3 Reasons Diaries Are Essential to Your Story

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When I was in high school, a drama teacher that I had my sophomore year made everyone in my class keep a journal. He kept these diaries in his office, but never read them, and we would write every morning we had class. Some of us took the exercise more seriously than others (there was a minimum three line requirement), but after that year, he gave us the notebooks to keep.

diaries

I had enjoyed journaling so much that I continued through my senior year and every summer that I worked at camp. When I was traveling the world, I kept a journal and filled it with stories, song lyrics that had meaning to me, a couple of creative writing exercises, and musings on each day's events.

Why Diaries Matter

Writing in my journal was a great way for me to get my thoughts recorded, although it wasn't the prettiest writing I've ever done, and I'm sure other people who were participants in the retold stories might remember events differently than my versions. But having those stories on paper has enabled me to have deeper insight into why it matters to actually write things down.

If you're looking for an alternative way to tell a story, there are a couple reasons to try a diary or epistolary format.

1. Diaries Develop Characters

When a work is written in the form of a diary, typically only one voice is heard in the telling. When this is the case, you as a writer have the opportunity to really dive into the psyche of your narrator, and develop him or her in a way that third person and even traditional first person narration can't quite reach. Diary entries can go into deeper emotional territory, and can give the reader a more intensive look at how the narrator perceives the world around them.

If the work is more epistolary (written in the form of letters), there may be confessions written to the letter's recipient that the narrator might prefer to keep closer to the vest in other storytelling formats. Additionally, letters can be exchanged between two characters, allowing readers to see more deeply into the minds of an additional character.

2. Diaries Obscure Plot Details

Since first person correspondence allows us insight into the head of only the narrator (with the exception of the two-writers example above), there is a chance that there will be plot points that the reader doesn't learn about because the narrator chooses to omit them, or because the narrator doesn't think them to be important at the time. This can present a golden opportunity to surprise or shock the reader with a later reveal, as is done in The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Gone Girl.

Care must be taken in developing the big reveal, though; you don't want to lose your reader's good will because all of a sudden everything they just read was a complete lie.

3. Diaries Change the Story Timeline

In general, when you're writing a letter or a journal entry, much of the content is talking about things that happened, as in things in the past. Your characters are probably busy people, and they can't write every day.

By skipping a few days between letters or entries, you as the writer can play with the order of the story timeline, and your character can start with the most recent events and work their way back to their last letter/entry, or maybe the narrator opens with a comment on how drastically things have changed, and then backs up to tell the story from the point of their last letter.

Challenge Yourself

Writing with a diary or with letters as the story framework can be a good way to challenge yourself and explore different writing formats while continuing to move your story forward. Just be sure that the story structure continues to make sense, and the plot development moves logically in the context of the existing story.

Do you keep a diary or journal? Let us know in the comments.

PRACTICE

Take fifteen minutes and write a diary entry or letter from the main character of your work in progress. Share your practice in the comments section and don't forget to show love to your fellow writers.

Liz Bureman has a more-than-healthy interest in proper grammatical structure, accurate spelling, and the underappreciated semicolon. When she's not diagramming sentences and reading blogs about how terribly written the Twilight series is, she edits for the Write Practice, causes trouble in Denver, and plays guitar very slowly and poorly. You can follow her on Twitter (@epbure), where she tweets more about music of the mid-90s than writing.

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55 Comments

  1. Joy

    I’m sitting in the airport terminal, half- asleep half-depressed. It’s really happening. I’m leaving Israel. The sun is rising. I can see it through the glass windows lining the terminal. This is my last sunrise in Israel. When we I see it again? I’m going to miss this place so much. I can’t wait till I get a one way ticket someday. Sigh. I love America though, and it will be great to be back home again.

    I guess I shouldn’t be complaining about leaving. I know I’m blessed to have been able to go on this trip in the first place. Thinking back on everything that has happened it seems like forever ago that I first arrived here. I feel older, but yet I feel more my age. Does that make any sense? I suppose not.

    I’ve learned so much about trust and letting go of fear, but I don’t think I’ve really grasped it all yet, I’m just beginning to understand it. I know my doubts and my insecurity will come back to haunt me, but I know that I’ll make it through. If there’s one thing that I’ve discovered on this trip it is hope. Hope that all is going to be okay. Somehow. Someway. I just know it will.

    Reply
    • Heather Marsten

      Israel is beautiful. I got to visit for a week-long tour. Your dialogue entry makes me wonder how long you were there and what you were doing. I too want to come back and visit Israel.

