All he had was a letter.

Here we go again.

This post is about something I’ve blogged about countless times, on my previous creative writing blog (where it first developed) and also on my now non-existent Tumblr. So really, a blog isn’t any blog of mine unless I make a post about this, ahahah.

Creative writing has always been a passion of mine, if you will, and ever since I was a kid I’ve been spinning stories (both written and otherwise) like there was no tomorrow. I can recall a particularly proud moment in grade 5 where I completed a story that was (wait for it) a whole TEN PAGES LONG. Yep, I was a writing machine back then, that’s for sure. In high school, my writing progressed somewhat and I actually got nearly twenty thousand words on this one story (originally called “Untitled”) about a girl called Elizrah (yeah, let’s not revisit my weird name invention phase) who had to go live with her aunt and uncle and cousins (who I actually completely honestly based on a family from a book I read, lol)… But, as things tended to go in that period of my life, I never finished the story. I had this mindset where I would refuse  to plan endings t0 my stories, so I’d always get really enthused about the beginning and orientation sections of my story, then it’d come to filler stuff and actually having to figure out what I wanted to happen, and things would just fall apart. I kept that “creative process” for a long time and at school creative writing camps I actually began to develop more of a taste for poetry and descriptive prose over formal narratives. I found with poetry and passages/prose/whatever you want to call it, I could just put whatever was floating through my mind down on the page, not needing any character development or thoughts of narrative structure, I guess. About 18 months ago (if I’m recalling all of this correctly), I was in a bit of a writing mood and somehow managed to come up with what has since been termed “All he had was a letter” (I worked really hard on the title, guys.)

All he had was a letter.

A tired-looking, crinkled page of writing. The top left corner was torn, the ink had faded, but to him that didn’t matter. What mattered were the words. The words that were written with love, with truth, with him in mind. The letter, it had her scent. It had her scent. It had her warmth, her happiness, a glimpse of her pain. The words, they had her voice. They had her rhythm, her spirit, her sense of pride.

 

All he had was a letter.

The envelope had been lost, years ago. It was the letter that mattered. The letter was the window into the world her never knew. The world he saw in photographs, heard in stories, sensed in other people’s eyes. The eyes of the old, those who remembered. Remembered her, her smile, her soul. Those who remembered were those who knew the truth. They all knew, but all he had was a letter.

I kept it to myself for a little while, fine-tuning everything, before I posted it on this creative writing blog thing I used to have, and showed it to my dear friend Adam (I think this is how it all panned out, anyway), who suggested it would make a good prologue to a story. Soon enough, I’d rediscovered another passage I’d written six months previous, inspired by how good of a stalker I am   an observation I had in literature class one afternoon of two of my classmates (who would later become good friends of mine, funnily enough). The original passage went like this…

They sat at the last desk in the back row of the classroom, writing furiously as the teacher spoke and made dot points on the board about the literature novel. The girl, with flowing, deep brown hair and tan skin, seemed so natural in her pose, head propped up with one hand, the other clutching a pen. Her eyes appeared to shine with life, and the smile spread wide across her face gave her whole sense of being a lifting presence. The boy seated beside her, his face crumpled in concentration, was fair-skinned, with light brown hair that had subtle curls through it. He was focused on the teacher and the movement of her hand as she wrote upon the board. Then, for a moment, his gaze shifted to the girl alongside him. He took in her every curve, every dimple, every inch of her being. He smiled as she laughed at something, and his eyes, too, seemed to shine with life. Beneath the table, their feet rested on top of one another comfortably, as if that was the way it had always been. The level of togetherness was so natural, so present, it was clear they had a connection that went much further than sharing a desk, sharing a laugh, sharing a breath.

And as I worked more and more on the story, the characters of Tom and Ellie emerged. I find as I’ve grown as a writer, I’ve tended less and less to base characters solely on people I know in real life; they become more of a combination of the characteristics of people I know, and Tom in particular was no exception. Ellie’s a bit of a mystery to me so far, but I can quite clearly recognise who Tom is made up from. I’m not actually going to tell you who those people are though, because there’s no fun in that! I slowly began weaving the characters into the content I already had:

Tom and Ellie.

For years those words were rarely mentioned in a sentence without one another. For Tom and Ellie, though, it was something different. It was always something more, something within themselves, something they would never let go of. Even if it was never written, or never spoken, it was always there.

