An Open Letter to a Novel Character

Dear Irritating Character in My Second Novel,

You’re hacking me off, man. Can’t you do something—anything!—besides sitting around and sulking and losing your temper at whatever person happens to be in your general vicinity? You’re blabbering about wanting to save your marriage, about reconciling with your wife after you knocked up her sister. Good. Now will you stop being so damned passive?

Go ahead, get mad. Guess what? I’m mad at you, too. Personally, I’d love to rip you out of the computer screen and kick you around. I bet I can take you on, too; your imaginary testosterone is nothing compared with my estrogen. You’re saying one thing and doing another. Actually, you’re not doing much of anything besides all that sulking, etc.

You say you want to keep your marriage together. Yet all your wife sees is you sitting on your rear. She’s pregnant now, too, and she desperately needs you to care for both her and the baby. She’s seeing your silence as a lack of interest in her feelings, in her best interests, in the baby you claim you want to be a daddy to.

You may see it as helpful that you aren’t talking to the other woman—her own sister—and sure, that’s great. Good move. Now what else are you going to do? What other practical things are you doing to support her emotionally?

You’re made your little protests about “wanting to keep the family together”, dropped lots of Very Important Words like “sorry” and “reconciliation” and “accountability”, set up a nice, tidy list of rules to keep your behavior in check. You can call them boundaries—maybe they are—but they rival a piece of legislation in Congress in their complexities and loopholes. And really, in case you didn’t realize, they don’t do a thing to stop the real problem: what’s in your heart. And you haven’t really addressed that.

How are these boundaries going to change the heart of your marriage? How’s it going to help your wife learn to trust you again? How’s it going to help the babies you’ve fathered, these little girls who will need a daddy? How’s that going to help mend the family you’ve ripped apart?

You’re so stinkin’ passive that it’s driving me to writer’s block. That’s not terribly good if you want to continue to exist, if you ask me. Not that you did. 

Actually, if I’m honest, you’re a lot like me and a gazillion other people in our society. We drop all the good lines about morals, push for laws that try to restrain behavior without changing the heart, and never do anything practical.

It’s easy enough for me to vote for a particular issue; it’s harder for me to get involved and help the people who are most affected by that issue. Abortion, gay marriage, mental illness advocacy, welfare and health care reform—you name it, I will vote my conscience and walk out of the voting booth convinced that I’ve made a difference.

But how are we—how am I—helping children in poverty or those needing health care or those who are hungry and needy? Short answer: I’m being like you, my dear irritating character, and doing nothing. 

Dang it, now you’re making me feel bad. Maybe I shouldn’t start casting stones at you. For one thing, if I point a finger at you, then I have to look at myself and see those other four fingers pointed back at me. For another, throwing stones at an imaginary character is awfully hard on a computer screen.

Thanks a lot. Now I’ve got bigger things to think about than just plot and characterization and overcoming the terror of the blinking cursor on a blank page. Personally, I’d rather deal with plain old writer’s block than realize I’ve got to get up from the computer and do something to help other people in need.


Your author

Note: If you don’t write fiction, you may not identify with wanting to scream at an imaginary person. But trust me, this happens to me all the time.


8 thoughts on “An Open Letter to a Novel Character

  1. I like what Stephen King says about fiction, that it’s “the truth inside the lie.” And you have shared some good truth here. Isn’t it amazing–despite being their creator–what our characters can teach us about ourselves? Thanks for sharing your heart.


    1. Chad, thanks for stopping by. I’ve learned so many life lessons from my characters. I’ve had blog posts act the same way; I’ll write one and then have my own words kick my rear later!


      1. I think the Lord is faithful in this regard: He makes sure we have opportunities to walk our talk. Not always pleasant, not always what we want, but always beneficial in the end (which we usually only see in hindsight).


  2. Ремонт и отделка офисов, квартир или дач – это самая распространенная на сегодняшний день проблема большинства людей, решившихся, наконец, привести в порядок свое жилище. Мало того, что ремонт – это занятие трудоемкое и напряженное, еще и найти достойную компанию, занимающуюся отделкой квартир или офисов сегодня практически невозможно. Дело в том, что все меньше и меньше в нашей стране остается фирм, делающих свою работу качественно, эффективно и недорого.Однако наша компания является приятным исключением из этого неприятного правила. Мы вот уже долгое время занимается отделкой и ремонтом квартир и в г. Зеленоград и еще ни разу нам не приходило от наших клиентов ни неприятных отзывов, ни каких-либо жалоб. Богатый опыт наших специалистов, а также высокий профессионализм всех без исключения наших работников, поможет сделать хорошо, качественно и – главное – доступно как косметический, так и капитальный ремонт. Современное оборудование, новые технологии планировки и дизайна, а также индивидуальный подход к каждому клиенту и гибкая система скидок сделали нашу компанию самой успешной на сегодня фирмой, оказывающей услуги по ремонту и отделке квартир и офисов в г. Зеленоград. Список услуг: ремонт квартир ремонт квартир в Москве ремонт квартир в Московской области косметический ремонт квартир капитальный ремонт квартир евроремонт кватрир ремонт магазинов ремонт ресторатов ремонт офисных помещений отделка квартир ремонт ресторанов ремонт квартир под ключ строительство коттеджей VIP ремонт квартир отделка квартир в новых домах


    1. For my non-Russian readers, here’s the translation, courtesy of a russian translation website:

      Repair and furnish of offices, apartments or summer residences is the most widespread for today a problem of the majority of the people who have dared, at last, to put in order the dwelling. Not only that repair is an employment labor-consuming and strained also to find the worthy company which is engaged in furnish of apartments or offices today it is almost impossible. The matter is that ever less in our country remains the firms doing the work qualitatively, effectively and cheaply. However our company is a pleasant exception of this unpleasant rule. We here already long time is engaged in furnish and repair of apartments and to Zelenograd and still never to us came from our clients neither unpleasant responses, nor any complaints. The wide experience of our experts, and also high professionalism of all without an exception of our workers, will help to make well, qualitatively and – the main thing – is accessible both cosmetic, and major repairs. The modern equipment, new technologies of a lay-out and design, and also individual approach to each client and flexible system of discounts have made our company of the most successful for today the firm rendering services in repair and furnish of apartments and offices to Zelenograd. The list of services ……..

      Meaningful comments, Mr. or Ms. Spammer.


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