      Reply
      • Joy

        Thanks for your thoughts. It is one of my rough draft attempts at a diary entry for the protagonist of the novel that I’m writing. The book is based on her visit to Israel, so I suppose the answer to your question is a bit of a long story. 🙂 And hopefully, it will be a good story (when I finish it).

        Reply
    • Mirel

      Nice start. Makes me curious about her experiences in Israel. One typo When we I see it again, should be will i/o we…

      BTW, very familiar, but I did eventually get the one-way ticket. Let me know if I can be of any help.

      Reply
    • EndlessExposition

      Nice work! There’s some really good stream-of-consciousness elements in here. I’d play them up even more.

      Reply
  2. High Wire Girl

    This exercise is so timely. I’ve recently decided to write to David Sedaris until he writes me back. This letter is the fourth installment that went in the mailbox this morning. 🙂 Thanks for the opportunity to share my work.

    My blog is here at http://www.highwiregirl.blogspot.com.

    May 6, 2014

    Mr. David Sedaris
    Little, Brown and Company
    237 Park Avenue
    New York, NY 10017

    Dear Mr. Sedaris:

    If Darryl Hall and John Oates had a fight with England Dan and John Ford Coley, who do you think would win? As lackluster an encounter as it sounds, I’m guessing Hall and Oates. They’ve always given the impression that they’re quite capable of holding their own. Plus, England Dan passed away in 2009 due to complications from lymphoma. It’s hard to kick someone’s ass when you’re dead.

    I’ve never been a particularly good fighter. My natural reflex is to run away from confrontation. I’m generally pretty quick with a joke but if an individual wants to argue, my snappy comebacks are forced and inappropriate. It’s unlikely I’ll cry, but I can guarantee that it won’t go smoothly. I do not possess the killer instinct.

    I’m actually not much better at hiding. I get too lonely. I ran away from home once when I was about seven years old. I didn’t actually go anywhere. I just wrote a note, left it at the top of the stairs and crawled under my bed. I’d imagine that I was hoping my folks would find the message and start combing our neighborhood immediately. Instead, they both fell asleep in front of the television, like they did most nights. I woke up at about 2 o’clock in the morning with second-degree rug burns and a stiff neck. Never again, I thought to myself.

    It’s funny. I was wondering just the other day what it might feel like to punch somebody in the face. I’m not sure why I was thinking about it. I was cleaning the boys’ bathroom at the time the thought struck me. It’s not like the tub was even that dirty to provoke such a hostile notion. Maybe I had some music floating around in my head. That can happen. I’ll be driving past Chili’s on Rea Road and the next thing I know, I’m singing “Do You Like Pina Coladas?” all afternoon. I’m not certain of any songs that reference the pounding and busting of noses, but I’m sure there are plenty.

    I had my nose broken many years ago by my second husband. It was rather unpleasant. I’m guessing that one of my ill-conceived retorts provoked Charlie’s actions. That and his penchant for angel dust. But there’s no need to worry, really. He died last year, so the likelihood of any additional assaults is slim.

    I asked David if he ever had the opportunity to land a punch squarely onto someone’s nose.
    “Only in Krav,” he said.
    I sort of forgot that Dave took Martial Arts last year. It really helped him get into shape. I bet nose-punching happens all the time in self-defense classes. A solid pop to the face can certainly put someone’s lights out. I know it did mine.
    “I have some pads in the garage,” he added. “I can hold one up and you can have a go, if you like.” That Dave. He’s a good guy.
    “Nah, it’s okay,” I replied. “I don’t really have anyone in mind.”

    Yours truly,

    Mary Killian

    P.S. I hope you’re well.

    Reply
    • Heather Marsten

      Don’t know who this person is, but good luck on getting an answer back. They say persistence pays off. There are some interesting stories in this letter – could be fun to turn them into something for publication 😀

      Reply
      • High Wire Girl

        Thank you for your kind comments, Heather. I have a little blog that is morphing into a book. I am hopeful and enthusiastic.
        http://www.highwiregirl.blogspot.com.

        Reply
    • gianna serex

      Love this! the narrator has a unique voice and some very interesting stories. Would love to know why she’s writing. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
      • High Wire Girl

        When I first got clean in 2001, Me Talk Pretty One Day was the first book I read as a sober adult. 🙂

        Reply
    • Mirel

      Great voice. Is the idea to interest Sedaris in a book of letters or in your writing voice, or what?

      Reply
      • High Wire Girl

        I sure would be flattered if Mr. Sedaris is impressed with my work. But mainly, I just think he’d make an awesome friend.

