Epistolary evidence: a letter from a character to the author

Getting stuck when writing or revising a scene is different from writer’s block, at least for me, in that I can write about it. Lots and lots of words.

I can ask myself – and my characters – questions designed to get me unstuck, to find out why the scene isn’t making progress in getting written when I already know what has to happen in it.

This time I got a letter from a character.

Eventually, the process of writing about writing, deconstructing my own process and thoroughly questioning what the scene should be ‘about,’ seems to exhaust the list of unanswered questions halting progress, and I get on with it and finish writing or revising the scene.

I needed to hear from this character that writing the scene, one with a fair amount of pain in it, was all right. The letter concurs with my assessment that not only was the plot point necessary, it was essential in the telling of the story: the story could not reach its ending except by going through the pain.

I needed permission from that psychological construct: a character – my imagination plus whatever part of myself I cede to him – who has become self-aware. I needed his permission to tell his story.

And it isn’t going to get any better – there are many scenes to come, and a LOT happens before the resolution to the story, and these characters will all be dragged through the metaphorical mud.

The only issue stopping forward progress now is my basic level of writing competence – and confidence – because the STORY is there, full and complete and tied together beginning to end. I despair sometimes – it is taking up far more space than I envisioned when I planned the story, and yet, when I examine the individual plot point and scenes, there hasn’t been one yet I can remove.

Hubris, on the part of the writer, is present. I do realize it’s me talking to myself in there; that I’ve managed to split into three to tell a story doesn’t change that. I KNOW the story isn’t real – I’d be writing non-fiction, history, or memoir if it were.

I’d also like to point out that I had to be very tired and very stuck to allow that letter out of our common consciousness, the characters’ and mine. Exhausted beyond the point of brain fog. An exhaustion partly caused by struggling with this scene for days; the letter began as a last-ditch effort to get something, anything, onto the screen before collapsing last night.

I hope that’s the last blockage for this scene. I thought I was over the planning and organizing, and had a full complement of all the ‘stuff’ that needs to be in there somewhere. I don’t know if I am over the bump – I still haven’t written the new version.

But it FEELS as if I found the last major obstacle; I’ll settle for that right now (and I have to go get some sleep to compensate for the late night, or there will be physical collapse joining the mental).

Never in a bazillion years would I have thought that I needed a character’s permission to write.

I wish I could put the letter here. But I can’t, because it is a microcosm of the whole story and gives away the whole plot, and why the scene is important and irreducible. You’ll just have to trust me on that one.

Have you ever gotten a letter from a character?


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