A Conversation on the Edge of My Mind
With Sylvie of “The Perfect Letter”
by Tom Farr
I watch Sylvie walk into the coffee shop where we agreed to meet. It’s an interesting place, considering that it resides in my mind. The aroma of coffee beans in the air makes it the ideal place to get the creative juices flowing. Sylvie takes a seat across from me in the chair I created just for her when I started writing her story in “The Perfect Letter.”
“Hi,” she says. “Thank you for this opportunity. I can’t imagine many people get to do what I’m about to do.”
I’m not sure that’s true, but after writing her story, I know Sylvie has questions. Deep, pressing questions. I suppose, in some way, they’re my questions as well.
“I’ll try my best to answer your questions, Sylvie,” I say.
Sylvie reaches into the purse she brought with her and pulls out a notebook. The notebook. I remember when I was writing her story, I wondered what she was writing in that notebook. When I discovered the nature of what she was writing and what it meant to her, I knew why I’d created Nick and why they were destined to meet.
Sylvie opens her notebook and takes out a pen. Her hand is shaking a little.
“You don’t have to be nervous,” I say, trying to reassure her.
She looks up and smiles. “Thank you.”
I sit back, trying to relax myself. “So what’s your first question?”
“What made you decide to become a writer?”
“That’s what you want to know?” I say, surprised that out of everything I imagine she might ask me, this is the question she wants to begin with.
“I wouldn’t exist if you hadn’t decided to become a writer.”
Good point. “That’s a hard question to narrow down,” I say, buying some time to formulate a better answer. “I had a very active imagination when I was younger. It didn’t go away when I got older.” I laugh, thinking of how I used to cast the people who treated me badly in stories I wrote when I was in high school. I’m glad I grew out of that. “I write because I want to inspire the world with the idea that genuine good exists. That’s why so many of my stories are about redemption.”
“Is that why my story was about redemption?” Her eyes are hopeful, and yet I know they’re also haunted by the possibilities of what could still happen on the other side of redemption.
“It is,” I tell her. “I couldn’t imagine your story any other way.”
She scribbles into her notebook the way she always does. It truly is fascinating, considering I rarely hand write anything. Her whole story was typed out in a Google Doc on my Chromebook.
As soon as she finishes, she looks up at me. She swallows a lump in her throat. “Can you tell me about my dad?” she says.
“What would you like to know?”
“Is he still alive?”
She hesitates before speaking again. “Does he ever… look for me?”
I sit back. How much do I really know about Sylvie’s dad? How much do I reveal? I clear my throat. “Your dad… He could really use some redemption himself.”
“So he doesn’t look for me?”
I look her in the eyes. “Your dad spends most of his time trying to forget everything in his life. That’s not your fault.”
“Why did you make my dad the way he is? Why did you have to write him to hate me the way he does?”
Ouch. Of course, she’s right. Ultimately, her dad’s a deadbeat because I made him that way. He could’ve been different. But then again, maybe not.
Writing fiction is an interesting thing because, for me, it’s about discovering the story. The experience of writing Sylvie’s dad was more like finding out he was a deadbeat than intentionally creating him to be one.
“Have you ever written a story where the characters seemed to take control of the story?”
Sylvie’s face takes on a thoughtful expression as she ponders the question. “I guess so.”
“The best way I can put this is that your dad was that way when I found him,” I say. “You deserved a much better father than you got, Sylvie.”
She forces a smile, seemingly satisfied with the answer. She looks down at her notebook and flips back a few pages. She reads something, then looks up at me. “I came here with so many questions,” she says. “Suddenly they don’t matter.”
My eyebrows furrow. “Why?”
She smiles. “I see it in your eyes,” she says. “You made me, and you care about me, right?”
“Of course.” I return the smile. “I care about all my characters, but there was just something about you.”
“You sent Nick for me.”
She closes her notebook. “One last question.”
“What happens next? Will I ever see Nick again?”
I laugh. “The future, huh? I can’t really tell you that, and I think you know that. But you’ll discover it. You’re resilient now.”
She smiles. “Just thought I would try.”
“Your story’s not over, Sylvie. Neither is Nick’s.”
She sits there a moment, taking it in. She stands and holds out her hand. I shake it. It’s weird shaking the hand of a character you’ve created.
“Thanks for meeting me,” she says.
I watch her leave and cross the street, and then I see her dad on the corner, watching her as well.
Thanks for reading this fun conversation between me and one of the characters I created for my short story “The Perfect Letter.” I wanted to give readers a chance to get to know me as a writer and reveal some of my creative process, but I wanted to do it in an unconventional way. Hence, Sylvie and I meeting for coffee to discuss the questions I knew she’d have for me if she were a real person.
As hinted to in our conversation, Sylvie’s story isn’t over, and I’d love for you to read what happens next to her and Nick in “Broken.” Read it for free by signing up for 23-day free access to all daCunha publications: Made Up Words, Sobremesa, and Wait, What?