They sat at the last desk in the back row of the classroom, writing furiously as the teacher spoke and made dot points on the board about the literature novel….

and so on and so forth, you guys get the picture. It got to a point where I actually found myself wanting to finish the story. I pretty much decided that this was going to be “The One”. The novel. If I was ever going to finish something creative writing-related, it was going to be this. I began planning out the whole story, the intertwining narratives I wanted to have (in a similar style to On The Jellicoe Road, I guess), which trigger events I wanted to include, themes, that kind of thing, and I actually also found myself with an ending.. Shock, horror! All inspired by a Facebook status, too! I then came up with an ending concept that I could have at the beginning (confusing, I know), making the narrative retrospective. The intro slowly developed into this:

Some people say that an end is simply yet another beginning, another chance to learn from mistakes, to right the wrongs of the past. An end for some is a beginning for others, just a chapter closing so another can open. So, now I shall tell this story from the beginning, as I stand here at the ending.  Surrounded by devastation yet not feeling it. It all began with a letter.

For months, I kept jotting down and putting together little quotes and draft passages here and there (sometimes on Tumblr) and the actual writing of the story came to a definite halt for a while (thanks, Year 12, I love you too).  It slipped further and further to the back of my mind until about halfway through last year, when my friend Caitlyn and I were chatting one day about her upcoming media project for school, in which she had to create a short film centred around her selected theme of darkness and youth, with a particular focus on teenagers dealing with mental health issues such as depression. Somehow (I can’t remember exactly how it happened), after Caitlyn described her concept and her characters to me, it reminded me of the dynamic I’d been developing between my characters of Tom and Ellie and also a similar narrative tone.  One thing led to another and I actually ended up writing some material to be used in Caitlyn’s video, which conveyed the story of a girl dealing with depression, neglect and schizophrenia. A central piece was this poem-y thing:

There are always shadows,
behind you, ahead of you.
Haunting, unforgiving.

I have shadows, I have skeletons
But don’t you have them too?
Why is it that I feel so alone?
Alone, lost, not knowing the truth

Why do the clouds only rain on me?
Why is there no light to follow,
no warmth to feel,
nowhere I want to be.

Surrounded by it all,
yet deserted by everything
Where I am now,
where I am going?

There is always darkness,
around you, inside of you.
Consuming, destroying.

which actually became the voice over at the beginning of the film (I even got to be recorded reading it, ahaha, #famousmuch?). It made me so incredibly proud to contribute to Caitlyn’s amazing project, and the opportunity to get back into my creative writing again was actually quite an amazing feeling. It brought my characters and the story I wanted to tell with them back into focus, in a way, and I started thinking more and more about how I could work the narrative into something I was truly proud of. I’ve gotten super clever and put the finished film below:

See?! Isn’t it super cool and awesome?! I think it is.

I did plan to dedicate a lot of time to the story over my most recent summer holidays, as they were the longest holiday period I’d ever had (about three months or so), but as with most things, I just couldn’t find the time or the motivation. I can remember writing in one of my first ever posts on this blog that finishing the story was one of my goals, something I desperately wanted to achieve and it definitely still is. There’s something about the story that really captures I guess what I would describe as the essence of my high school experience? Wow, that sounds cheesy. I just feel that almost every single facet of this story reflects the experiences, the feelings, the moments I had in high school. The  people I knew, the places we visited (both physically and otherwise), it was just all of it, put together into one single story, which I realise sounds confusing and impossible, but it makes sense to me. Hence why I wanted to finish it this summer, before I myself moved on from high school. Obviously, that didn’t happen, which is why I’m writing this post. The story’s back in my mind, playing on my thoughts, casually nudging at me to be finished. Hell, I’ve only got two thousand words of it so far.

One day.

It’ll happen, I swear.

If you’ve made it this far into the post, congratulations. See, if I can smash out 1800+ words for a blog post, surely I can find the time and motivation to get 50 000 words for a novel, right? Lol.

Have a wonderful day, now! :)

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4 thoughts on “All he had was a letter.

  1. Rita says:

    I recently found your blog and I started reading from the first posts. I just finished reading this one (yep, I read it all!) and it was amazing! Both “All he had was a letter.” and all you “creative writing history. I really hope you finish that story some day and that you don’t forget to show us!
    Thank you for the great writing!
    Have a nice day!

    • Kara. says:

      I swear I replied to this comment, but obviously not! Sorry for being four months late with my reply :( But thank you so much! It’s lovely to know that someone enjoyed reading this, haha :)

  2. deniz fidan says:

    Oh my effing damn effing god.
    I can’t love it more,
    and I will never understand how you captured all those emotions so perfectly, so real…

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