Epistolary novels – The Man Who Wrote Dirty Books, Fair and Tender Ladies, The Color Purple. Many employ letters. Quick way of delivering exposition, characterization, and voice.
Exercise: Write one of these in letters: college student telling parents he’s dropping out of school and you want them to understand even if they don’t approve, plus the parent’s answer; write landlord a letter why you’re withholding rent; leave a note for spouse explaining why you’re leaving; literary graffiti on the walls of a toilet in the Library of Congress. 500 words.
Objective: get inside the head of another person and use her voice to vary narrative conveyance. Huh? I’m not sure what that means. Isn’t that what all fiction is?
Hi Daddy –
Let me tell you how much fun I’ve been having on spring break! It’s great here in Mexico – we have breakfast on the beach and then we go into town and then we go dancing, it’s really great! Don’t worry, I’m not drinking and I’m not getting into any trouble, it’s really not like Girls Gone Wild, it’s just a nice beach vacation. Rachel and Deb are having fun too.
That’s what I wanted to tell you about. We’ve been talking to this guy, Tic, he owns a little cafe down here, and all the tourists go there. It’s a nice little place, sandwiches and coffee, all these teas, pretty tea pots, and he wants us to work there as waitresses and learn to make pottery when we aren’t working! He’s a really talented artist, his tea pots and cups are all over Mexico, every restaurant has them. And if we learn his craft, we will be artists, too. He can teach us to use the wheel and paints and the ovens. All for free! He’s even going to pay us to waitress. And of course we’ll make a lot on tips, the tourists are very generous here.
I know you want me to finish my degree and go on to business school, or law school, but this is an opportunity I just can’t miss. If we don’t take this chance, we’ll miss out because he’ll find someone else to do it, and we’ll never learn pottery. I know you’ll be proud of me, and some day I’ll send you a complete set of my pottery and you’ll see it was the right thing to do.
Your letter and the letter from the school arrived on the same day. How does one fail Ballroom Dance? What, you can’t count to four? And English, for god’s sake, you speak English every day, I would think you’d be able to at least get a D.
So I think I sense something other than artistic yearning behind your desire to stay in Mexico. And, by the time you get this letter, I will probably be coming up behind you at this little cafe of yours. I will not be surprised, I promise you, when I find out it’s an underground club specializing in lap dancing, and the only sandwiches being served involve three people. I will be relieved it isn’t an opium den. Or worse. And Tic, let me guess, he’s had a hard life and you’ve already given him your spending money, you’ve bought him a motorcycle, and bailed him out of jail with your emergency fund. No, I’m not a mind reader. I was young once, too. And, let’s just say I have resources you don’t understand, like a very good detective who works fast and discretely and has contacts all over the world. There are some things a lawyer can accomplish that a potter can’t. Even if I can’t pot.
So, when you hear me knock on your door – oh, yes, you’ll know it’s me, the old Shave and a Haircut – you’ll be suitably dressed, packed, and ready to travel back to State U where a tutor will work with you for the rest of Spring Break to get your grades to a point where you will pass your Sophomore year. Do you know Sophomore means Wise Fool? Be a wise fool, Laura. Because a foolish fool might never get her ass out of Mexico alive, if Tic has anything to say about it. As a special favor to you, Rachel, and Deb, I will arrange for an excellent attorney to defend him against the charges that are about to be filed against him. I’m not without sentiment, you see.
You’re still my little girl. Are you packed yet?