letters in narration

An editor (who shall remain nameless, except to say she isn’t my American editor) made the comment that ‘nobody likes letters… cut them?’ and then later in her comments for the same manuscript ‘more letters. cut?’

I personally like letters. No, I love the occasional letter between characters. But maybe I’m wrong about this. Anybody?

3 Replies to “letters in narration”

  1. I like letters. They provide a pleasant interlude in the action, while still telling the reader what’s going on, and giving some good insight into the characters’ thoughts without having you just tell us what they’re thinking (well, OK, you ARE just telling us what they’re thinking, but it doesn’t feel that way). I’m not an expert; I don’t get paid X number of dollars a year to edit manuscripts, but as a reader, I say go ahead and leave them in.

    Here’s an embarrassing tidbit: When I was in sixth grade I read most of the Anne of Green Gables series, for the first time. The fourth volume in the series, Anne of Windy Poplars, consists largely of letters from Anne to her fianc?. I became at least partly convinced that the Anne series had to be true, based on the fact that it included correspondence between the characters — it just seemed like if there were letters in the book, then, well, those were artifacts which must really have existed. I don’t remember how long it took me to realize that if an author could invent dialog and action, she could invent letters just as well. It was like the S. Morgenstern’s Princess Bride thing, but sillier; I doubt anyone else ever made the same mistake, and I can’t believe I just confessed it here.

  2. Has your editor ever heard of Clarissa? I read it last summer, the entire 1500 page version, and it is fabulous. Or Fair and Tender Ladies? Hmmm, remind me not to enlist the help of that editor when I write my (novel/non-fiction/short story) about my father’s life, which will be drawn entirely from the hundreds of letters I possess. Just found your website – like it very much.

  3. When I read letters between characters, I feel as though I were experiencing the same excitement, frustration, anger, joy, or sadness as the character reading the letter. It’s as if we were sharing a moment. Makes it so much more personal, I think.

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