Daily Writing Tip 28 of 100, Letter From A Place You’ve Never Been

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Letter From A Place You’ve Never Been

Source – Writing Without The Muse by Beth Baruch Joselow

Imagine yourself on a journey to a place you have never visited before. It’s striking! There are so many _________ . And the quality of the ____________ is amazing! You’ve never seen anything that looked like the ___________ . This is a place to write home about. Write a letter to someone you like, telling her all about your surroundings.

I used to collect odd postcards. I’d write fictional messages on the back and send them in the mail to people I didn’t know chosen at random from phone books (this was before the Internet). Simple, cryptic messages.

The sea here is a green the color of the ferns in Aunt Penelope’s (you remember her, I’m sure, Ha!) side garden. Matilda and I sit all day and talk about the handball championships and drink fruity concoctions that Juan brings us on a little tray.

Really wish you were here, though things might be awkward between you and Matilda, because… well, you know.

Love and Sweetest Memories, Sally

Maybe I should try this again? Nobody sends postcards any more – when is the last time you received one, a real one, in the mail?

Sounds like fun – but I haven’t bought a stamp in years.

A Month of Short Stories 2014, Day 7 – This Sandwich Has No Mayonnaise

A year ago, for the month of June, I wrote about an online short story each day for the month. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day Seven – This Sandwich Has No Mayonnaise, by J.D. Salinger

Read it online here:
This Sandwich Has No Mayonnaise

So you’ve read Catcher in the Rye, I know you have. Everyone has. Everyone has to – it is a requirement.

And it doesn’t matter if you liked it, or respected it, or hated it… you know Holden Caulfield. If you let your mind go fuzzy for a second Holden ceases to be a literary character and becomes someone you knew, or thought you knew, or was yourself… when you were that age.

Even though everybody reads Catcher in the Rye, most folks don’t read the rest of J. D. Salinger’s writing. Oh, some drudge through Franny and Zooey, or pick up Nine Stories – but most don’t. Beyond that there are the published but “uncollected” stories. These are not readily available in print form – but there is the web – the ultimate source of all wisdom.

So I’ll bet that you, probably, don’t know what happened to Holden Caulfield.

Read the story first, It’s not very long. It’s protagonist is Vincent Caufield, Holden’s brother, as he attempts to solve a problem, a dilemma, involving a truckload of soldiers in a terrrific rainstorm in Georgia one evening. A sticky situation, but Vincent is only half thinking about it… he is mostly thinking about his brother.

So read it, now, and then come back so I can talk about it. Beware, spoilers ahead. Go on, read it.

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So, Holden Caulfield is dead, (don’t let missing in action fool you, he never appears anywhere again). He’s dead at nineteen, only two years after Catcher in the Rye. Not only that, but This Sandwich Has no Mayonnaise was published six years before Catcher in the Rye – so J. D. Salinger already knew Holden was dead when he wrote the famous book.

How could he do that? How could he be so mean?

Easy, it’s easy. It’s because there is no such thing as Holden Caulfield. He’s completely imaginary. You can kill him, torture him, drive him crazy, leave him old and infirm in an Idaho rest home – anything you want. It doesn’t matter because it never really happens.

As for the reader… do you want to think that Holden survived? Do you want to believe that he eventually appeared somewhere, a little shell-shocked but otherwise as confused and loveable as ever? Well, go ahead and believe it – it’s at true as anything else – this is fiction of the highest order, which is all simply a pack of carefully crafted and well-told lies.

Just be glad you are not in the story, though. Because his brother is stuck there, and for him, Holden is gone, and it’s killing him.

“Gotta wait for the lieutenant,” I tell him. I feel my elbow getting wet and bring it in out of the downpour. Who swiped my raincoat? With all my letters in the left-hand pocket. My letters from Red, from Phoebe, from Holden. From Holden. Aw, listen, I don’t care about the raincoat being swiped, but how about leaving my letters alone? He’s only nineteen years old, my brother is, and the dope can’t reduce a thing to a humor, kill it off with a sarcasm, can’t do anything but listen hectically to the maladjusted little apparatus he wears for a heart. My missing-in-action brother. Why don’t they leave people’s raincoats alone?

The 22 Lost Salinger Stories

Inside the Mind of a Young J.D. Salinger

Holden Caulfield’s Goddam War

Why I Love to Slaughter my Characters

Man is born crying. When he cries enough, he dies.
—Ran
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As I’ve said before, I can outline too many of my short stories with three cards-

1. Introduce Compelling Character – interesting and fully rounded human that, despite some quirky faults and failings, the reader likes and can identify with.

2. Something bad happens – the protagonist is presented with something that does not go as planned and puts them in some distress – a problem to solve.

3. Protagonist dies. Nothing works, doom descends and the main character dies an ignominious, painful death.

They aren’t all like this, but this is what I like to shoot for. It’s just that sometimes my characters refuse to do what I tell them to and, despite my best efforts, they get lucky, scrape by with the skin of their teeth, and survive.

Everyone tells me I’m a terrible person because I take so much joy in butchering my heroes and heroines, especially since they are sometimes such nice people. Some ask me why I do that. I do it because I like it. I do it because I can. I do it because it doesn’t hurt anybody.

These are fictional characters. They are not real. Everything is a lie. Writing this stuff is a lot of hard work, time that I should be spending in useful money-making activities – so I want a payoff. Since I can do anything, doesn’t it make sense to do what I can’t ever do in real life? Death! Off with their heads!

The idea is to kick it up a notch, isn’t it? What possible reason is there not to kick it up as far as it will go. Turn those amplifier knobs to eleven.

Yell

Yell

It’s the same thing if you are reading. It takes time to turn those pages; time you should be using to interact with real human beings. So if you are choosing to hang out with an imaginary shade instead of a flesh-and-blood person you are going to want to make the best of the situation. So what is the one advantage of befriending fiction, a pack of ghostly lies, over some warm living example of God’s creatures?

You can kill them and nobody gives a shit. Plenty more where they came from. Close those book covers or shut off that e-reader and the pain and mourning is all gone. You can wipe a tear and go make a sandwich-nobody knows any better.

So let’s raise a glass to fictional death. Give a big hearty laugh at the disaster yarn. Let the blood spill and the darkness descend, as long as it is behind the protective screen of those twenty-six letters with the added armor of a few punctuation marks.

There’s too much out here, so lets keep it in there. As much as we can.