You’ve Got Mail: A Writing Exercise

To our NaNo friends, those competing in the Brigit’s Flame contest this half of the month, and anyone who might just want a writing exercise – I give you the following challenge:

Compose a letter from a leading character [of your making], to yourself.
If you aren’t sure what to write about in the letter think of it as a resume or missive to a long, lost someone (you) who needs to be caught up. It’s a Dear Author letter containing your characters’ life histories.
Include any or all of the answers to the points below.
Whom or what your characters love and despise.
Details on education, employment, finances, political affiliations, social class.
Fears.
Skeletons in cupboards.
Addictions.
Biggest regret.
Believer, agnostic, or atheist.
How afraid of dying are they?
Have they ever seen a corpse?
A ghost?
Sexuality.
Glass half empty, glass half full, glass too small?
Snazzy or scruffy dressers?

It’s a letter, so consider their use of language. Would they say ‘mellifluous’ or ‘a sharp talker’? Foul-mouthed or profanity-averse? Record the phrases they unknowingly overuse. When did they last cry? Can they see another person’s point of view?

This exercise – taken from David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, delivered by his character, Crispin Hershey, who was a lauded writer and who took up the teaching of writing in his golden years – is a way to really get to know your character. Even if the answers to your questions are not directly relevant to the story you are writing around them, these are personality seeds, motivators, detractors. They will help you pin down your character as a full-bodied person and not just a string of words ready to react to the stroke of your keys (or pen). It is easy to get caught up in the telling of your story and leave your characters to be paper dolls who are only there for you. A character your readers can invest in has a mind separate from yours and a life that existed before and after your writing.

Please enjoy the exercise and, if you have a mind to, share a link to the outcome below.

Mitchell, David (2014-09-02). The Bone Clocks: A Novel (pp. 389-390). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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About t.s.wright

Writer, reader, casual photographer, nature-lover, dog mom. I grew up in a tree, inside a book, whispering possible futures into discarded seed pods that curled up and exploded each summer. One day, they cut down my tree and I was forced to go to school while waiting for the replacement trees to grow strong enough to hold me. But while we waited, I grew too heavy and awkward to climb, so I had to get a job. I spent my days surrounded by flimsy walls covered in carpet that made boxes and people who forgot to look out windows. I worked really hard. Possibilities were replaced with formulas and exactitude. Eventually I forgot how to climb a tree...and how to smile. Then one day, a dog licked my foot excessively and I remembered smiling. That reminded me of more things that didn't cost money and couldn't be tallied in a spreadsheet - like hugs and love and being happy. So I found myself a Steve who reminded me what home was. Then we filled it and our hearts with dogs. Eventually we planted our own tree, together. Even though I'm happy right here, right now, I remembered that we all need possibilities to dream of, so I've started writing them down.
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8 Responses to You’ve Got Mail: A Writing Exercise

  1. I came up with the idea for Holly’s story while doing a “character journal” writing exercise 😀 So, I think I want to do something similar in this case — a To Whomever Finds This, sort of thing. Is that okay?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on generationKathy and commented:

    HAPPY NOVEMBER! I opted for something other than the suggested letter style — you can too, if inspiration takes ya to another direction. #gowrite

    Like

  3. Pingback: Are you there Universe? It’s me, Mabry. | Eadar Doodles + Cheese

  4. t.s.wright says:

    Reblogged this on Eadar Doodles + Cheese and commented:

    What are you writing about today? Get up close and personal with one of your characters – write yourself a letter from their perspective.

    Like

  5. Pingback: From The Darker Side: Fangs and Fangirls | Brigit's Flame Writing Community

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