Evolution of a protagonist

Meet Haley, the protagonist of Thief Eyes. We’ve been corresponding for years, and she’s changed a lot during that time. (To be fair, probably so have I.)


May 5, 2007

Dear Main Character of My Work Book in Progress,

You lied to me. You lied to me. How could you lie to me?

You lied to me! That’s so cool.

If you’re real enough to lie to me, we might be getting somewhere


May 22, 2007

Dear Main Character On Whom Everything Depends,

Please do something.


You don’t want to leave these guys in charge, do you?


May 27, 2007

Dear Main Character,

I know we agreed you needed to stand up for yourself more, but was that really the best place to begin?

Just wondering.


August 17, 2007

Dear Primary Character Who Used to Not Be Doing Anything,

Okay, you’re still not doing much. But you’re being so much more interesting about it now.

Let’s give it one more draft. You’ll save the world yet, wait and see.




September 24, 2007 (right around the time Bones of Faerie‘s revision letter arrived, very not-coincidentally)

Dear Primary Character Who Really is Shaping Up Nicely,

Do you think can you find something else to do for a while? Maybe go for a run? You like to run, don’t you? We established that back in chapter one.

No, no, it’s not you! It’s just–there’s something I have to do. I’ll be back soon as I can, I promise.



P.S. If you could keep an eye on the others, I’d really appreciate it. I’m sure they won’t be any trouble.


January 8, 2008

Dear Primary Character Who I Heartlessly Abandoned Last Autumn,

So, how you been? I see you have a (subtly) new voice now.

No, no, I like it. It’s–you. Very you.

Yeah, I’ve missed you, too.

Ready to get back to work?

Me, too.



P.S. No, of course there aren’t any other primary characters in my life! Whatever gave you that idea?

P.P.S. And even if there were, I could never love them more than you.


March 5, 2008

Dear Protagonist,

Alternately, you could kiss him again.

Also just saying,



April 28, 2008

Dear Primary Character Who’s Finally Getting Her Act Together,

I knew you had some fire in you.

Okay, I didn’t mean that literally. But still, I’m not complaining.



May 11, 2008

Dear Protagonist About Whom I Can Say Nothing Coherent Just Now,

You idiot.

That is all,



July 24, 2008

Dear Protagonist Who’s Showing Promising Signs of a Viable Personality These Days,

That one thing you do? It’s seriously creeping me out.

Yeah, that one, too.

No, no it’s okay. Don’t change!

Creepy beats bland any day.




August 24, 2009

Dear Protagonist Who Might or Might Not Make It Out of this Book Alive,

When a mythical being says, “What will you give me for this,” your answer should never, ever be, “Anything.”

Not even when the “this” in question is your own life.

I know it’s too late for that to do you any good this time around, but I’m telling you anyway. For future reference.

Helpfully yours,



August 28, 2008

Dear Protagonist Who When It Comes Right Down to It I’ve Been Through An Awful Lot With,

You know, this place feels sort of empty without you.

No, no, I know you’ll be back. It’s not like you’re moving out for good yet. You’re just spending some time with a few critiquers–it’s sort of like the character equivalent of summer camp. I bet they let you stay up late and eat chocolate and set things on fire all you want.

Not that I’d know. I’m being good, see. I haven’t opened any of your files. I haven’t called just to see if you’re okay. I know how these things are–the revisions will go better, if I stay away for a little bit. And it’s not like you’re not grown-up enough these days to be on your own, for a little while at least.

Besides, I have things to do. I’ve put off a lot on account of you, and it’s about time I started catching up. I know how summer camp is. You’ll be back before I know it. The truth is, you probably won’t be gone nearly long enough.

Only, you know, this place does feel sort of empty without you.



July 9, 2009

Dear Protagonist Who It’s Hard to Believe Once Didn’t Want to Do Anything At All,

So first I send you off to summer camp, then I send you off to college, and now it seems you’ve found paying work and are ready to head out into the world. Wow. Time flies. One day you’re a half-written incoherent rough draft, the next you’re almost fully revised.

Only–maybe you have a little time left to hang out together before you move away? We can go shopping, get you some good work clothes, look at your prose and logic one more time. It’ll be fun.

Yes, I know you’re impatient to set out on your own, but can’t you just humor your creator one more time? After all, we’ve been through a lot together.



P.S. Of course, it’s not like we won’t see each other again. After all, you’ll be home for copyediting page proofs the holidays, right?


All taken from the letters I’ve been writing to my characters–which began with Haley, as a way of sort of talking-about yet not-talking-too-much-about her story, and has since become a part of my writing process.


Dear Protagonist With Whom This All Began,

Ummm, yes, I have written letters to other protagonists, too. I thought you knew.

It’s all right. I’ll never love any of them the way I love you.



P.S. Well, yes, I might love them in other ways. I very well might.

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