This afternoon, I’ve been working on putting together a workbook based on my workshop, Creative Characterization.
One of the exercises involves writing a letter from a character to the author. I’ve done this several times in the past, because it’s a better method of drawing out story and character details than staring at a blank screen. However, I wasn’t able to locate any previous letters from my characters to me.
So, I thought I’d write an impromptu letter from a character in a story that I’ve had a hard time returning to, titled Mo’s Shadow. It’s a story I began writing a few years ago, based on tales a good friend used to tell me about his life on the lake.
My friend committed suicide earlier this year, and as you might imagine, writing that story has come to a stand still. I have no doubt that Mo, my twelve-year old character (who was based on a real little girl who also lived by the lake) is wondering if I’ll ever let her finish her story.
So, this afternoon, Mo wrote me a letter:
Dear Miss Morrill,
You probably don’t think I know that Mr. Dean is dead, though you should know that I know, because you made me up. Well, you made up parts of me, anyway. I also know that Mr. Dean used to tell you stories about me.
So, is that why you haven’t written anything since he died–because you can’t decide for yourself how this story ends if he’s not here to tell you?
Didn’t you make up the part about Bigfoot? He didn’t tell you that part. So, why can’t you make up the rest?
You know, Mr. Dean didn’t say goodbye to me either. He moved away from the lake without even letting me know. After all the apple pies we made together, I thought we were better friends than that. So quit feeling sorry for yourself that he didn’t say goodbye.
We will probably never know exactly why he left us. Nor will we ever know his whole story, no matter how much we wonder. So quit wondering and instead, write. I’ll tell you my story. And Miss Morrill, you never know what you might learn.
I have a feeling my story has changed now that Mr. Dean is gone.
Maybe you were afraid of Mr. Dean. I was at first. But my daddy always tells me, “Darlin’, you got to turn around and face your fears. They won’t be near as scary if you turn around and stare them straight in the eyes.”
It’d be a shame if you were too chicken to tell a story that needs to be told.
Your friend, (and Mr. Dean’s, too,)
I learned from this letter that the story will change. Mr. Dean will leave the lake and she will have to cope with that loss. Perhaps this will help her to see other characters in the story differently. Maybe the 800 lb gorilla I’d avoided while “Mr. Dean” was living will surface in the story.
For now, I’d say Mo is pretty smart for a little girl. I’m guessing that’s why Mr. Dean liked her.