Skip to main content

Between the Lines

Master the Subtle Elements of Fiction Writing.

Buy book | Amazon  |

Image placeholder title

Between the Lines
by Jessica Page Morrell
Writer's Digest Books, 2006
ISBN 978-1-58297-392-0
$14.99 paperback, p.256

Read an excerpt
Backstory is a powerful tool for developing characters. In Chapter 1: Backstory from Between the Lines, examine the four essentials for backstory (1) raising the stakes, (2) revealing motivations, (3) expressing innermost fears, and (4) revealing obstacles. Plus, download a PDF of the chapter here.

About the Book
Transform an ordinary story into a nuanced and memorable work of art. 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 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

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.

About the Author:
Jessica Morrell is the author of Writing Out the Storm and has been teaching writers for fifteen years. She works as a writing coach, freelance editor, corporate trainer, and columnist, and she is the former Writing Expert at In addition to teaching at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, Jessica conducts workshops throughout the Pacific Northwest and at conferences. Her Web site is She lives in Portland, Oregon, where she is surrounded by writers.

About for Between the Lines:

Jessica Morrell’s unique talent for breaking down the elements of strong fiction into understandable concepts makes Between the Lines a must-read for anyone facing the daunting task of turning a good story into a great one.
—Lani Diane Rich, author of The Comeback Kiss, Ex and the Single Girl, and Time Off for Good Behavior

Writing fiction may look easy—and in fact it is. It’s writing compelling, readable, publishable fiction that’s challenging. New writers are often told to use techniques like flashbacks and foreshadowing, but they’re not told how to do it. Jessica Morrell’s Between the Lines shows both new and experienced writers how to take so-so fiction and add depth, resonance, and readability. It’s an enjoyable read filled with practical, doable advice and plenty of examples that will improve your fiction.
—Kelly James-Enger, novelist and author of Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money

Jessica Morrell understands the writing process and the writer. Whether you are a beginning writer or a seasoned pro, Between the Lines will instruct, inform, and inspire. This is the essential guide.
—Linda Elin Hamner, Emmy-winning writer for Santa Barbara and author of Letters From Cleo and Tyrone

Between the Lines contains everything one writer could possibly convey to another about the art and craft of writing, while also being a joy to read. Entertaining, personal, accessible, and specific in its advice, Jessica Morrell’s invaluable guide invites the reader to explore every aspect of fiction writing, providing a plethora of ideas, insights, practical suggestions, and techniques that have much to offer everyone from the beginner to the most advanced writer.
—Nancy Hardin, film and television producer (Frida and Noriega), and former New American Library editor

Your Story Writing Prompts

94 Your Story Writing Prompts

Due to popular demand, we've assembled all the Your Story writing prompts on in one post. Click the link to find each prompt, the winners, and more.

How Inspiration and Research Shape a Novel

How Inspiration and Research Shape a Novel

Historical fiction relies on research to help a story’s authenticity—but it can also lead to developments in the story itself. Here, author Lora Davies discusses how inspiration and research helped shape her new novel, The Widow’s Last Secret.

Poetic Forms

Saraband: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the saraband, a septet (or seven-line) form based on a forbidden dance.

Karen Hamilton: On Cause and Effect

Karen Hamilton: On Cause and Effect

International bestselling author Karen Hamilton discusses the “then and now” format of her new domestic thriller, The Ex-Husband.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: The Ultimatum

Plot Twist Story Prompts: The Ultimatum

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character give or face an ultimatum.

6 Things Every Writer Should Know About Sylvia Beach and Shakespeare and Company

6 Things Every Writer Should Know About Sylvia Beach and Shakespeare and Company

Sylvia Beach was friend to many writers who wrote what we consider classics today. Here, author Kerri Maher shares six things everyone should know about her and Shakespeare and Company.

How Writers Can Apply Business Tools to Their Writing

How Writers Can Apply Business Tools to Their Writing

Author Katherine Quevedo takes an analytical look at the creative process in hopes to help other writers find writing success.

Nick Petrie: On Following the Most Compelling Story

Nick Petrie: On Following the Most Compelling Story

Award-winning author Nick Petrie discusses how he listened to the story that wanted to be told in his new Peter Ash thriller novel, The Runaway.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 596

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a punishment poem.