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Between the Lines: Master the Subtle Elements of Fiction Writing

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Effective storytelling stems from many elements, the most crucial of which are unseen or blended in so unobtrusively that they are difficult to spot and analyze. Still, they are necessary to the wholeness and coherence of a story–to create a work that lingers and resonates in the reader's imagination.In "Between the Lines," author and writing instructor Jessica Page Morrel Effective storytelling stems from many elements, the most crucial of which are unseen or blended in so unobtrusively that they are difficult to spot and analyze. Still, they are necessary to the wholeness and coherence of a story–to create a work that lingers and resonates in the reader's imagination.In "Between the Lines," author and writing instructor Jessica Page Morrell shows you how to craft a unified and layered novel or short story by mastering subtle storytelling techniques, such as: Using emotional bombshells, surprises, and interruptions to intensify cliffhangersEnlarging your story world through the use of layered subplotsBuilding suspense one scene at a time to maximize the emotional payoffAnchoring your premise to your protagonist's character arcTransitioning into and out of flashbacks without interrupting the mood of your story Detailed instruction combined with examples from well-known authors turn seemingly complex topics like subtext, revelations, misdirection, and balance into comprehensible techniques that will elevate your writing to the next level.


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Effective storytelling stems from many elements, the most crucial of which are unseen or blended in so unobtrusively that they are difficult to spot and analyze. Still, they are necessary to the wholeness and coherence of a story–to create a work that lingers and resonates in the reader's imagination.In "Between the Lines," author and writing instructor Jessica Page Morrel Effective storytelling stems from many elements, the most crucial of which are unseen or blended in so unobtrusively that they are difficult to spot and analyze. Still, they are necessary to the wholeness and coherence of a story–to create a work that lingers and resonates in the reader's imagination.In "Between the Lines," author and writing instructor Jessica Page Morrell shows you how to craft a unified and layered novel or short story by mastering subtle storytelling techniques, such as: Using emotional bombshells, surprises, and interruptions to intensify cliffhangersEnlarging your story world through the use of layered subplotsBuilding suspense one scene at a time to maximize the emotional payoffAnchoring your premise to your protagonist's character arcTransitioning into and out of flashbacks without interrupting the mood of your story Detailed instruction combined with examples from well-known authors turn seemingly complex topics like subtext, revelations, misdirection, and balance into comprehensible techniques that will elevate your writing to the next level.

30 review for Between the Lines: Master the Subtle Elements of Fiction Writing

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rose

    This is a good guide, don't get me wrong, but I'll be honest - a lot of this felt more instructive on elements that I already knew, and it didn't engage or inspire me in the same way as some writing guides I've perused with respect to working with my own WIPs. I usually like a lot of Writer's Digest guides, but this one seemed bogged down in the narrative and not quite as practical for me personally as I would've liked. However, I'm not going to say that it isn't useful, because it delves into a This is a good guide, don't get me wrong, but I'll be honest - a lot of this felt more instructive on elements that I already knew, and it didn't engage or inspire me in the same way as some writing guides I've perused with respect to working with my own WIPs. I usually like a lot of Writer's Digest guides, but this one seemed bogged down in the narrative and not quite as practical for me personally as I would've liked. However, I'm not going to say that it isn't useful, because it delves into a lot of various story elements and tells when to use them, when not to use them, and the function they serve in a respective story. I have a feeling that this would be more helpful to a beginning writer, who may not know what these elements are in particular or where to best apply them, than someone who is a veteran and wants more of an active, engaging guide that not only instructs, but also gets you thinking more about the application side of things as well. This text, to me, felt a little more hampered than it should've been. Overall score: 3/5

  2. 5 out of 5

    Zora

    There's a lack of how-to writing books for intermediate writers, I think, and this one could be such a book, but when she runs out of more advanced (or "subtle" as the title has it) pointers about halfway through, she falls back to giving very simple advice that barely qualifies as advice at all (e.g., setting includes weather, and sun creates more optimism than rain--that's not really a big revelation to me). She does do a good job of taking more complicated writing advice from sources like McK There's a lack of how-to writing books for intermediate writers, I think, and this one could be such a book, but when she runs out of more advanced (or "subtle" as the title has it) pointers about halfway through, she falls back to giving very simple advice that barely qualifies as advice at all (e.g., setting includes weather, and sun creates more optimism than rain--that's not really a big revelation to me). She does do a good job of taking more complicated writing advice from sources like McKee and synthesizing it and explaining it...but you'd probably do better reading the source material itself.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Athena

