Writing a short story in the form of a letter was something I hadn’t tried before writing this piece. I honestly can’t say what prompted me to use the letter format.
Creating characters is difficult enough without pushing them farther away from the storyteller by using the letter format.
Fleshing out the characters when writing a short story is a fun part for me. In this story I wanted the reader to know the boyfriend calls his girlfriend his Hawaiian Hula Girl. She calls him Traveler because that’s what he does.
When writing a short story of this nature, it’s important to build endearment between the characters. Nicknames do that famously.
By the way, when writing a short story of this length – this is actually a flash fiction piece – it is not necessary to know why the boyfriend travels. The focus is on the letter and her memories.
I wrote this 409-word story adhering to specific guidelines for a Valentine anthology. The story was published with the title, Valentine Vacation – Kauai, Hawaii, along with one of my photographs of the rugged Na Pali coastline of Kauai.
Here’s what the publisher added in the anthology:
When you’re apart, every moment seems an eternity. Mary Deal captures that feeling in a letter from a Hawaiian Hula Girl to the man in her life, Traveler.
Surprise! The photo shop continued the Valentine’s Day Special. The films really were developed in an hour—every one of our rolls. I had doubles made. The enclosed copies are for you.
Some of the photos taken from the helicopter on Valentine’s Day reflected light off the low-slung clouds. But when the chopper dropped below the mist deep into Hanakapiai Falls, then later hugged the Na Pali coastline, we caught some awe-inspiring views.
In another photo, there you are, entwined among the roots of that massive landmark Banyan tree at Kinipopo Shopping Village where we ate our Valentine’s Day lunch.
Another shows me later falling off that barn sour horse when it made a run along the Kuilau Ridge Trail. I can laugh about that now that I don’t ache as much. How did you ever steady yourself during the gallop to focus in on that action?
The shots that tourist took the next day—the guy who was nice enough to use our camera and snap us underwater with those gigantic, docile sea turtles at Ke’e Beach? The pictures are magnificent, the creatures larger than life.
In the second batch, those that I snapped of you collapsed into the deck chair with that monstrous red heart air pillow and your iced tropical smoothie really made you look like you’re on vacation.
But your surprise visit for Valentine’s Day is over and now you’re gone. Dead grass from the wheels of your golf cart litters the back of my van. The cologne you wore to the airport—the one I like so much—lingers on my face and in my hair from when we hugged so tightly.
As I stand staring out the window over this Hawaiian paradise, I clutch the woven lauhala beach hat you bought with the big woven hearts that bob up and down.
Across the pastures of the Wailua Homesteads to the back of the mountain known as Puni, the Sleeping Giant then beyond, lies the eastern Pacific that separates us. My heart cries out. I’m missing you already.
As I tidied up the house that you love and lived in for a few short weeks, while making the bed where we slept together, I hugged your pillow and smelled your presence. So I decided to wait a day or so before changing our sheets.
Please don’t wait till next Valentine’s Day to visit again. Write me soon.
Your Hawaiian Hula Girl
Some points to note:
When writing a short story to follow a theme, it’s important to adhere to the requirements.
A bit of Valentine memorabilia is mentioned throughout the story, in keeping with the guidelines for publication of a themed anthology. I have since written this story for other holidays.
You will bring your reader “closer” to your characters with the use of nicknames. Use them sparingly. Make sure your reader knows who these people are when referring to them by nicknames.
When creating characters, nicknames also show familiarity between the characters. You never given a cute nickname to people you don’t like.
Also, when writing a short story, since this was to be a simple love story, a person might think the usual beginning, middle, and end wouldn’t have to be distinct. But check again.
The letter tells us these two people have separated, if only temporarily. They’ve had a wonderful time together, but parting brings sadness, the theme for the story, that needs resolution.
The girl is keeping their memory alive by sending copies of the photos.
Her loneliness is apparent as she describes some of the pictures, which the man will ultimately see and understand for himself. It’s her way of writing a longer, heartfelt letter, taking advantage of the chance to talk to him, to show him she cares.
In creating characters, always include emotion when writing a short story or a novel. Many fine stories are written, but after I read them, I don’t feel an emotional connection. You’ll engage your reader when creating characters if you will include emotion.
The photos are a remedy for the sadness. So is the ending resolution.
In the end, the only salvation for her aching heart comes when she finds his scent on the pillow and she will not launder the sheets so she can have a little more of him left with her.
It was not necessary to know why the man visited and had to leave again. I like to leave a bit of mystery when writing a story.
This story could fit into many people lives. It could fit with a military man who had to leave and, perhaps, couldn’t return for a year. Or, he could simply have a job on the Mainland and spends his vacations on Kauai.
Sometimes leaving out information when writing a short story allows the reader to relate the action and meaning into their own lives.
And finally, this piece is time-dated. Note that most people have graduated to digital cameras. Rolls of film being developed tell the reader this story was written before digital became popular.
I could rewrite this piece and have the girl send her guy emailed photos. Hmmm….