22 April 2012

Fictional Correspondences: Finding Someone to Write To

To work well, a fictional correspondence needs at least two people.  One can play it alone - like solitaire - but then it's not a correspondence (though it can be a great creative writing exercise!).

A fictional correspondence is a creative collaboration.  What layers of creativity is entirely up to the people involved.  So don't let the word creative put you off the idea.  Really all you are doing is playing. Approaching it as a game may make it easier to find someone to play with.

Here are some ideas for finding people to write fictional letters with. I've tried them all with success.

(1)  If you are already active as a letter writer, ask your current pen friends if they would enjoy a second, parallel correspondence.  I have an on-again/off-again imaginary letter game going one with a friend of mine who lives in Europe.  Our "real" letters are more frequent now, but we still refer to our alter egos periodically.  The game ebbs and flows and continues to entertain.

(2)  Family members can be a great source for fictional pen friends.  If you are a parent, a letter game with your children can be vastly entertaining as well as as an opportunity to share your own inner child.  An entire family can play at writing letters to one another.  Your characters can be actual or made up.  The letters themselves have no limits!  

Writing to one's partner or spouse is another possibility. Or a sibling.  Or a favorite aunt or uncle.  If your child is heading off to college, it might be fun to send him/her fictional letters.  Ditto if it's your older brother or sister whose leaving; it might be a playful way to stay in touch.

(Note: this is not my brother's mailbox - just one I found online.)

A good way to begin a family letter game is to set up a mailbox* of some kind.  My brother Woodcrafter put one in the tree house he'd made for his kids.  If you are a single or divorced parent who shares custody, you might set up a mailbox in your child's bedroom. 

(3) Along the same lines as writing letters within a family, roommates/house mates are can also be fun to play with.  Some friends I knew who shared a house put an old fashioned mailbox in their upstairs hallway. 

(4) One could look online for fictional correspondents, but I have to say it's not something I would do myself and, in the main, don't recommend it.  There's just too much weirdness going on out there in terms of how certain people misrepresent themselves.  

Last page of my pamphlet on fictional letter games.  

The Letter Exchange is one resource, however, that has some possibilities.  LEX, as it is referred to, is actually a print resource that one subscribes to.  The subscription price includes your being able to post your own notices.  I've found a couple of pen friends here over the years, though it's been a bit spotty.  The last issue I got a year or so ago included some notices from people who were looking for partners in a fictional letter exchange.

(5) Book clubs, writing groups, scrap booking clubs, board and D&D gaming groups.  If you belong to any group like this, you're likely to find some people interested in a game of fictional letters. It doesn't have to be a whole-group experience; just a few or one other person.  The again, if you a student taking a writing class in college or high school, it might be fun to get the entire class going on a group letter exchange!

(6) Foreign language study groups.  If you are taking a course in another language, it might be fun to practice that language with a classmate by writing fictional letters to each other in that language. 

(7) Friends -- be they school chums, a boyfriend or girlfriend, or a neighbor -- are a natural possibility for fictional correspondents.  

Rules of the Road
One really important aspect of playing fictional letter games is respect.  The purpose of the game is to play and share some creative fun.  It shouldn't be a matter of trying to show up the other person in anyway or dominating the conversation or the creativity.

In one letter game I had a friend of my correspondent who wanted to play.  We both knew her and thought it would be fun.  But once she started playing, she tried to take over the whole game by changing the history of our characters and events.  In the end, she wanted the game to be all about her character.  In essence, she was a creative bully. (Fortunately, the person moved to another country and ended the original friendship.)

This book has nothing to do with letter writing, but is totally in the same cool spirit.  And its mantra holds true:  Play hard, play fair, nobody hurt. (Info on the New Games movement can be found here.)

What I learned there is that it is a good idea for correspondents to lay down some guidelines for each other. Is this just the two of you?  Is it just your family?  If other people want to play, how do you want to handle it?  Do you even want other people to know? I find that for me, one-to-one correspondences work best.  You make the call.

A second aspect of rule-making is more like world-making.  Where do you want to play?  Who your character is and/or who you game partner is will usually set the stage. My European friend and I decided that we wanted to be able to include fictional places and people in our letters.  For the letters I wrote for last summer's wizarding event, I decided that the people writing were all from other schools of magic.  Let your fictional characters lead the way.

Finally, once you have someone to play the letter game with, have fun! If you're both into creating elaborate mail art, go for it.  If you just like creating stories, don't worry if your letters are handwritten on lined paper.  If you have a typewriter, this is a great use for  it.  If all you and your friend(s) want to do is send fictional postcards, then do that.  In short, enjoy your imagination and enjoy your friendships!

Without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of the imagination is incalculable. ~ Carl Jung

Next up in this series: Making Your Own Letterhead (to be posted on 30 April 2012).  

*  In a later post I'll show you how to create some unique mailboxes.

Follow the series.

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