        Reply
    • Davey Northcott

      The running away bit made me laugh. When I was a kid I ran away to the end of the drive … then got hungry after about half an hour when no one came looking for me so went home again. Not sure that anyone had even realised 🙂 Good writing.

      Reply
      • High Wire Girl

        To be successful at running away, I think the individual needs to devise a decent plan. But then again, if he or she has a decent plan, it’d probably be called moving out. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your memory.

        Reply
    • Sandra

      loved the part about hiding under their bed and pretending to run away. That part was very telling. Also seemed sad to me that the parents didn’t even notice.

      Reply
  3. Heather Marsten

    I like diary entries for my memoir and even have a few of my old diaries that I refer to for memories – I kept diaries and spent a lot of time counting days (first days until graduation) then after a suicide attempt, days until my 18th birthday – I had made a promise to live until then. Spoiler alert – I’m still alive – something happens that makes me stop the count-down. My memoir is Tell Me What He Did – and at this point the courts have sent me back to live with my alcoholic mom after my incestuous father’s death. I felt rejected by my sister who had custody of me, and was flirting with drugs to numb emotions. Here was the entry – This is similar to one I wrote back then, but I don’t know where those diaries are. This entry was when I was contemplating a suicide attempt. Mr. Thompson was a guidance counselor from my old high school. Diane and Howard are my older brother and sister.

    April 1, 1969 “Seven months down, fourteen to go, 452 days until graduation. I can’t stand it anymore. Why hold out for 452 days? Life’s not worth living. There’s nothing to look forward to. Nothing. Every night I lie in my bed of horror and fight sleep – don’t want to face reruns of nightmares. Dad may be dead, but his presence permeates every room of this house. Mom’s stopped all the clocks, except the kitchen clock, at the time of his death. Overkill, if you ask me. The other day she hugged his precious pipe as if it were a link to him. Doesn’t she remember the beatings? How he called her horrid names? What he did to me? Figured it would take time for her to get over his death, but seven months of
    moping is too much. I’m sick of her drinking. Sick of her blaming me for his death. Sick of everything.

    If I had to give my life a color, it’d be black – maybe, on a few good days, shades of dark grey. Despair is my daily companion. Why bother? Why keep fighting?

    No one notices my pain. No one cares. Guidance counselors at Jennings are useless –
    not even close to Mr. Thompson. My best friends don’t have a clue I’m suffering. Drugs numb emotional pain a little, but not enough.

    Most of my day is spent buried somewhere deep inside my mind where no one can find me. I’m tired of smiling and pretending everything is fine. Pretending I love Mom. Pretending I care about school. Pretending so many things that the real me is lost and I’ll never find her. Can’t face another day of pretending. If I could, I’d crawl into a hole, pull it in after me, and never come out.

    Today, in English, we read Henry VIII. Shakespeare got it right. “Death, death; oh, amiable, lovely death! Come, grin on me, and I will think thou smilest.”

    Why do people fear dying? Death’s my best friend – my only hope, the ultimate way to
    numb out and stop hurt forever.

    Time to face facts. Things aren’t getting better. Diane’s abandoned me. Maria and Howard have their own lives. Why live with this woman who hates me, blames me for Dad’s death, and drinks herself into a stupor? Why pretend everything’s okay and go through the motions of normal life? What’s the use? One pill stops pain for a short while. I need something lasting. Death’s the only permanent answer. When I’m dead, nothing will hurt me anymore. Nothingness is better than 452 days of what I’m facing now.”

    Reply
    • Davey Northcott

      Powerful writing. Really puts me in the place of the writer.

      Reply
    • Ashley Hampton

      Your writing is very powerful indeed. It tugs at my heartstrings as I can feel the pain the writer is going through. Thanks for sharing this beautiful work!

      Reply
    • EndlessExposition

      The Shakespeare reference was particularly poignant. A well-placed quote really packs a punch.

      Reply
  4. James Alfred

    Well I have never wrote a diary before. But here is a little bit of what I am working on. untitled.

    What do you mean my son is missing? “Yes Mr. Alfred he went missing around 2pm today. We were all outside playing and I had all the kids come on for a snack. But Thomas didn’t come in. I ran out to find him but he was gone.” She replied. “Did you call the police and what are they doing?” I snapped back. “speaking of which, where are the cops?” I yelled out. “It is 5:30pm and you are just now telling me about this. Why is the hell didn’t you call me as soon as you knew he was missing?” I yelled. Here I stood in the babysitter’s yard waiting to hear something.

