a penetrating tone and establish intrigue from the opening page. I was yanked into the story’s disturbing reality within the first few sentences:

Notice: the protagonist’s last name is Blackwood not exactly a cheery moniker; her sister is Constance (a clue to her personality and role in the story) and the final word in the paragraph is dead–a deliberate, emphatic choice. Then there is her longing to be born a werewolf and a mention of poisonous mushrooms. Menace creeps in immediately and never lets go. And Mary Katherine is a fascinating character, an unreliable narrator, and a feral,  witchy young woman.

Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart

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