I wrote a letter to my character today. I told her that I thought we’d gotten off on the wrong foot. It was my fault – all my fault – or the fault of social media. But I’d made the choice to be on, and overuse social media. And as a result, I was fractured. My inability to focus, to nurture, was no way to treat a young work just trying to take hold. As a result, our travels together have been rocky and strange.
My inattentiveness did not strangle her, which tells me she is a strong character. But I cannot say she wholly trusts me. Or maybe all those fissures at the beginning of the work are fissures carried through, the way a crack in porcelain will spread until the whole white surface is a web of thin grey lines. This is not what I want for my work, and not what I want for my character or for me. I wrote a letter saying all this, and apologizing. It was a sort of “I’ve been a bad boyfriend” letter. Will you please place trust in me? Will you please help me be a better writer of your story?
I kind of despised myself as I wrote that letter. I’ve been with this kind of man, and I’ve let this kind of man beg his way back into my graces only to be dashed by the same sort of bad behavior he apologized for in the first place. Why should my character trust me? Why should she open up to me? What have I done to prove I deserve it?
Well, to make my case: I’ve stuck with it, even through my own inabilities and frustrations. I’ve written 306 pages. I’ve shown up every morning and written – well, most mornings.
So, is she speaking to me? Or am I blocking her with my own ideas or doubts? What if I keep writing and the end never comes in sight? What if I declare an ending, even though I know it’s not right? What if I wrote a letter to myself reminding of all the beautiful things in this novel, the rich fictional world I’ve created? What if my invitation for her to tell her story in this world is already being answered? What if I can’t hear it? What if I hear it but doubt its sincerity? What if? What if? What if?
Some novels come on full force. Some characters grab you and say, “Listen up,” and you have no choice. Some characters are quieter than others. I have a quiet one here. I should understand that, since I’m quiet myself. I have a woman’s story, and because of our society women’s stories are complex and sometimes mysterious. I should understand that too, since I’m a woman.
I think what I will do now is write another letter. And this time I will let her write me back.
Ah! A unique and effective way of approaching one’s work. Thank you for sharing this idea and also the relationship with your character. She will be welcomed into the world.