    I really think the importance of this book cannot be stated enough. It’s fantastic. A great teacher for beginners, but also a fabulous reminder to those who’ve been at writing for a while and sometimes forget the necessity of layering and subtext. What’s between the lines is often overlooked by writers in their own work – but a reader will know immediately that something is missing. If you’re a writer – do yourself a favor and get this book for your reference. You’ll go back to it again and agai I really think the importance of this book cannot be stated enough. It’s fantastic. A great teacher for beginners, but also a fabulous reminder to those who’ve been at writing for a while and sometimes forget the necessity of layering and subtext. What’s between the lines is often overlooked by writers in their own work – but a reader will know immediately that something is missing. If you’re a writer – do yourself a favor and get this book for your reference. You’ll go back to it again and again.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Worrell

    I'm enamored with books that blow you away with subtlety. They seem to have a much bigger impact on me. Morrell knows her stuff. I read three of her craft books so far (Bullies, Bastards & Bitches: How to Write the Bad Guys of Fiction and Thanks, but This Isn't for Us: A (Sort Of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing Is Being Rejected) but so far this is my favorite. She guides you, in great detail, through some of the less talked about aspects of fiction writing. I took so many notes I mi I'm enamored with books that blow you away with subtlety. They seem to have a much bigger impact on me. Morrell knows her stuff. I read three of her craft books so far (Bullies, Bastards & Bitches: How to Write the Bad Guys of Fiction and Thanks, but This Isn't for Us: A (Sort Of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing Is Being Rejected) but so far this is my favorite. She guides you, in great detail, through some of the less talked about aspects of fiction writing. I took so many notes I might as well have bought the book...and I'll probably do that too.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Writing is a craft. It requires the use of many tools in such a way that they almost go unnoticed by the reader. In this book, Morrell explains these tools and gives examples of how they’ve been used in other stories. Topics such as backstory, subplots, tension, flashbacks, and more are covered in this resource. The great thing about this book is that it makes a handy reference tool. Each topic has its own chapter, which is clearly titled as what is being discussed. You don’t have to read this boo Writing is a craft. It requires the use of many tools in such a way that they almost go unnoticed by the reader. In this book, Morrell explains these tools and gives examples of how they’ve been used in other stories. Topics such as backstory, subplots, tension, flashbacks, and more are covered in this resource. The great thing about this book is that it makes a handy reference tool. Each topic has its own chapter, which is clearly titled as what is being discussed. You don’t have to read this book from cover to cover to benefit from it. What I found a little distracting at times was the number of examples used. Examples are great learning tools, but I sometimes skipped over them after one or two were given. All-in-all, this is a great resource, and I would recommend it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Daniel B-G

    An excellent resource on how to incorporate themes into writing. It's one of those books on writing that makes you a better reader too. It sagged a bit in the sections on tension and suspense (oh the irony), but the rest was very good.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mark Smith

    My writing mentor. Extremely useful book

  8. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    This is one of the best writing books I've read. Unlike most books I've read which concerned solely storytelling, I liked how it covered both the elements of fiction , and writing itself. Good writing is subtle and unobtrusive. This book covers a good amount of territory from backstory, pacing, and tension, but I particularly enjoyed the chapters on imagery, sensory details, and subtlety. For my own purposes I have to remind myself "what effect am I going for?" not only in a scene, but also word This is one of the best writing books I've read. Unlike most books I've read which concerned solely storytelling, I liked how it covered both the elements of fiction , and writing itself. Good writing is subtle and unobtrusive. This book covers a good amount of territory from backstory, pacing, and tension, but I particularly enjoyed the chapters on imagery, sensory details, and subtlety. For my own purposes I have to remind myself "what effect am I going for?" not only in a scene, but also word by word, and incorporate the tools given in this book. There are a balanced number of excerpts and references to books and films to illustrate the points. A story stands out not only how it is crafted, but in the writing. I'd highly recommend this book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mark Souza

