Epistle brainstorming is a method in which you write imagined correspondence by a character or even between characters. Since it’s imagined, you can conceive of exchanges happening slowly, as with postal-service mail or rapid-fire, as with texting or instant messaging.
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Epistolary exercises might also help you brainstorm back stories. Sometimes the act of telling a story to someone else can help clarify which details are most important.
You can also use epistolary brainstorming to interact directly with your characters to develop plots that feel organic and emerge from who the characters are. Imagine you, the author, are instant messaging with your character in order to ask deeper questions.
- Write a letter describing a pivotal experience that changed a character’s life.
- Write a text exchange between the protagonist and best friend explaining a major plot turn.
- Write a text exchange in which one character tries to pump information from another.
- Write a love letter that lists the beloved’s most loved characteristics and describes the time s/he knew that affection and admiration had become something more.
- Write a text exchange in which one character tries to hide information.
- Write a letter in which a character summarizes his/her entire childhood.
- Write a letter in which a character summarizes the events that led him/her to make an important decision or life change.
- Write a letter in which a character describes his/her family to another character who has never met them.
- Write a text exchange in which you ask your character his/her reasons for taking a particular action or his/her feelings about events or other characters.
- Write a text exchange in which you ask the protagonist what s/he thinks should happen in the story—how s/he would prefer to tackle the story problem.
- Write a text exchange in which you discuss your revision ideas with the protagonist.
How might you use epistles to explore your characters and their opinions, attitudes, beliefs and voices?