Character Development – Write a Letter

pen-paperWithin the last few months, I started writing my sequel to Taming the Twisted, starting off with that book’s character’s, Abigail’s, point-of-view, essentially starting where Taming the original left off. I quickly got bored. About seven pages in, I got the idea of writing the book from one of the other character’s point-of-view, Alice, the younger sister’s.

I started the experiment by copying and pasting all of the scenes from the original book where Alice appeared in a Word document, which I printed.  I tried outlining in the traditional way to try to figure out how Alice could step in to solve the mysteries that would show up in the sequel. That didn’t work at all.

Then I had the thought, What if I write a letter from Alice to me, the author, telling me why I should tell the sequel’s story from her point-of-view? So that’s what I did. I wrote it out long hand with pen and lined notebook paper. I went through Alice’s thoughts, what she did, how she did it, and why telling the story from her perspective was important. I ended up with somewhere around 10 pages filled, front and back.

I’m now using that as my outline during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I type up what I wrote until I get to what feels like it could be a scene, and then I write that scene. It’s allowed me to rack up over 30,000 words before the month’s halfway point. 

I think this method is working so well for me because it allowed me to get into this other character’s head. It also allowed me to simply tell her story without worrying about showing, scene setting, and adequate description. At the end of the month, I’m hoping to have 50,000 words that I can tear apart, rearrange, add to, and fix in the revision process.

Have you every tried writing a letter from your character to yourself? If so, how did it work? I’d love to hear about so feel free to comment in the comment section.

One thought on “Character Development – Write a Letter”

  1. I have always written nonfiction, essays I’ve used in public speaking with one collection minimally published (and sold out) in the state of Florida. Two more collections are on the computer. Recently I gave my pet poodle, to a 12 year old temporary keeper who fell in love with her. It was mutual, so she became theirs. I thought of the whole thing from Jetta’s point of view, finally finding happiness after initial rescue in now, her fourth home. So I wrote her journey as seen through her eyes. I thought I had another essay, taken from life, but my first two readers insisted, “This is a children’s book!” With a bit of editing, I think it could be! That’s fiction. But I’m an essayist!? I’ve never had to invent anything. Life provides more than enough to fill every book I could possibly write.
    But then, an interesting fellow in a new relationship wrote me his sexual fantasy, and asked me to write mine for him. Well, one has been knocking around in my brain for about 15 years, so I finally put it on paper. I didn’t intend for anyone but him to read it, and as it happens, we broke up and he never did see it.
    But then a funny thing happened. I asked an expert friend if she could help me transfer the story from three messages to myself written on my phone (where I created the story) over to my new computer so I could consolidate the three into a word file. (Technology hates me. ) I noticed she was hitting quite a few keys, so when I asked her, she said she was typing it in! I said with some urgency, “You cannot read that! It’s a sexual fantasy!” She calmly responded, “I already read it.” I was shocked. Here I was sitting right next to her while she read the whole thing with no more visible response than if it were a shopping list. Didn’t know what to make of that. Then she said, “You need to expand this into a whole book. I’ll help and we’ll both get rich.”
    I said “Look, this is a fantasy. I don’t want to DO anything described here, and anyone who came to me suggesting we act this out would get a bitch slap.” I asked her, “Would you want to be either of these characters, or do any of these things?” “She said ‘Certainly not’.” Well me neither. But later I heard her telling her out of town boyfriend, “I wish you were here. Angie wrote this thing, I read it and I am so ready.”
    Wow. Food for thought here. What have I got? Could I expand this into a book? That would mean writing fiction and I don’t make stuff up. How would I begin? I bit the bullet and sent it to my earlier publisher, now retired. His response — well he said he had a minor one, but it was clearly written for women! He also said it would make a good book and I should begin by writing a character study of Jess, but I knew right away, Jess would be a minor character in any expanded story. Now Pam! I am Pam, happy fixer of what is broken. That’s me. But where to start?
    Then I read this posting about writing yourself a letter from the character. What a great idea. I could do that. I look forward to hearing from Pam.
    So I subscribed to this Web site using the false name under which I wrote the fantasy. It is close enough to my real name that I was once mis-introduced to an audience that way, and loved it. So I kept it. I’m glad I stumbled across this site. Carry on, fellow writers…

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