    “Mr. Alfred?” Asked the cop as he got out of the patrol car. “Yes; that is me.” I yelled out. “Sir you need to clam out a little bit.” He said with ease. I yelled in his face. “You want me to clam down? You want me to clam? You better find my son or have a lead or something.. What are you doing to find him?” “Sir we are doing everything we can. We have a APB out for him. Every officer on duty is looking for him. Sir.

    “Officer Wells, You better find the person who took him before I do. You will be pick that person for a month.” I said. I wasn’t joking I was going though my head of things that they do to 4 year old boys. I knew that my son could be used as a toy for some sick guy to get off to. I knew that could be sold in child laborer. Hell he could be on a boat by now headed to who knows where. Crap for I know he could be dead by now.

    “Hey James what’s up buddy? Long time no talk to on the phone” “Hey Matt I need I need your help.” I replied “Yeah James what’s is going on my friend?” He came back. “Someone took my son from the babysitter’s house.” I replied “What the hell do you mean, someone took Thomas?” He yelled through the phone. “I mean someone kidnapped my son.” I yelled. “Okay James, I will make a few calls and will meet there in 10.” He replied.

    Matt was Thomas’ Godfather. I knew that I could count on him to get me information I need to find the person for taking Thomas. Matt and I did some work back in the 90’s for the CIA. We did things to people that most people would say it would be unjust. But we got the info we needed from them. The things were just right down nasty. We would cut and burn and even maybe hang them.

    This is a look inside of my newest project. I hope to be done with it in a few months. It get’s better as it goes.

    Reply
  5. gianna serex

    Before I start, I’m going to give you the background on this. Not sure if I want to incorporate these into my novel or not, though I think it would be interesting. My main character is a freshman in high school with a senior sister, both who play on the school’s varsity volleyball team. The two aren’t very close, unfortunately, and know very little about each other. Ari, the sister, is gone every weekend usually at a party or someone else’s house, leaving the main character, Gia, alone or with a few friends, as the parents are gone as well.

    //

    So you aren’t exactly who I thought you were. What a surprise. I should have caught on earlier, because you did make it painfully obvious. If I didn’t have my head up my ass all the time, maybe I would have seen it.

    You sneaky little fuck. I gotta admit, props to you for keeping your weed hidden and your liquor stash covered all these years. Because I have gone into your room before, and you keep that place spotless. Either you’re really smart, or you really just didn’t want me to catch you. Well, you should have thought about that before you spilled all your secrets at Sabrina’s. And then, after that, maybe you could have given some thought to how I’d feel.

    Look, I’m not a total idiot. I knew some girls drank and all that. It’s a private school, okay? It’s going to happen. What shocked me was all the girls who I never expected. Dixie, Wiley, Lana. And then, of course, my very own dear sister, who managed to keep the most important part of her existence away from the one family member who actually tries to talk to her. I swear, I felt the last threads of my childhood being ripped away. You probably wouldn’t know how it felt, would you? Because God knows how long you’ve been doing this for. The fact that you couldn’t tell us the first time you cracked a beer was enough. You scared me, Ari. I was scared for myself that night, and I couldn’t sleep. I can’t look at the rest of you the same. I woke up and saw Dix and my heart dropped a little. Do you know what it’s like? This year’s been a whole fucking lie. You all do these exciting little things behind the scenes that no one knows about, and you still act like perfect sweet people. You want to know how I feel? Imagine catching me upstairs, liquor splashed across the floor, air smoky, face between some nameless boy’s thighs. Because that’s basically what you’ve done to me.

    How dare you, Ari. How fucking dare you. Have some respect for me, and have some respect for yourself. This isn’t some stupid dream where you can do whatever the hell you want and wake up unscathed. I swear to God, you will get caught. And honestly, I will have no sympathy at all.

    Reply
    • Sandra

      I really enjoyed this. Could feel her pain.

      Reply
    • EndlessExposition

      This sounds more like a letter to her sister than a diary entry. Which isn’t a problem if that’s the intention, but depending on how you plan to use it in the larger story, but it might be worth considering who the intended audience is of Gia’s ranting. It is very good, and sounds like what A LOT of people I know were like freshmen year (thank God we grow up, right?). Overall, good work!

      Reply
  6. Maggie

    This is the first time I’m actually participating in one of these exercises. Here goes nothing…

    //

    Dear Seth (Scratched out)

    Dear (Scratched out)

    Seth:

    I read your letter last night.

    I don’t even know what to say. I don’t even know what is in my head, how to articulate my thoughts and feelings.

    I’ll just break them down in order of lightbulbs:

    Fuck.

    Oh my god.