    It's not often you find an insightful "How To" book on writing that is also an entertaining read. This, however, is a trademark of Jessica Page Morrell books. Ms. Morrell has been in the editing business for a long time and it shows. But she is also an entertaining and talented writer. Her passion for good writing shows on every page. Each of the points she makes is backed up with real examples from some of the best authors in the business. Those example really drive the lessons home and show wh It's not often you find an insightful "How To" book on writing that is also an entertaining read. This, however, is a trademark of Jessica Page Morrell books. Ms. Morrell has been in the editing business for a long time and it shows. But she is also an entertaining and talented writer. Her passion for good writing shows on every page. Each of the points she makes is backed up with real examples from some of the best authors in the business. Those example really drive the lessons home and show what writing can be. This book is a must have for writers looking to be published. My copy is highlighted, tabbed, and sits prominently on my desk at the ready.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sherry Gorman

    I met Jessica through a mutual author friend. My friend's words (paraphrased) were, "Jessica will take your work, rip it to shreds, and you'll never learn more from anyone else." My friend was right. Jessica is genius, and her book is nothing less. It is concise, but packed full of tips that keep me on my toes. In fact, in all my years of college, medical school and residency, I have never picked up a 'text' from which I learned so much. In fact, I went back through it a second time and created I met Jessica through a mutual author friend. My friend's words (paraphrased) were, "Jessica will take your work, rip it to shreds, and you'll never learn more from anyone else." My friend was right. Jessica is genius, and her book is nothing less. It is concise, but packed full of tips that keep me on my toes. In fact, in all my years of college, medical school and residency, I have never picked up a 'text' from which I learned so much. In fact, I went back through it a second time and created a set of notes -- my 'writing bible' complements of Jessica Morrell. If you are a writer, I couldn't see spending your money any more wisely than on this book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Wesley Fox

    Between the Lines is an excellent intermediate level book on the craft of writing. Morrell covers a lot of elements of fiction writing, explaining them in clear and concise language. For someone who is only a couple years into his writing career, I felt as if it was perfectly suited for my experience level. It is a little advanced for novice writers or those that have only written a few short stories. I'd recommend a few other books on writing before moving to this one. I've read 5 or 6 books on Between the Lines is an excellent intermediate level book on the craft of writing. Morrell covers a lot of elements of fiction writing, explaining them in clear and concise language. For someone who is only a couple years into his writing career, I felt as if it was perfectly suited for my experience level. It is a little advanced for novice writers or those that have only written a few short stories. I'd recommend a few other books on writing before moving to this one. I've read 5 or 6 books on fiction writing and I must say this one is the best so far.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    An excellent book that examines technical aspects of writing in a more in-depth fashion than many books about writing. Everyone will get something different out of this book--some chapters will seem review of fundamentals, others will give new insight--but Morrell does a very good job of giving clear examples and explaining how and why things work in writing. I found especially valuable the chapters on Epiphanies & Revelations, Flashbacks, and Subplots. Lots of stuff to mull over and try to An excellent book that examines technical aspects of writing in a more in-depth fashion than many books about writing. Everyone will get something different out of this book--some chapters will seem review of fundamentals, others will give new insight--but Morrell does a very good job of giving clear examples and explaining how and why things work in writing. I found especially valuable the chapters on Epiphanies & Revelations, Flashbacks, and Subplots. Lots of stuff to mull over and try to use.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tom Hooker

    In Between the Lines, author and writing instructor Jessica Page Morrell shows you how to craft a unified and layered novel or short story by mastering subtle storytelling techniques, such as: · Using emotional bombshells, surprises, and interruptions to intensify cliffhangers · Enlarging your story world through the use of layered subplots · Building suspense one scene at a time to maximize the emotional payoff · Anchoring your premise to your protagonist’s character arc · Transitioning into an In Between the Lines, author and writing instructor Jessica Page Morrell shows you how to craft a unified and layered novel or short story by mastering subtle storytelling techniques, such as: · Using emotional bombshells, surprises, and interruptions to intensify cliffhangers · Enlarging your story world through the use of layered subplots · Building suspense one scene at a time to maximize the emotional payoff · Anchoring your premise to your protagonist’s character arc · Transitioning into and out of flashbacks without interrupting the mood of your story

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mike Klaassen

    This is an insightful, well written book about a wide range of fiction-writing topics. A must for any fiction writer's professional library. Chapters include: Art & Artifice: Keeping Readers Spellbound, Backstory, Cliffhangers & Thrusters, Epilogues, Epiphanies & Revelations, Flashbacks, Foreshadowing, Imagery & Other Charms, Pacing, Prologues, Sense of Place, Sensory Surround, Subplots, Subtlety, Suspense, Tension, Theme & Premise, and Transitions.

