Valentine’s day is almost here and it got me thinking about how to properly incorporate love letters in a story. Now, even if you don’t use love letters in your writing, it’s still a great way to get into your characters’ minds and more importantly to see into their heart and you may learn something about them you didn’t know before!
To start, I like to ask myself: Why are they writing this letter? And oftentimes, the why will lead to the overall tone of the letter. Are they strangers courting through their letters? Are they sweethearts that are kept apart by war? Is it a quick note stuck inside the husband’s lunch pail? Or a letter just because?
Whatever the purpose, make sure the tone matches the era. The elegant, “highfalutin” language of times gone by can sometimes come across as cold or too formal, but if used correctly, the sweetness of a pure heart can warm the spirit.
Make it count. If you are going to insert a love letter into your story, make sure that it moves the plot forward. It can move the story forward through portraying the beautiful, sweet feelings of love between the hero and heroine or it can affirm the heartbreak of past relationships as the letter acts as proof of broken dreams if one of the two dies or ends the relationship…or as proof of an unrequited love of an insane stalker!
Now that the ground rules are set, here is the basic “formula” for writing a love letter that adds to your story:
Listen to music to aid the tone and write the letter in cursive. I know it sounds silly, but after having my characters write a few love letters into my books, this is the surest way of capturing what they are feeling in the letter. Cursive will bring out the beauty of each letter and get you to really thinking about how each word looks and sounds and how it would come across when read by your character. (I know it’s crazy, but we writers have to be a little crazy sometimes and I’m okay with that haha.)
Tell a fond memory. This is one of those rare instances where telling is better than showing! Showing would be weird here…unless you made a flash back scene, but this is a letter we are focusing on, so telling works as it informs the reader as well as letting the heroine/hero know how dear they are to the person writing the letter.
Give a hope for the future. This can take on many levels depending on where your hero and heroine are in their relationship. It could be a hope of courtship, marriage or children and even grandchildren.
Make a promise for forever. There has to be a promise. It is the essence of the love letter because without it…it’s just another “I like you” letter and not a love letter that gives true commitment to the relationship.
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