    How is that possible?

    Please tell me he didn’t see his parents dead in their bedroom that’s too much I can’t handle it.

    That’s the main one, the one that keeps repeating, keeps spinning around in my mind.

    How can this young boy, this small child, walk into a scene of such depression, such destruction?

    The second I put down your letter, the only thought I had was that I wanted to give you a hug. Is that crazy? I haven’t seen you in two years. I don’t know where you are, what your life is like. And you sure as shit don’t know what’s going on with me.

    And yet… I just wanted to hug you.

    And, yeah, I totally get it now. OF COURSE, you’re Batman. Who else could you be?

    I just… Okay, I feel bad even thinking this, after all the revelations you shared…

    But.

    Why didn’t you tell me?

    Did you really not trust me? You didn’t think I’d still love you if I knew what had happened to you as a child? Did you think I was that shallow?

    If anything, the truth would’ve made me love you more. It would’ve made you, everything, make so much more sense.

    And… I feel bad about this too… And I’m mostly over it… But there’s still a little part of me that is slightly pissed off.

    I still can’t believe you were so willing to throw away our relationship, our epic love story, because of the baby. Who does that?! I just wanted to slap you across the face in that moment. And I was sooo pissed that when you acted like you cared five seconds later, I was just done. I went back home, and, guess who was there for me? My mom. Haha. That was a first.

    Oh, by the way, she’s the reason I read your letter TWO YEARS LATER. She kept it from me, when you brought it over. She hid it from me. I had no idea you’d tried to contact me.

    Reading this, I would’ve forgiven you in a heartbeat.

    Love, (Scratched out)

    Always (Scratched out)

    Simply,
    Phoenix

    P.S. I hope you won’t mind that I’m not inviting you to my wedding. Sorry.

    Reply
    • Davey Northcott

      I like the way you basically tell the whole story here in such a simple form. Nice one. 🙂

      Reply
      • Maggie

        Thank you for the feedback, Davey.

        Do you think I reveal too much in this letter?

        Reply
        • Davey Northcott

          That depends on the context of the letter. Is it meant to stand on its own or is it part of a wider story?

          Reply
          • Maggie

            It is part of a story, but I didn’t think I’d actually include it in my novel. It reveals nothing that isn’t covered in the original letter or the narrative. Just seems repetitious now that I’ve looked it over again.

          • Davey Northcott

            Really? I thought it read like a quick story from start to finish. Good job.

          • Davey Northcott

            P.S. especially like the (scratched out) 🙂

    • EndlessExposition

      I am very confused about the Batman thing, but I like it!

      Reply
      • Maggie

        This is actually part of a novel I’m working on. The Batman thing would, I hope, be clearer in context. 🙂 Thanks for reading.

        Reply
  7. Davey Northcott

    Great idea for a post and practice. Here is a page from George’s diary; the main character in a short story, ‘George’, which I’m working on at the moment:

    Woke up this morning to the sound of the fridge humming in
    the kitchen. It’s not been making that noise for long–note to self: call
    fridge man. Silva left yesterday, I didn’t write anything in the diary then,
    didn’t feel like it. But today, sitting in my dark living room–haven’t opened
    the blinds all morning; the dark seems to suit me better right now–I feel that
    writing all this down will help me deal with her going.

    Silva.
    Silva. Silva. SILVA. SILVA. Silva. Silva.

    Fool. Writing her name makes her seem closer, somehow. Fool.

    Why did she have to go? And now? Why? I know we’ve been arguing
    a lot recently but I thought that was just the heat and the pressure of her new
    job. I don’t know.

    Do I deserve to be alone? Do I deserve this? Maybe. I’ve
    always been a loner; perhaps I’m just meant to be alone. A wolf. What was the
    name of that book? The somethingwolf … Steppenwolf,
    that’s it. Maybe all that with her; the meeting, the moving here, the
    excitement. It was all too perfect to last.

    Should go down and get some bread to go with lunch. Not sure
    if I feel like lunch today. Not sure if I feel like going out. Already decided
    I won’t go to work later. The light is too bright outside. The voices too loud.
    It’s better in here.

    No. Not going out today.

    I don’t know if I should be crying now. I can’t seem to cry,
    the tears won’t come. Not that I don’t feel like it. I do. But no, it’s the
    tears, they aren’t there. Am I all dried up inside?

    Going to switch the television on in a bit; it’ll be the
    normal morning rubbish but you never know, might help me think of something
    else other than Silva.

    Silva.
    SILVA. Silva Silva Silva. SILVA SILVA SILVA SILVA. Silva.

