May 16, 2012

The Essence of Bravery

Over at her blog A Wanderer in the Shadowed Land, Rosamund Gregory has started up a meme of her own: character letters.  It is an exercise designed to get the writer into the head of the character (it's dark in here!) by writing them in first person, and as such, it makes a splendid complement to the Beautiful People series.  To put it in Rosamund's words:

"There are a great many awesome "programs" of a sort for blogging writers--such as Beautiful People and Snippets of a Story--but I've noticed that most of them are in the third person. This is not wrong, of course, but it's very good to be able to get inside one's characters' minds in order to understand them. Even if you're writing in third person, you learn new things about your friends that you would never have known otherwise."

She has posted all the guidelines and those lovely things here and the very first edition, with the link-up and such, is here.  I'm afraid my entry does not follow the prompts very well, but hopefully no one will mind.  This letter is from Tip to his mother back home.  He writes on plain paper in a rather cramped, painstaking hand; put a quill in his hand and he seizes up (as if he wasn't awkward enough before), and so he tends to write out each word as though his life depends on its neatness.  He has no artistic talent and doesn't "doodle," but the edges of the page are severely blotted from his tendency to hold the quill sideways when he stops to think.  Also, he signs with his Christian name.

28 November, 1803 
Syracuse, Sicily 

Dear Mother,

This is no good. I must have begun the letter three times now, and I cannot seem to write beyond the first line. I was never much good at letter-writing, you know. Being so far from home seems not to have changed that.

Your letter reached me today, and only three months late, at that. There was a packet ship, the Lizzie Blue, waiting for us here in Syracuse when we dropped anchor; I’ll send my reply back with her, though God alone knows when she will make port again. Strange to think that with all my effort to write this, it may never reach you at all. If it does not, and if you never read this line, I hope you will know I tried.

I hardly know what to say to you, Mother. I know you must be thinking nearly five months have passed and in that time I have never once written, and for that I have no excuse but the one you already know, that things were very difficult when I left. Looking back I can see that it was difficult for you, too, and that I made life hard for you and Father both, but at the time I could not bring myself to write, and now my words have rusted—if I ever had them to begin with. Everything I think of to tell you how sorry I am, to tell you how I wish Molly were still with you, sounds callous even to myself. But I am sorry, and I do wish it. I know how much you loved her.

We have had our own death this past month, while we were at Gibraltar. I won’t upset you by telling you about it, only say that it was sudden and hit me harder than it ought. For I only knew him less than six months—less than half a year, Mother!—and yet it hurt as badly as your letter. Does that make sense to you? It makes very little to me.

Mother, I am finding out that I am not brave. I had never thought much about it before, but now it stares me in the face every day. Not that the idea of war or even the nearer thought of coming against a Tripolitan frightens me more than it does the next man; no, but it is living that is so hard. So often in the morning I wake up and feel ill with the thought of the day—and yet it gives me, too, a sort of hard satisfaction in the rising. Perhaps that is the greatest lesson the sea and the Navy will ever teach me.

Even my rusty words are spent now. So I will tell you only that I love you, and ask that you give my love to Father and tell him that I will try—that I am trying—to make him proud. I know I am not Harriet and will never make up for her, but I hope, all the same, that you will be proud of me.

Your rebellious son is not very rebellious tonight, Mother. He is simply tired.

With love,



  1. I really think this is brilliant! What a great Idea! Poor Tip...

  2. Oh, wow. Poor laddie! It's really quite heartwrenching to read. :( I enjoy all the little trails in it which you don't tell us about--such as who died, and who Maggie is, and all the rest.

    Thanks for joining in!

  3. Ah! Love this letter (and Rosamund's idea!) Looks like a fabulous event. :)

  4. I LOVE this meme! I must do it myself, oh goodness - such sheer genius!!
    Poor TIP!!! Abi, I have to tell you, you've done SUCH an amazing job of making him sound so authentically old-fashioned and fresh at the same time. I applaud you.

  5. Lilly - It is a good idea, isn't it? I hope I can participate again next month; I had fun, and it's actually quite an easy thing to do.

    Rosamund - Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for commenting! Jenny's letter and this one are both rather melancholy... I enjoyed yours for its lightheartedness and wit. (Tip, I'm afraid, is not very witty.) And yes, I did try not to give too much away!

    Rachel - Why, thank you! I'd love to see you join in the fun; I know anything you came up with would make jolly reading.

    Mirriam - I'm so glad you think so. I didn't want to make him sound too formal, because, unlike Jenny, I can't do that and still make the result "readable;" but on the other hand a letter from Tip could never be casual. Please do write one! Have it be from Eristor.

    - I jest. Definitely.

  6. Eristor has written a letter.
    I have the transcript on my blog. ^_~

  7. This letter is so heartbreaking; I can see that Tip is speaking from his heart even if he is formal and awkward in his words. I couldn't help thinking, after reading this letter, that though Tip appears to be a carefree, spunky lad from the outside, he really seems to be a frightened lad, longing to gain his parent's love and pride in him; I think it demands an amount of bravery to admit he doesn't have courage and he has shown that. I am starting to like his character more then ever, Abigail :).

    This character letters is something that I think I'd like to join in with one of my characters as well!

  8. Joy - A large part of White Sail's is Tip's becoming a man, and it has been fun to watch both his strengths and his vulnerabilities develop. This was particularly enjoyable to write; I love how you can let a character's emotions flow through the medium of a letter. (I'm reading Daddy-Long-Legs right now, though, so that may have something to do with my enthusiasm...)

    I'm glad you enjoyed the exercise! And the more, the merrier, so I hope you'll be able to find time to write one yourself.


meet the authoress
I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
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published writings

The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
finished writings

Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
currently writing

Wordcrafter: "One man in a thousand, Solomon says / will stick more close than a brother. / And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days / if you find him before the other." Justin King unwittingly plunges into one such friendship the day he lets a stranger come in from the cold. Wordcount: 124,000 words

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