Characters are my favorite. The best books and movies are invariably full of lively, unique people with mysterious or tempestuous relationships and traits. LM Montgomery and Agatha Christie hooked me into a story with their small town oddballs. The day my brother and I discovered What About Bob? takes a page in Matz family history.
The Coen brothers are remarkable at character invention, between Fargo‘s Marge Gunderson and Everett Ulysses McGill in O Brother, Where Art Thou?
So many great characters with great stories. We writers delight in this sort of thing, although it is simultaneously intimidating. Can I ever create a fictional person that resonates with the real people who read about and watch him, the way other stories’ characters have resonated with me?
It’s so worth a try.
My fellow screenwriters-in-training and I spent ten days thinking about the people around whom our stories will converge. We pondered their habits, their secrets, their histories and their interactions. And I got pretty attached.
Without really meaning to, I started daydreaming about my two main characters – Jared and Kristen – and what their lives were like before they cross our paths in this screenplay, and before they even meet each other. So I’m going to write it. Sort of a prequel to the script.
1. Part One: Kristen
You always had a way with critters. They liked you. From bugs to buffalo, you could charm the spit out of a camel. And you did once, that was gross.
I know you don’t want to hear this, but I am on my way out. Before I go, I want to tell you about yourself in a way that I could never seem to say in person. I always believed in saying what you mean to say, as plainly as you can possibly say it. But I can’t always seem to behave the way I believe I ought.
So here is what I want to say, what I have meant to say in those quiet evenings when you helped me take in the laundry, but never did. I hope you will forgive me.
The first time it happened, I almost missed it. I wanted you to come with me into the house, and you were glued to the spot where you stood. The butterflies fascinated you. I nearly went on and left you there, but something made me come see.
I knew what you were thinking, What a marvel. I warned you not to get too close, but you were unworried. Even as a little thing you knew that no critter had anything to be concerned about in your company. They surrounded you, landed on your fingers and clothes.
You spoke to them in some way that didn’t take words. You just understood each other. It was real neat to see.
The critters kept on coming. If I couldn’t find you in the yard, I knew you’d be out in the woods or at the dairy farm charming the cows. I was surprised you never wanted to bring any of them home with you. You never had a pet. You never wanted one, just adopted whatever was nearby and loved it for a little while.
You were so small. Too small to remember. I’ve thought about these things every day of my life.
I’m on my way out, little one. I give you this moment to treasure as I have cherished it. Keep it somewhere safe, you never know when you will need your memories told back to you.
Kristen was 11 years old when she was handed that letter. Two days later they put Grandmom in the ground and Kristen went to live with a family friend in the suburbs.