    Goodbye Silva. I’ll read your note again when the TV’s on. Maybe
    I’ll stick it in here after.

    Davey Northcott
    http://daveynorthcottauthorwriter.wordpress.com/
    ‘The Path Through the Eye of Another’ smarturl.it/daveynorthcott

    Reply
    • Maggie

      I really liked this diary entry. I felt as though i were inside George’s head. Definitely makes me want to know more of his story. 🙂

      Reply
      • Davey Northcott

        Thanks a lot 🙂 The plan is to release the short story as part of a compilation of other short writings in the end. I’ll keep you posted!

        Reply
    • EndlessExposition

      Really impressive! The repetition of Silva’s name stood out especially, and your sentence structure. George’s voice is both poetic and realistic, a hard balance to strike, especially in the first person. Fantastic work!

      Reply
  8. zeus

    I have had six weeks for business trip in Minnesota, US. Today is last day I am in here. I will come back Vietnam. This is first time that I saw the beautiful snows in here. The weather in here is so cold and it is one of places that is coldest in US, but I like this weather. It is so romantic. The trees on street shed leaves. The Mississippi river had frozen. Although I have stayed in here six weeks, I used almost transportation in here. Specially, I like to go with train. The train in here is through Minneapolis city and will through Saint Paul city on this June. I also went to Target Field to watch US football match. Although I didn’t understand about US football but I like the atmosphere in there, specially drinking beer and watching football.
    Now I have to back to Vietnam. The weather in Vietnam now is opposite in Minnesota. It is very hot now. But coming back to my family is my happy feeling.

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Maggie

      I like the imagery you use when describing the scene in Minnesota. I can picture it clearly. Very nice. 🙂

      Reply
  9. Sandra

    Today I drew a picture and colored it, like a little kid. A pointless activity that was followed by other completely unproductive activities for many hours, merely because I didn’t want to do anything else. I know what my husband would say. He would point out how he does stuff he doesn’t want to everyday.

    I am a lot more tired than I realized I guess. I feel like I am letting my family down. But I can’t seem to focus on anything. Hopefully I can catch up later with a burst of energy I generally get in the afternoon.

    I was close to spending time with a late friend from my older days, but I backed out last minute as I realized my husband wouldn’t approve, oh and because he wasn’t just an old friend, he also happened to be an ex of mine. Fortunately I came to my senses and did not talk to him. Even though it would be a fairly mild transgression, it would hurt him, my husband that is, but I think I have done enough of that already.

    Still I have been living in a very solitary state with the kids taking up much of my time. I have lost contact with pretty much everyone. I don’t know how to get that back either. I don’t know, sometimes I think I need to do something, to change things. But then I think, I can go on this way for a little while longer.

    Reply
    • EndlessExposition

      This is a nice glimpse into this character and her life. You do the iceberg effect very well – a lot is left under the surface but what is said is very important. To that effect, I would suggest not stating outright that the old friend is also an ex, but put it a bit more subtly. Good work overall!

      Reply
  10. Brianna Worlds

    Shemur, this would be easier if any of my character were the type to write a diary entry… Maybe a letter is better. Or, would be if any of them were going to write a letter.
    ~~~
    Hey guys.
    Fist thing’s first. I’m really sorry that I had to just disappear like that and leave you. I didn’t want to. (I wish everyday that I hadn’t left)[Scratched out].
    I had to go. If I didn’t I would have died and I know that sounds selfish but I couldn’t put you through that again after mom and dad and Matt. It wouldn’t be fair, and they might hurt you too.
    I can’t tell you who I’m running from, because you wouldn’t believe me. I mean, other than the law, of course. (I didn’t mean to kill those people, they were just there when my power exploded and)[savagely scribbled out]. Anyhow, I know you must hate me, and I understand that. It’s okay. I hope Nik’s mom is taking good care of you, and that you’re being good to her. Tell Joseph not to go too crazy with the recording equipment, and to be careful with the instruments. What am I saying, we all know he will be. Don’t let Eliza destroy Nikko’s good reputation on Fable, either, because he worked hard for that.
    Yeah, in case you are able to wonder why I’m on the run with the largest uber-pop star in the history of pop, it’s because we’re kind of in the same boat. I promise I’ll come back to you guys and explain some day, if you ever want me too.
    (Not that I can imagine you would)[crossed out]
    So have a good time there. If I do end up being killed, remember that I love you. I wish I could explain everything, even the murders.
    Hope to see you again someday,
    -Zhia

    Reply
    • EndlessExposition

      This is a great hook into your story! One piece of advice – the line about the pop star felt too show and not tell in the way it was phrased. I’d revisit it and rearrange it a little. Other than that, great work!

