Letters Written Home

            Imagine that you’ve been away from home for some time. You miss your childhood home, your family and your friends. You regularly write home, sharing whatever is happening in your life. Most of the time you recount rather boring details, but this time you’ve got something juicy to share.

            Is it something comedic that happened to you or that you witnessed? Did a coworker get caught under the influence or selling drugs? Has someone made a pass at you that ended badly?

Did you accidentally forget to pay for a scarf that you’d draped over your arm?

            There are so many possibilities!

            Your task is to write the letter, telling the strange happenings that either you did or that you witnessed. Try to insert comedy so that readers will get a good chuckle. Things should be bizarre, yet believable. For example, perhaps a tightrope walker crossed from one high-rise to another in a gusty wind. Imagine how the person teeters to stay on the wire. Maybe a gust tears away a piece of clothing which falls in a dramatic way.

            Let your imagination run wild.

            Have fun with this one.

Inspiration Sources

Objects hidden in drawers and closets or stuffed on garage shelves can be the inspiration for good stories.

Think about some of the things you have stuffed deep in the back of your closet. Old shoes worn on a hike to the top of Yosemite Falls? A sparkly dress from your high school prom? A pair of pants that you wore when you weighed 100 pounds more than you do now?

The stories these objects would tell are priceless.

Prom night might have been a disaster. Your date showed up late, and instead of wearing a tux, he borrowed a too-big suit from his older cousin. It hangs like a robe and in spots, is shiny from use. He wore his old tennis shoes, scuffed and dirt splotched.  No tie. Wrinkled pink-dyed shirt from when a pair of his sister’s panties went through the white wash.

At the dance, he drank heavily, spiking the punch with a flask he had tucked into his inside pocket. The more he drank, the more uninhibited his unskilled dancing became. He laughed and talked so loudly that everyone in the room heard every word he slurred out.

Or maybe you want to write about that hike. It was a gorgeous spring day with billowing clouds hovering overhead. At first the walk was a gentle climb, but as time passed, the path turned to gravel and the elevation increased. Then you hit a section a switchbacks so sharply pitched that, at each turn, you had to stop to gather breath and strength.

When you finally made it to the top, your view was blocked. A tree/cloud/crowd got in your way. Or maybe you were too afraid of heights to look out. Or maybe you collapsed from exhaustion.

Your task is to go on a search of your house or apartment. Look deep into the darkest corners. Push aside the t-shirts you no longer wear. Find one thing that carries you back into your past.

Hold it. Smell it. Cuddle it. Sit in a chair with it in your lap and feel the fabric. The stiches. The hem. The collar.

If shoes, turn them over and look at the soles. Imagine where they’ve been. The places they’ve carried you to. The troubles they’ve seen.

And then write. Tell the story. If you want, you can stick to the truth, but if you feel inspired, embellish. Add details and dialogue and action, enough to make the story interesting for others to read.

When you finish, reread. Look for areas where you can strengthen the story by subtracting, adding or replacing.

Have fun with this one!


Another Look at the Past

Storytellers and memoir writers have to keep in mind that telling what happened in the past can affect how a person looks at the present.

One effective way of detailing the past is through the form of letter writing.

Address the letter to the main character or to yourself. Begin:

Dear Mattie,

And then write notes that encourage the character to overcome past occurrences, emotional distress or offenses committed against self or others.

For example:

“When you were a little girl, you were stuck between a brother who was worshiped by your mother and a sister who could do no wrong. This put you in a precarious position that was none of your doing. No matter how hard you tried, you could never be as perfect as your brother nor as needy as your sister. You tried to garner your mother’s attention by being shy and retiring.”

And so on.

Do not hold back. Speak about the things that the character/you did that got you in trouble or lead you down the wrong path. About those things that you could not control but that shaped who you later became. About those things that you did well for which you earned promotions, degrees, letters of accomplishment.

Do not try to cover the entire life in one letter, but rather construct a series of letters as information pops into your head.

After you have written a letter, think about how you can turn the details into a story. Construct likely dialogue and interpersonal interactions that might have happened. Do not worry about being exact as that will hold you back.

Your task is to write at least one letter either to yourself or to a main character. Make it at least 4 paragraphs long. Touch on emotional issues that motivated you/your character to react. When you are finished, do not put the letter in your story. Turn it into a series of scenes, including dialogue, that are interesting to read.

Have fun with this one!

Good luck.