  15. 5 out of 5

    L.M.

    Wow. This book changed me forever. It literally put my writing and how I thought about writing on a different level. I loved how I could skip about the book as I needed for what I needed at the time and yet, this entire book works from start to finish for any writer at any level. It can serve as a teacher and mentor for the beginner, or a kind reminder for the seasoned author. I love this book and while I am willing to share it, it will never leave my home.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Still reading this but so far I really like it. The author discusses all the important elements you need to keep in mind while writing fiction, and she does so in a very conversational, easy-to-read way. I would say it's like a classroom in a book. Plus, she uses plenty of familiar examples from both books and movies to help convey her points. And I love the design of the book and pages -- really clever and unique.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    If you don't own any other how-to book on writing, buy this one. I've only had my copy for 2 weeks and it is already full of post-it notes and most of the text is highlighted by now. Definitely worth the money. Just be sure not to try to incorporate EVERYTHING you read in here into your first draft - otherwise you'll never get it done! This book is more of a toolbox to use in your final drafts. Keep some of the tools on your desk, keep some in the box while you're writing.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Carla Perry

    Now, this was an amazing book that taught me ALL the stuff I should have studied BEFORE writing a novel. NOW I understand peripheral character development. NOW I understand subplots. I've been writing a novel entirely based on instinct, but this book is so clearly written and so complete in its offerings that it's as if I took a course in fiction writing. THANK YOU JESSICA! I took lots of notes as I read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    David

    Useful, low-intermediate guide on the nuts & bolts as well as philisophical nature of the craft. Could be very useful to new writers but might convince them formula is the way to go and formula, unless handle very carefully will reduce their novel to a cliché in an ocean of clichés. Valuable book, but one that needs to be approached with caution. 4 out of 5 stars.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Billie Milholland

    Easy to read. A wide variety of practical examples from many different authors' works. Advice is more detailed than many may want at one time, but an excellent resource to return to. Her favourite writers are not mine, but that doesn't prejudice the usefulness of what she has to say. My copy is underlined all over the place and sticky tabs bristle out of the pages like porcupine quills.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bruce

    Reading this book is like taking a college course: full of things you should be writing notes about, topics to visit again and again until they are burned into your brain. If you master the material written here, you will be doing well in you writing.

  22. 5 out of 5

    N.

    An excellent book and a must-have for anyone who wants to make to be a writer. Practical and straightforward advice with clear examples, it gives you all the necessary tools to craft stories that not only appeal to the reader but also make them feel they live in your story.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Molly Owen

    This is one of the best books I've found on fiction writing. Covering so many of the basics in detail you'll find helpful whether you're a beginner or have a few projects under your belt. Don't tackle your next project until you've read this book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Debra Daniels-zeller

    This is a book I'll turn to for inspiration again and again. What makes readers turn pages? What makes them love and root for characters? Morels book is filled with useful information. This book is a keeper.

  25. 4 out of 5

    cheri madden

    much like a bible for writing.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nikki

    Badly written writing books negate themselves.

  27. 5 out of 5

    SmarterLilac

    Good, even if the author is a little picky, likes Alice Sebold (a writer I can't stand) and seems more interested in helping people craft popular paperbacks than make art.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Danny

    A great book to help authors. It explains a lot on the mechanical aspects of writing, such as when to use and when to not use prologue and the effects it will have on your story.

  29. 4 out of 5

    John

    Fantastic book on writing. Not for the novice, this is for when you've mastered the baby steps, and now want to write something people will want to read.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    I liked how she used classic and current books along with movies as examples. Very easy to read with great insights.

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