      Reply
  11. George McNeese

    I have three journals. Two are compositions books; one for emotional expression, the other for story ideas and drafts. The third is a journaling app which I use for both emotional and writing scenes. Whenever I finished a book, I threw them away, not seeing the use of keeping them. I regretted doing so. Just from a nostalgic standpoint, it would be interesting to see pivotal moments in my life and how they touched me.

    There was one story I wrote as a freshman in college. It was written in the style of a journal. It was published. But I look back on it and read it, and think about the numerous mistakes I made. I feel like I did it all wrong. Perhaps, there may be a time where I retry writing a story as a journal entry. We’ll see.

    Reply
  12. alaskasourdough281

    A series of notes, written down in detail asap after the incidents, is what really allowed me to write a series of biographical short stories I had contemplated for decades.. I finally scanned them to a computer. Years later I began my project and had all the material with accurate quotes at my finger tips. Write it down in a diary or some other format? Great advice!

    Reply
  13. Hattie

    Diaries…..oh yeah…
    I can’t go anywhere without my journal book.
    Every day the ramblings from my head come through the pen to sprawl across the pages.
    sometimes neat, sometimes angry and messy and tired….
    often my light goes on at 4 or 5 am for scribbles in the diary….
    a diary is a must
    I’m on it with the 15 min exercise….daily
    it will just take up too much space to share words here….
    Hattie

    Reply
  14. LaCresha Lawson

    A great idea. My kids write in their journals at school. My son actually inspired me to write a children’s book after I talked to his teacher about a story he started in class. She was so impressed. He was in the 5th or 6th grade at the time. He let me know then and now that he will not be a writer. (Very adamently, actually.) Ah, well. At least I am inspired because of him. So , he does his (part.)

    Reply
  15. Jackie Murphey

    I wrote a diary while I’ll and it became a book. My children wanted it published. I did and don’t know what to do with it. It is not doing well at all. They called it: “They Called me Jo: A White Slave Girl””. This is a true story.

    Reply
  16. EndlessExposition

    So I think this needs a little bit of context. This is a diary entry from Anita, one of the main characters in my current screenplay. The story is about the spaceship Perseus and the six women who live on it. They’re on the run from the galaxy’s tyrannical government, the Syndicate, who are after Sam’s (the ship’s mechanic’s) unborn child. Anita is the ship’s pilot, and she’s quite a bit younger than the rest of the crew (the other five women range in age from 21 to 35, Anita is 14). As always, reviews are much appreciated!

    Gehu to Tsuki, Day 3

    Soooo… I won my bet with Pilar today! Here’s how it (finally) happened: Last night Doc A and Shannon were up for forever having one of their deep conversations over whiskey. And if Doc’s snoring afterwards was anything to go by, she drank just a liiittle bit too much. Then this morning when she slept in a little later than usual – Shannon made her pancakes. You should’ve seen Doc’s face when she walked in! Her eyes lit up
    like a solar flare. Anyway, Pilar and I were sitting at the table, and I poked her to get her watching. She gave me one of her looks, but she paid attention. Shannon and Doc A were talking about something – couldn’t hear what, their voices were too low – while Shannon cleaned up, and for some reason, in the course of the conversation, Doc winked at her. And Shannon dropped an ENTIRE carton of eggs. Then there was a lot of crawling around on the floor wiping up prenatal chicken goo and apologizing and bumping hands and blushing like they’re ten. And Pilar, very grudgingly, slipped me five credits under the table. So there!

    But then things got a little awkward because the Captain walked in with Doc and Shannon flirting all over the place, and she was obviously upset. Obvious to me anyway. When she gets upset she tries extra hard to act like nothing’s wrong. Honestly though, it’s her own stupid fault things didn’t work out with her and Doc, and they were a horrible match anyway, because Doc and Shannon have been crazy about each other for months and were just too dumb to get it, and why in the heck can’t adults understand this stuff when I can?! Honestly, I think they just get in their own way. At that point there were so many feelings in the kitchen that it was getting kinda stuffy, so I escaped to the bridge. Perseus is doing really good lately. Sam replaced a lot of old parts in the engine last week so now Percy is purring like a cat. I spent the rest of the day in the bridge piloting, more or less alone. Doc brought me lunch, and she stayed to chat for a bit, but I think she could tell I had been enjoying my alone time, so she left me to it.

