Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What's In Your Novel?

While writing last night, I made a realization. In each of my novels (this is the third one I'm working on), letters have made a prominent appearance in the story. This was not planned on my part, but rather something that has subconsciously appeared.

I don't know if I would go so far as to call it a symbol. I do not use letters as a deliberate representation of something. Rather, it is more of a...calling card, if you will. I'm sure there might be a literary term for this, but it escapes me at the moment. So for the sake of argument, I will simply refer to this type of personal fingerprint as the "calling card."

Using a letter as my calling card doesn't surprise me. Ever since I was quite young, I have loved to write and receive letters. I used to run to the mailbox every day during the summer in hopes of receiving such a letter. I was disappointed more often than not, but each day I trudged to the mailbox on our farm, I had hope that a letter with my name painstakingly handwritten on the envelope would appear.

In this day and age of electronic communication, an email isn't nearly as good as a letter, but I would much rather get an email than a telephone call. Maybe it's my love of words, of my ability to sit and absorb what I'm reading and craft a thoughtful response, that is behind it. Don't get me wrong, however - a good gab on the phone is priceless! But I also enjoy a good letter.

My grandmother and I have taken to writing each other via the old fashioned way - pen and paper. Even though she has email, I still love to send her handwritten notes. When I see her handwriting, it makes me feel much closer to her.

Maybe that's why the letter has appeared in all my novels. I can also think of a few short stories where I've also used letters. What amazes me about all this is that it is not a conscious decision to use letters - they naturally occur when I write. I've used them in my fiction to convey information, to keep characters connected, to reveal secrets, to break bad news, to enlighten and encourage, and to give hope.

So do you have a calling card in your writing?


  1. That's an interesting tool in writing your manuscripts. Seems like it would give the story a sense of history, maybe? Add a personal depth to the work? You've given me something to think about, using a trait to expand the story in different ways.

  2. I love letters too! I love to see someone's handwriting as it feels so much more personal to me.
    I don't think I have a calling card (love that expression) in mine except I try to get my characters to be really emotional. But don't we all?

  3. Antiques and, especially, old photographs may well be my "calling card." They don't have overt meaning for plot, but they make many appearances.

    Really good post!

  4. Hmmm, well, spies and/or cats seem to figure into most of my stories. Not sure why. Something else may occur to me later, but those are the two that come to mind right now.

    Loved the photo of your desk the other day :) Will post a pic of mine when it's a little more presentable *g*.

  5. I don't know if I have a calling card in my writing -- but I do love letters. I love writing them, I love receiving them, I love reading collections of letters.

    I love novels written in letters.

  6. What an interesting post! I've got several calling cards in my fiction. Some of the most frequently appearing ones are writing tools, not surprising. Food seems to play a prominent role too. Good southern soul-feeding, down-home stuff.

  7. Hmm... rain I think, and lamp posts. :)

  8. I'm not sure about my calling card, but I do love letters, both writing and receiving them.

  9. LOVE your layout! CBOTB is so seriously cute, aren't they? Anyhoo! Since I've only started writing since March... and I've finishing up my fourth novel... I'm not sure what my calling card is.. LOL! I'm huge into humor. I love reading and I love the unexpectedness of humor. I'm also really into seeing my heroine's thoughts. I do this with italics...LOL! Which I can't show you here... but you'll see them thinking something completely opposite from what they say like:
    Urgh do we always have to have spaghetti! Like, always? Can't we get more original? "Sure Mom, spaghetti sounds great!"

  10. Love the term calling card...I just realized with book #3 that I love to take a heroine who thinks she knows what she's doing and drop her into a situation waaaaay over her head. I don't know if that counts as a calling card, though.

    Letters are wonderful, aren't they? How lovely that you and your grandmother correspond the old-fashioned way. Unlike email, those letters will be there for posterity...

  11. I have way too many animals in my books.

    As for letters, I love to receive them and I love to see old published letters. I just loathe writing the things. :o)


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