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  • Lev Lyonne

Of Chaos and Carousels: A Unique Way of Storytelling.

There are many different ways to write a piece of fiction. You can dabble into poetry, you can write the story backwards, you can write it as a piece of "hermit-crab fiction" (which I do want to write a separate article on, it's fascinating). That is the beauty of fiction, you can really make up whatever you want, in whatever form you want. It is especially fun to play with different formats in short stories and flash fiction.

One of my favorite ways of writing a short story is through letters. In my short story "Of Chaos and Carousels", I utilized this technique in a slight way. The story is about a mapmaker writing to her favorite cities. Here is an example of what I mean:

Dear New York,

Oh, how magical you made the mundane seem.

There are many fond memories of sweltering summers spent in your clutches. Beyond your stench and heat, I was fascinated with my time with you. You streets were so clear, so numbered, so precise. You were the city where I learned that lost is a mere state of mind.

You taught me how a city can be chaotic and controlled at the same time. I guided myself into a world of magic and intrigue. I knew exactly what I would become when I walked down your avenues.

As much as I adored strolling through your streets, it is your park that is forever in my heart. I would create the most detailed maps on that lawn, jotting down every path I had ventured down and every corner I'd turned around. It was in this park that my magic sparked to fruition. I became a prodigy under your trees.

Of chaos and carousels, you are something brilliant.

-Your Friend

Now, this is just one way of using letters to tell a story. There isn't much of a plot to "Of Chaos and Carousels", because I wanted to capture emotions like loneliness and nostalgia rather than telling the mapmaker's actual story. Through the letters, I weave hints in about her life, as she talks about her family life in one letter, her move to Paris in another, and the memories of first creating in New York. It is a snapshot into this woman's life.

Here are some other ways to tell a story through letters:

-Write a back and forth between two people. It could be a pen-pal exchange, it could be notes between lovers, it could be a fight escalating in a gentlemen-ly manner (à la "Your Obedient Servant" from Hamilton)

-Write a series of letters going forward in time, highlighting someone's major life moments.

-Write letters to an imaginary friend. And then...you get one back. (Neil Gaiman did something in his short story "The Thing About Cassandra", but it could be fun to twist the idea even more.)

-Write a series of unfinished letters.

-Write the story as one letter, re-written many times.

-It could even be a series of emails. I believe that Rainbow Rowell did something like this in Attachments, but I haven't read that book, so don't quote me on that.

What I really want to say is that there are so many unique ways to tell a story. Let your imagination run wild. No one is telling you what to write, especially in fun little stories, so experiment and find what you like to write. You want to be unique as a writer and let your style be heard in a different way than anyone else. Diving into new ways of writing can help you develop your voice as a writer!

I highly recommend writing a story through letters, just because it really opened my mind to what I could write. It is also a great way to get to know a character, so you could even use it for just a character development exercise.

Let me know if you have ever written a story with letters or some sort of correspondence! Also, let me know if you have ideas for fun and original ways of story-telling, I would love to highlight some different ways of writing!

Until next time,