    There’s nothing like being alone with Perseus and the blackness outside the ship. Right now obviously we have to be on Tsuki in the next two days, but if we wanted I could take us anywhere. That’s what I love about piloting – the freedom. On the ground there’s only so far you can go before you come back to where you started. But in space you can fly and fly until you’ve left everything behind you. At least I hope so. I hope, if we have to run, there’s some place we can run to where the Syndicate won’t find us. I know if I told Doc that, she’d say it’s the crew’s job to protect me, not the other way around. But none of them can make Perseus go like I can. When the Syndicate comes knocking – I know it’s not going to be long now, Sam is almost due – it’s going to be up to me to get us out. And that’s, well – that’s kind of a lot. But – but! – I’ve got two things going for me: One, I’m the best hecking pilot in the galaxy, so the Syndicate’s fancy air force can take that! Two, I know stuff. Actually, you know what? The Syndicate better watch their evil butts. They’re not getting MY crew. This is MY sky, and by the time those jerks think they’ve got us, I’ll be leaving dust trails around the galaxy.

    Reply
  17. EmFairley

    Great post, Liz. Thank you! It’s something I’m thinking about for the framework of my next book and having read this, I’ll think more about it

    Reply
  18. Samantha Gray

    Background: Letter to his birth mom after she left him and his sister.

    ~~

    Dear Lucy,

    I don’t know you and I know you don’t know me, but you know my sister. Remember April? That kid you had once upon time? You’re memory might be a bit hazy depending on what drugs you’ve taken today, but I’m here to refresh your fucking memory.

    It’s taken me years to get a hold of this damn address and, to be honest, a part of me wished you were dead. But you’re alive and well now that you don’t have the shackles of parenthood holding you down.

    All I’ve ever wanted was to give her the peace she needs to close the door between the two of you. Then I realized you don’t deserve to hear from her. You don’t deserve to see who she’s become. But you deserve to know the fucking damage you’ve done.

    She was fucking ten years old and I was, what, two? It takes an entire new level of filth to do the shit you’ve done. I don’t remember that night. I don’t even remember you, but she does. She remembers it all. And I have wished every fucking day of my life she didn’t because I can see how much it’s destroyed her.

    What pisses me off the most is that she still doesn’t hate you, not the way I do, and maybe not at all. If you came back for some God forsaken reason, she would welcome you with open arms, despite the shit end of the stick we’ve got. But as long as I’m around, I want you to know I will never let that happen. She may have raised me and protected me through everything, but there’s not a moment I wouldn’t hesitate to do the same. Including making sure you never get to see her again. You are not my god damn mother and you will never be hers.

    From the bottom of my heart, I hope the mistakes you’ve made eat you alive from the inside out.

    Sincerely,

    Travis

    Reply
    • Marjorie

      powerful. thank you for sharing

      Reply
  19. I'm determined

    I have been erratic in keeping a journal. May as well title it The Journal of Good Intentions! However, reading what Liz has written about Diary writing (a story) and especially the epistolary version, bringing in confessions (true to my writer) and responses from the letter’s recipient, excites, inspires me to giving it a good try.
    Maybe, a third voice, someone who was snooping, read the letters, comes back with additional insight into events?
    Liz, did you ever write to your teacher, let him know the advantage you’ve gained from that school year of being set to write in your journal? I’m interested.

    Reply
  20. Colin denovan

    That should be: a drama teacher “who” I had, the word “great” has become meaningless because it’s used to describe everything and it should be “differently from” rather than “differently than”.

    Reply
  21. Kai

    This my first startling something like for while.should I just give you a background of the character I just created for a future story? this probably the basic ideals.My main character is ex-U.S. military lieutenant who served in Russia-Syria war (2023) Now working in finance for a Atlanta start-up company. He an wife and one son. when a digital virus strike in three major cites in the U.S. he called alongside former Agent,Hacker.assassin and lawyer to join a team a cyber counter-terrorist
    team Will he the refuse offer between his job and family? on the line.

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Top Picks Thursday 05-08-2014 | The Author Chronicles - […] looking at things from a different angle can spark your story. Liz Bureman discusses writing your story in diary…
  2. Monday Must-Reads [05/12/14] - […] 3 Reasons Why Letters and Diaries Are Essential to Your Story | The Write Practice […]
  3. 6 Good Reasons to Keep a Journal | Yvette Carol, Children's Writer - […] ‘Writing with a diary or with letters as the story framework can be a good way to challenge yourself…
  4. 3 Reasons Diaries Are Essential to Your Story | Creative Writing - […] post 3 Reasons Diaries Are Essential to Your Story appeared first on The Write […]

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